I mentioned at the end of my last post that if all goes according to plan, I’d be writing about one of my favorite Philadelphia pizzerias in this one. While that plan didn’t fall through for any reason, I made a late decision to instead try a place I had never been to and that appeared to have good pizza and cheesesteaks if the online photos were to be believed.
So I picked up my friend Robert late Wednesday morning and we headed to Momma Mia’s Pizzeria in a part of Northeast Philadelphia locals call the Far Northeast.
Momma Mia’s sits at the end of an otherwise residential street along with a deli and another shop and fits in well with the other neighborhood pizzerias I’ve reported on recently. They do mostly takeout and delivery business and have a small but inviting interior. The walls had the usual references to the local sports teams, along with a favorite local fictional character – Rocky Balboa.
I also noticed boxes from Momma Mia’s roll supplier – Liscio’s Bakery, one of the area’s most popular Italian bread bakers.
We grabbed seats at one of their two tables after placing our order of a cheesesteak with Cooper Sharp cheese and fried onions on a seeded roll and a small pizza.
Our cheesesteak arrived first. I’ve written in some detail about the extent to which Liscio’s rolls vary, with some being soft and others sturdier. This one was extremely soft, which made it a little disappointing given my preference for crusty or chewy rolls. It was fresh though.
The steak didn’t have a ton of meat by today’s standards. I would guess there was about a half-pound of finely chopped beef on there. As I’ve taken to pointing out lately, that might not be enough for everyone, but I was perfectly happy with it. There was also a proportionate amount of Cooper Sharp, which was blended in beautifully with the meat and onions.
The overall flavor was good, but short of great. I’d rate it a solid sandwich, but not among the best. It would take a stronger roll and a bit more seasoning to move it up to a higher level.
The pizza was next up. The place I had originally planned on going to with Robert – Santucci’s – is known for their square pizzas that are made with a layer of sauce over sliced cheese. When I first tried their pizza 6-7 years ago, I was so in love with the flavor that I thought I had been converted to a sauce-on-top guy.
It’s an option that many pizzerias in the Philly region offer, so I’ve ordered some of my pizzas that way at other places since those early Santucci’s experiences. Yet the results haven’t always been nearly as positive. I’ve regretted not ordering my pie the standard way – with shredded cheese over the sauce – as often as not.
Momma Mia’s gives the option of standard or upside-down pizza, and I had a difficult time deciding which way to go. But when I stepped up to the counter and had to make the call, I went with sauce on top.
The crust was thin with a bit of crispiness, but it still had a nice chew. There was a healthy layer of sauce sprinkled with oregano over sliced Mozzarella cheese.
It was good pizza, but as was the case with the steak, it wasn’t elite. And I did at least slightly regret not getting it with the cheese over the sauce. The balance between the two ingredients felt slightly off.
I think it may be time to conclude that rather than being a sauce-on-top guy, I’m just a huge Santucci’s fan. Yet I haven’t had any of their pizza since I started this blog in late 2021. That will have to change before too long.