Swill Magazine Issue 4 - Out Now

You might know Joe Beddia as one of America’s leading pizzaioli – a man who, for many years, hand-made 40 pizzas a day out of a 27-square-metre bolthole in Fishtown, Philadelphia. His pizzeria might look a little different now in terms of size (you could fit 148 of the original Pizzeria Beddias in the new space, not to mention tables, chairs and a toilet) but it’s still all about that crisp, puffy golden rule of simplicity. But Joe doesn’t want to talk about that today. No, today is about the city of Philadelphia and the restaurants, bars and cafes that keep its heart beating.

Joe Beddia

Philly
Philly
Joe Beddia
Joe Beddia
Philly
Pizzeria

Philadelphia will never be New York

There’s something about Philadelphia. This intangible thing. It’s not NewYork, it’s never gonna be in NewYork. But there’s something about Philadelphia that is a little bit more what people fantasise about in terms of NewYork City and how it used to be. It’s like, this is just how we are. How it is here. It’s gritty, but it’s honest. People don’t accept any flash-in-the-pan bullshit. It’s no dog and pony show.You can touch it, you can hold it and enjoy it.We’re not trying to sell it. It’s almost like you need an outsider to tell you why it’s so good and then you’re like, yeah, it is fucking good.You’re right.

Philadelphia will never be a slogan
In America there are so many towns and cities that have all this tech money and attention and most of it is bullshit. Buzzword cities that have a lot of money behind them with slogans like, “Keep Portland Weird”, but it’s a multimillion dollar ad campaign. We are fucking genuine.

Contributing to a city is a beautiful thing
You kind of have to just do the work, and try. And it’s so much more rewarding to be a big part of the city and contribute. It’s not the same sort of competition [as Manhattan]. It’s just a nice, half-easy place to exist. And in some ways, it’s a world-class city. It’s beautiful. There’s a tremendous amount of history, there’s culture and a great food scene. It’s very enjoyable. Whenever I go to NewYork for a weekend (the food scene in NewYork. Honestly. I would put it against anywhere in the world. I think it’s that exceptionally great), I breathe a sigh of relief when I come back. Like, I can afford to live here. I can be creative. I can do my thing. It’s a big weight off.

But there does come a point when you just don’t want to make every single pizza yourself anymore
The first pizzeria was so personal, you know. I literally made every single pizza for five years. I wanted to continue to have something like that. I have fantastic partners who let me design the new restaurant with pretty much full creative control. I’ve gone from a tiny little space to moving into 4000 square feet, which I designed with friends and architects. I’m a minimalist, so the idea is that the pizza is on stage. There’s not a lot of stuff on the walls. It’s really just more about good product quality, good attention to detail. And then it’s right in front of you.

Philadelphia is a hoagie town
Philadelphia is definitely a sandwich town. There’s a place called Castellino’s that’s just fresh and good. There are more traditional places in South Philly. One place is called Ricci’s, another one is called Pastificio. Angelo’s does pizza, cheesesteaks and hoagies, and bakes their own bread. I think that baking your own bread is kind of a game-changer. And it’s also so much work.

So much so, you can visit a private sandwich room
[At Pizzeria Beddia] we have a private dining room for six people in the back. We call it The Hoagie Room. We bake the rolls in the pizzeria and we serve three different hoagies a night. It’s kind of an omakase. I don’t like the term omakase because it’s like, strictly Japanese, but we do small plates and salads, three different hoagies a night and soft-serve ice-cream with amaro to finish.

There are great bars in Philly
I’m a traditionalist. I like a Negroni or a Martini. I’m not very adventurous personally, but there’s a place called Friday Saturday Sunday.They have an amazing bar. There’s Fountain Porter that has a US$6 cheeseburger and really good-quality wine. There’s another place called Good King Tavern with an upstairs bar called
La Caveau.That’s probably the best wine bar in the city.

But really, it’s a beer tow
It’s a huge beer town. It’s five times as good as Manhattan.There’s a great brewery here called Human Robot.

They even have good coffee
We get great coffee. Yeah, there’s probably like five or six really excellent roasters- slash-coffee shops. There’s a place in my neighbourhood called Menagerie, which is very good. There’s an old friend of mine that roasts coffee called Ultimo. There’s another one called Ox Coffee and another place called Reanimator. And then there’s a new one called Persimmon, which is delicious.

But the Philly cheesesteak is kind of disgusting
Honestly, I think it’s a little bit overrated. I don’t know. It can be delicious. It’s kind of a disgusting thing in a way but it’s also something you eat, like, once a year. It’s over the top but it can be good. The roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone or the traditional Italian hoagie sandwich would be what you’d rather be eating, in my opinion.

 

This is an excerpt from issue 3 of Swill magazine. Grab your copy today to read the whole thing.

 

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Words

Joe Beddia

Photography

Andrew Reiner

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