6/28/2012 05:53:00 PM

Upside-Down Square Pizza: A Philly Phenomenon

Square pizza is Philly’s take on pan-baked pies. These quadrilateral pies are much thinner than a Chicago-style deep-dish, and a lot lighter and crisper than a New York-style Sicilian. Additionally, they are created in upside-down fashion: first on the crust is a layer of cheese, with sauce is spread on over the top. These rectangular pizzas now can be found all over Philadelphia, but most likely originated at Santucci’s, the original outpost of which was founded in 1959 on O Street in the Northeast.

Many of the offspring of Joseph and Philomena Santucci also went on to open pizzerias, spreading the square-pizza wealth - there are now seven parlors throughout the region that sport the Santucci name. Several other shops also offer the reverse-topped pies, whether related to the family by marriage (as at Stogie Joe’s Tavern), or having just picked up on the trend - Uncle Oogie’s on Oregon Avenue made us a fantastic rendition, without any claim of connection whatsoever.

Possibly the best place to snag a pan of the unorthodox offering (these pizzas are very rarely sold by the slice) is the recently-opened Santucci’s at 10th and Christian, where Alicia Santucci has brought the tradition home to the neighborhood where her grandparents first lived, just a block away. A crust is first par-baked, then covered nearly entirely with deli-sliced, hard-style mozzarella. A secret-recipe (of course), totally chunk-free tomato sauce is laid evenly over the cheese, and the pie is finished with the toppings of your choice. (Get bacon and fresh mushroom - we promise you won't be disappointed.)

After a bake in the oven, during which time any bubbles that form are quickly dispersed with a special, hook-ended tool, the pizza emerges, looking for all the world like tomato pie. One bite reveals otherwise, however, and the mozzarella makes a triumphant showing - both soaked into the crust (like an authentic version of cheesy bread) and forming strands that stretch to several inches as you draw your mouth away from the slice. If you’re craving this meal on your own but don’t want a whole large pie, you can order the small, “individual” size, but really, why would you?

1 comment :

  1. What's the difference between this style and NYC Grandma style? Grandma style is done the same way but has crust that is slightly thicker than regular but thinner than Chicago style. It has much more sauce on top and never has toppings. Prevalent mostly in Brooklyn (see L&B Spumoni Gardens) and Long Island (Umbertos who is credited with creating it, although I don't know when).