James outlined his cure for winter depression while we sat across from each other waiting for our pizza to arrive. “One clove of raw garlic, followed by a chaser. Twice a day.” “A chaser….” I mulled it over. “Like what?” “Peanut butter. Or beer.”
It was the second day of the year 2013 and while I wasn’t exactly struggling with winter depression, I had very nearly become a victim that night to winter nesting syndrome. When the temperature dips below the mid 30s, and it gets dark at 5pm, and I’m at home and warm, I sometimes get a little attached to not venturing out. Factor into that one whole prior day spent outside reveling in the Mummers and more than my fair share of alcoholic beverages, and I was nearly impossible to get moving.
(mummers. probs drunk.)
But James and I had a pizza date, and when he offered to drive us(in his mini-van with 150,000 miles and no back seats) to pizza places less convenient to public transportation, I suddenly had enough motivation to get my ass on the trolley and headed to South Philly. I had a dream of visiting the original home of the Pizza Pizzaz, Celebre’s on Packer Ave, and James was going to help get me there.
Pizza Pizzaz. The South Philly original. You’ve probably never heard of it. It has a particular kind of appeal to it, and by “appeal,” I mean most people are grossed out when I tell them about it. A white pizza (but without any kind of oily garlick-y sauce like your standard white pie). Just crust. American cheese. Thin slices of tomatoes. Banana peppers.
(this is what pizza pizzaz looks like according to google.)
The legend goes that Celebre’s is the originator of the Pizza Pizzaz. The owner says he came up with the idea as a little kid. And I agree with him, that it does sound like an idea a little kid came up with. My love for American cheese started as a little kid and has endured to this day. I had tried Pizza Pizzaz before and enjoyed it, but I never had it at the original source. And today James and I would drive to Packer Avenue to try it.
Location: deep South Philly. they love their pizza down there.
Pepsi: yes! fountain!
Price: $15.95 for a large specialty pie
Setting: Celebre’s is located in a strip mall, under the tall shadow of Chickie’s and Pete’s Cafe. It’s right next to a Termini Brothers pastry outpost, which seems like it might be convenient to fill all your South Philly Italian food needs(pizza and cannolis) in one quick stop. The pizzeria itself is a little bare. One wall is covered in mirrors and one long continuous green booth. The rest of the place is filled with generic tables. No wall decorations. No fuss, no muss. This place was big and looked like it was usually packed. Not tonight, though.
The Pizza: We ordered a large pizza, half plain and half pizzaz. It came out a little overcooked, which I found crazy being that we were the only customers, aside from two big parties that had already finished their meals and were just hanging out. Regardless! I bit into the plain. I’ll be honest, it was a bit disappointing. Your standard mediocre pizza. The main issue here was a cheap cheese with a weird texture and a lackluster crust. The sauce was ok, the crust couldn’t hold up its weight, and overall I was unimpressed. James thought it was ok, but I hadn’t come to Packer Avenue in sub-freezing termperatures to eat a meh pizza I could get anywhere. I hoped the pizzaz held more, well, pizzaz in store for me.
And I was not disappointed. The flavors all came together in a salt-y, oregano-y way that left me drooling. The texture especially was really good; James said “I like the sliminess.” As did I. The crust was thin; crispy but not too crispy. In looking back over my notes I had written down “Pleasing to the mouth.” Which seems like an odd way to put it, but damn that was a good pizza. Tangy.
Notable: I’m super into the fact that you can get different combos of half and half pizzas. Usually you can’t mix and match weird pizzas with normal, but here you could.
Weird Menu Items: “One size crouton pizza.” and i forgot to ask what it was!