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Gennaro’s Tomato Pie


By Phyllis Stein-Novack

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 19 | Posted Feb. 21, 2013

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Gennaro’s, which opened in Newbold last month, is earning rave reviews from the critics for its tomato pies and white pizzas.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

I recently read Elisa and Mike Giammarino opened Gennaro’s Tomato Pie and could not wait to try it.


They owned Lombardi’s near Rittenhouse Square for a number of years. I loved the thin-crust pizza. When news that the buildings on the block were being torn down to make way for luxury apartments, I was none too happy. Until SliCE and Zavino Wine Bar Pizzeria opened a few years ago, Lombardi’s was the only Center City place I could find top-quality pies.


Center City’s loss is South Philly’s gain. The couple has created a charming restaurant highlighting their spectacular tomato pies and white pizza.


Gennaro’s is kitted out with bright red, Formica-topped tables, colorful posters and front-page newspapers from the 1940s. The sounds of Benny Goodman tooting his clarinet could be heard over the sound system. The Big Band music put me in such a merry mood I thought the Andrew Sisters were going to pop out and sing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”


The menu is small, yet carefully planned. There are salads, appetizers, pizzas, calzones and homemade — with the emphasis on homemade — desserts. We brought a bottle of Italian red wine and looked forward to a fun evening.


The antipasto ($11) consisted of dried cured meat, mortadella, provolone, a selection of olives and roasted peppers. Two rounds of homemade flatbread came with our first course. This was not a crisp flat bread, it was more akin to the pizza dough used in the restaurant. It was lightly grilled and still warm when it arrived at our table.


If you like thin-crust pizza, you will love Gennaro’s pies. The description on the menu reads: “The New York-style Neapolitan crust with fresh whole milk mozzarella, crushed tomato and a touch of olive oil.”


The white pie also featured fresh mozzarella, but included the tastiest, freshest ricotta cheese I have ever sampled in South Philly. A blend of seasonings; a touch of spinach; a hint of fresh, crushed garlic; and olive oil tops off the pie.


We decided on a large, 16-inch pie, half tomato, half white ($18). How can just a handful of ingredients turn out so fine? Mike and Elisa tested the dough until it was perfect. It is very thin and crisp. I do not know whose sauce recipe was used, but I know the testing was done until the right consistency and flavors mingled on top of the pie. The sauce was not at all sweet.


The white pie was glorious. If you have never tried the mingling of fresh whole milk mozzarella and fresh ricotta, Gennaro’s is the place for you. You will not be disappointed. 


We also sampled the personal calzone ($12), carefully prepared with the aforementioned cheese and a choice of toppings. Edward and I like the marriage of spinach and cheese. The pie was piping hot and nice and plump. The sauce was served on the side. I found myself savoring it straight from the ramekin. 


During dinner, Elisa and Mike were taste-testing a new pie that they want to serve during the warmer months. It was topped with fresh salad fixings.


I have never tried salad on pizza, but for those vegetarians out there, it may just work.


I read a few reviews online from regular folks who wrote the couple brought desserts to them on the house.


Do not miss them. They brought us a slice of Grandma Grace’s chocolate cream sponge cake with fresh chocolate cream; Grandma Rose’s pineapple upside down cake with fresh whipped cream; and chocolate wafer ice box cake with whipped cream.


Forget the fancy desserts served in upscale restaurants. These family-recipe sweets will bring a smile to your face.


I rarely introduce myself to a chef or owners after the bill has been paid. The last time was more than two years ago. 


Elisa is from South Philly. Mike is from New York but came here about 20 years ago. They went back to New York after Lombardi’s closed but wanted to return because they still owned their home.


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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 19 of 19
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1. Terri Spino said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 01:17PM

“Ever since I experienced Gennaro's tomatoe pie, i can't eat anybody else's pizza again. It was "FABULOUS"! I remember the day Josh came over to my house to tell me his dad was opening up around the corner and I thought to myself "another pizza parlor", BOY was i ever wrong. Congrats and best wishes to all!”

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2. Marty Medals said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 01:19PM

“I love thin crust Pizza. Until now the best place in South Philly for thin crust is Slice.
I am willing to give this place a try, it sounds yummy. The chocolate cream sponge cake sounds the bomb!
One problem I see in this review is this Phyllis, in South Philly we use gravy not "sauce'.”

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3. Anthony and Levana said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 01:40PM

“We've been to Gennaro's 4 times.... twice to dine in, twice to take out. It's one of our favorite places to eat. Great sauce, great meatballs, great atmosphere.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 01:45PM

“While I am sure the pizza is tasty (having heard friends talk about it since the opening), $18 for a pizza with nothing special on it is a bit ridiculous.”

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5. Edward said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 01:48PM

“Did somebody say "sauce"? (grin)”

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6. Adopted Art said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 02:27PM

“From one Anon to Another...$18.00 for a large pizza that feeds 4 people. Fresh whole milk mozzarella and ricotta, along with olive oil and garlic are neither nothing special nor ridiculous. I am from the neighborhood and I am so happy this place is there, not because the food is amazing, or because the place is beautiful and spotless, but because Mike and Elisa are 2 of the nicest people you will ever meet! They put their heart and soul into this place and it shows. I am happy to support them and their establishment.”

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7. Paesana said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 03:34PM

“This is the best pie I've ever had. The red gravy is tasty and tomatoey. The dough is crispy and has just the right amount of salt. The mozarella is fresh and creamy. Worth every penny. I just hope I can get in next time, :(”

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8. Rob said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 04:53PM

“Tried it and it was very good. Will be going back. Meatball topping was very good also.”

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9. Skeptic said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 06:31PM

“People are starting to take these reviews more seriously now. That's a good thing. Of course it also means the owner and his friends (e.g. # 6&7) feel a need to shill the place. Read critically diners, but enjoy the pizza. And kudos to this woman who sacrifices her waistline to bring us reviews of new places”

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10. bob newhart said... on Feb 21, 2013 at 11:20PM

“love this place! beautifully redone. very nice people. can't wait to go back. i don't mind spending a little more money for a quality product. most of the other pizza places serve frozen crap and canned mushrooms. kudos to gennaros for doing it old school.”

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11. Skeptic said... on Feb 22, 2013 at 08:57AM

“and kudos to bob newhart for pretending he was a customer...”

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12. Anonymous said... on Feb 22, 2013 at 11:08AM

“"which opened in Newbold last month"

what's this newbold crap???its south philly,1400 block of jackson street,these cute names for sections of south philly are silly and kind of stupid! it's freaking SOUTH PHILLY,YO!

btw,great pizza too lol”

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13. Josephine Cardillo said... on Feb 22, 2013 at 04:42PM

“When you have a product as great as Gennaro's , there's NO NEED WHATSOEVER to get anyone to do any shilling
The delicious pizza speaks for itself. It's my now favorite pizza on the city

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14. Skeptic said... on Feb 22, 2013 at 06:46PM

“Good one, Josephine! As good as the posts under your other aliases Adopted Art, Paesana and bob newhart. LOL. Can't wait for your next one. Honestly I don't know how you find time to run a restaurant and type all these "customer" reviews. You put Red Bull in that pizza sauce? Ha Ha.”

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15. Robert Roy said... on Feb 24, 2013 at 11:09AM

“So their name is "Giammarino" but they open restaurants named "Gennaro's" and "Lombardi's"?? This is especially strange considering there is already a Genaro's at 13th and Bainbridge? Phyllis get the bottom of this!”

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16. Anonymous said... on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:43PM

“Gennaro Lombardi was a pizza maker in NYC in the early 1900's. He opened Lombardo's in Little Italy. Think that's this guys grandfather.”

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17. Anonymous said... on Mar 1, 2013 at 09:54AM

“A little expensive but worth the try : )”

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18. Joe from Packer Park said... on Jul 2, 2013 at 02:29PM

“went Saturday just to try the Tomato Pie. Past experience with Tomato Pies left me unhappy. I ate the whole large Tomato Pie. I couldn't believe how delicious it was. Alison was the waitress. And, I returned the next night for the same Tomato Pie. Rachael was the waitress. Isabella recognized me from both nights. Sweet girls. I could NOT even try the dessert I was so full. Next time I will try to go with a friend so we can share the pie and then I can try the desserts. The Pie speaks for itself. They have a winner and I will return, often.”

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19. Bob said... on Mar 8, 2014 at 03:02PM

“We discovered Genarro's about two months ago. We come from Delaware for the best pizza around. Being a Brooklyn boy myself it was hard to imagine
such a great pie within driving distance. All I can say it is great and take the time to make up your own mind by trying it. We are hooked. Going there tonight. BTW try the Egg Cream. It is authentic and served in a real glass.”

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