Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: Vecchia Pizzeria Napoletana, Phoenixville PA

Authentic Neapolitan pizza remains a hot trend, and a very welcome one. The quaint hamlet of Phoenixville, PA is home to about 14,000 people, 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia, where the Schuylkill River meets the French Creek. And this lucky burb has one very authentic Neapolitan pizza slinger of its own.
Margherita con soppressata at Vecchia

Vecchia opened here in 2012, and quickly garnered acclaim from Craig LaBan, who favored the Regina Margherita pie:"Savor the roasty chew of the crust, the creamy cheese and bright fresh sauce in one bite." Vecchia has been on my short list since then, and I finally made the 30 minute trip there for lunch on a Tuesday.
Oven and interior at Vecchia

The menu is pointedly brief. No Buffalo chicken pizza here - just a short list of Neapolitans that includes a white pie, a Marinara (crust and San Marzano tomatoes), a Margherita (adds mozzarella), and the Regina Margherita (uses fresh Bufala Mozzarella). There is also a short list of toppings. Each pie is personal sized, but generously so.  I ate about two thirds of my pie for lunch.
Regina Margherita

Margherita with soppressata

On our visit, shortly after the noon opening, the small place began to fill but there was only one staffer (father of owner Frank Nattle) who tried to keep pace until his pizzaiolo nephew arrived. I love Bufala Mozzarella, but not on my pizza. For my taste, it is too wet and insufficiently salty for pizza. I understand that the soupy center it produces is known and expected on authentic Neapolitans, but I prefer a pie with more salt and with a consistently crisp or chewy texture.


Hence, I ordered the regular Margherita, topped with soppressata. Kevin joined me for lunch and he chose the Regina pie with no extra toppings. The pies cook rapidly in the 1000 degree oven, and they came out quickly. Somehow Vecchia was out of Diet Coke, but unsweetened bottled iced tea was a decent substitute.
Underside of a slice

Like the very best Neapolitan pies, mine was almost perfectly balanced. There was no wet center, the crust was light and puffy, yet with enough chew and substance to hold the toppings well enough that no knife and fork were needed. The crust had a fine flavor all its own, and the lovely browned and blistered cheese added more - but the tomatoes were the standout flavor. Deep orange in color, bright, fresh, tangy, and in harmony with the pie. The soppressata was applied in thin slices, but each imparted a near-explosion of flavor that made each bite rewarding.




Fuel source

Dough ready for pie making

I had a taste of the Regina pie - and it was very good. But it was wet in the center, and the flavors much more subtle than on my pie. I'd love to try the white pie and especially the Marinara, given how good the tomatoes are. Next time!

The ambiance was pleasant, but not very different than any other mom and pop pizza shop beyond the massive dome oven. The pizzaiolo spoke to us at length about the oven, its construction, and let us watch a pizza bake in 60-90 seconds.

A second location is about to open in Wayne, PA, on Philly's Main Line. Wayne is rapidly becoming the New Haven of Pennsylvania, with more great pizza-per-capita than any other city. Jules Thin Crust (reviewed HERE), Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza (reviewed HERE), Arde Osteria & Pizzeria (coming soon). While the Chester county seat of West Chester still waits for its first worthy pizzeria, Wayne will have four.

We spoke to the senior Mr. Nattle about the name "Vecchia," which means "old" and he noted that this pizzeria honors the old traditions of pie making.  My top American Neapolitan remains the pies from Scuola Vecchia ("old school") in Delray Beach, Florida (reviewed HERE), but this Phoenixville pie can stand with the best in the region, such as Stella and Zavino (reviewed HERE) in Philadelphia. It's clearly superior (and more authentic) to the good pie at Stella Rossa in Downingtown (reviewed HERE).

Any complaints about Vecchia?  Only one - it is too far from my West Chester home!  

Vecchia Pizza Napoletano on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

  1. Another informative review. It'd be cool to see a rankings list on your site. Continue to believe you'll love the good pie when you make it to St.Louis!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Elliot, Thanks for the feedback - and I am eager to get a St Louis pie. Scroll to the bottom of the home page, there you will see my ranking of pies I've had. PQ

    ReplyDelete