Overall Experience - 3.6
Summary : Tacconelli's might be a Philadelphia institution, but on the night I visited I was utterly disappointed.
A few years ago, my sister e-mailed me the link to a website of a pizza place she’d come across called Tacconelli’s in Philadelphia. It reminded her of Di Fara and upon reading about the restaurant online, I thought the same thing. The website notes the following:
Please keep in mind we are a one-man, one-oven operation. Waiting time may vary. Please be assured each pie is made fresh and to order.
The pizzeria has been around for nearly 100 years and there are even instructions on how to order. It’s recommended that patrons call ahead and reserve their dough. Once all the dough on a given day is reserved, you’re (as some might say) S.O.L. My girlfriend and I decided to spend a weekend in Philadelphia this summer and organized a group of friends to check out Tacconelli’s on a Saturday evening. We called the day before and ordered dough for five pies (there were eight people in our party). All of the other people with us had been to Tacconelli’s before and had great things to say about the pizza there.
The first indication that you’re not eating at a pizza place in New York City is the space. It’s not utilized well at all. I’d characterize most NYC pizza places as having tables set up as close to one another as possible (think Grimaldi’s). Not the case at Tacconelli’s. Even their kitchen was spacious!
As our reservation was for 9:00PM — the last party to be seated — the woman working there was eager to take our order. She told us that we needed to place our order quickly because the oven was cooling down. Although the pressure was on, we were able to agree on five pies: Mushroom & Onion, Sausage, Spinach & Tomato, Tomato & Basil, and Margherita.
It should be noted that the pizza is thin-crust — not quite as thin as a bar pie (at, say, Star Tavern), but thinner than a pie at Grimaldi’s. A pizza serves about two people. Some of the pies were decent, but none were mind-blowing. Part of the experience is eating at a place that has been in the Tacconelli family for five generations — since Giovanni Tacconelli immigrated from Italy in 1916. It’s a historic spot. So is the Liberty Bell. But neither Tacconelli’s nor the Liberty Bell will change your life.
The worst pie of the five was the Mushroom & Onion pie. As you might be able to see below, the toppings were barely cooked and the crust was more cracker-like than I enjoy. The Sausage pie was standard and the pieces of sausage surprisingly stayed on the slice when held at a 90 degree, vertical angle. The Spinach & Tomato pie and the Tomato & Basil pie were the best of the bunch. The tomatoes are notably different that the marinara sauce used on the first two pies, and it gave each bite a nice kick. The Margherita pie was standard and contained very little fresh mozzarella and fresh basil as noted on the menu. In fact, every pie that Tacconelli’s produced was sauce-based.
There are no prices on the menu, but our total bill for five pies came out to about $100 with tax and tip. The place is BYOB — as are many restaurants in Philly — which helps on the wallet. Overall though, I wasn’t particularly impressed. I think Federici’s in Freehold, New Jersey serves similar and possibly better pies. And Star Tavern blows a spot like Tacconelli’s away. The fact that I was there at what might be considered a bad time — near closing — could have had an impact on the pizza. But everyone else seemed to be enjoying their meal just fine.
Which brings me to another conclusion. Perhaps when it comes to pizza and Philadelphia, local folks just have different expectations than people from New York. And in addition, people from Philadelphia are known to be particularly proud of local establishments and organizations that are rooted in city — whether it’s the Phillies and Eagles or Pat’s and Geno’s.
Taccconelli’s is no exception. Next time I’m in Philly, however, I’ll be sticking the cheesesteaks.