Updated 3:15 p.m.
It’s a question Philadelphians have been asking for years: Could the pies at Pizzeria Beddia really be that good?
Ever since Bon Appetit declared them the best in the entire country, the tiny Fishtown shop has sold out on a daily basis. And now that chef-owner Joe Beddia is closing — his last service after five years will be March 31 (not March 30, as previously written here) — the regular Wednesday through Saturday lines snaking down Shackamaxon Street have been longer than ever.
That’s because there are only ever 40 total pies sold each night. There’s no reservations; orders are taken as soon as the doors open at 5 p.m., and after all the pizza is spoken for, that’s it. No more will be made until the following day.
Scarcity is sometimes a marketing stunt, but in this case Beddia maintains that it’s simply all he can handle. At his next restaurant, which is coming to a building on North Front Street sometime late this year, there’ll be 100 seats and a full liquor license and he’ll have more help in the kitchen.
But for now, every single pie is formed by Beddia’s own hands, and he can only get so much done in one evening. Hence, the lines — which many people still think are worth standing in.
As a service to the city’s other curious eaters, Billy Penn decided to go on a quest to Philly’s Pizza Valhalla to find out what all the fuss is about.
All in all, here’s what we learned:
- Yes, the pizza is damn good
- No, taking a bite will not induce orgasm
- Sometimes, the journey matters more than the destination
Here’s how the day went down:
Stage 1: Denial
Organizing for the stunt began a week in advance. We set up a special #pizzeriabeddia Slack channel, and started hashing out a plan.
(Bonus lesson learned: This world has a LOT of pizza GIFs.)
It was determined that Mónica would be the on tasked with doing the line waiting.
“I’ll get there at, I don’t know, 1 pm?” she said.
Buzzzzzzz. Wrong. That start time might’ve guaranteed a pie before, but in this last month of Beddia’s existence, it takes an earlier start — 10:30 call time or bust.
Stage 2: Anger
Of course it was raining on our chosen Beddia day.
But Mónica arrived prepared, wearing plenty of layers and equipped with three phone chargers.
She began making friends with the other earlybirds, one of whom also had brought three chargers. Then, they spotted someone entering the shop.
“A man just covertly and rapidly showed a shirt to the window, and the cooks inside let him come in. It was the secret passcode!” she wrote in Slack.
Or, as someone pointed out on Twitter, maybe it was a store employee.
Stage 3: Bargaining
On this day, the fourth-last day ever to get an original Beddia pie, the linewaiters were split between first-timers and old hands.
One man had even successfully completed the quest six times before, something Danya thought was impressive enough to be embroidered in a belt.
“How many hours of his life total was that?” Michaela wondered — so we calculated it out: He usually arrives around 3 p.m., he told Mónica, so that’s 18 hours for the six previous times, plus around six hours yesterday = 24 hrs of life.
That’s not too much time to spend waiting for pizza if it’s good, right?
Some made the waiting game into a family affair — one man had a small baby in tow, carefully swaddled and shielded from the weather. Another person sat in line next to a dog.
Stage 4: Depression
Most people had made some kind of plan for lunch while they were stuck.
At one point, bowls and snacks from Animo were dropped off — turned out one man waiting was the older brother of the healthy fast-casual shop’s owner, it turned out.
And then pizza arrived. But not THE pizza. Pizza from Fishtown Pizza, just down the street.
Yes, thanks to inspiration from a few Inquirer/Daily News writers who’d been tweeting about the stunt…
…Danya went ahead and ordered a plain ol’ regular pie to be delivered to the line. And seven people accepted the appetizer.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Whether or not the end product turned out to be worth it, Mónica realized she was enjoying herself. The line itself was full of camaraderie and bonding.
One person went to get coffee, and brought back at least three extras for his fellow linemates.
A different man shared that he’d been in the same line on Saturday, but when he made it to the door, the pies had just sold out. So he returned for another go.
Yet another enthusiast provided interesting commentary — comparing Joe Beddia to Prince because they both made great “art.”
Eventually, the doors opened people streamed inside to place their orders.
And at 6:15, nearly eight hours after Mónica first arrived, Billy Penn staff’s pizzas were finally ready. We swarmed the counter and opened the boxes to dive in.
Final stage: Verdict
So, was the effort worthwhile?
There is no question Beddia’s pizza is very, very good. Whether that means it’s worth waiting in line for is a separate question.
Because in the end, it’s not an otherworldly experience. After all, pizza is pizza.
“I expected it to feel like in Ratatouille, where he gets transported back to his childhood,” Mónica said.
She compared it to the slice from Fishtown Pizza she’d scarfed down earlier in the day: “That one had much more cheese, more sauce, it was sweeter.” Beddia’s was much tastier, she thought, but not mindblowing.
“Yeah, it’s good,” agreed Michaela. “But how good? I don’t know how qualified I am to judge pizza anyway.”
While maintaining she’d never wait in line for it herself, Danya’s assessment of the pie was that it definitely achieved something special.
A slice of Beddia pizza, she offered, is not totally unique or totally out-of-this-world because that’s not what it’s trying to be. It’s trying to be quintessential — to achieve the platonic ideal of American pizza should be. And in her opinion, it does.