Pizza Review: Rione

If there’s one thing I know for certain about the Philadelphia food scene, it’s that there’s no shortage of great pizza in the city. Whether you want a wood-fired thin crust pie, a thick Sicilian-style pie, or something in between, Philly has seemingly an endless variety of options. When it comes to great pizza by the slice, though, the list starts to shrink. As such, I was particularly intrigued when I heard Rione had opened in Rittenhouse, offering Roman-style slices “al taglio.” I’m always on the lookout for a good (and ideally cheap) place to grab a slice or two on the go, and one afternoon last week I decided to walk the extra few blocks past my regular weekday lunch spots to give it a try.

With my wife joining as well, we set out to sample a few different menu options. Arriving just before the lunch rush, we ordered and sat down at a table in the back corner, and before I knew it I was biting into my first slice, the Margherita D.O.C. The first thing I noticed was the crust. It had a great crunch without being overdone, and the bottom was evenly cooked from the edges to the center of the pizza. What’s more, the initial crispiness gave way to a light and airy middle layer, providing a great balance of texture and preventing the pizza from being too doughy. It also helped prevent the all too common greasy-pizza-for-lunch hangover that leaves me pouring a second cup of coffee around 2.

But while the crust was a clear-cut winner, the same couldn’t always be said for the toppings. Of the five different slices we tried, my personal favorite was the Zucchini. It was simple yet delicious, as the zucchini and ricotta cheese proved to be perfect complements to one another, and combined with the crust it just had an overall freshness to it. I’m a sucker for pesto on pizza, so I also took a liking to the Tricolore, with juicy cherry tomatoes to boot. The slices with tomato sauce, though, were a mixed bag. The Margherita was solid but unspectacular, even a little dry, and in a city with so many great Margherita pizzas already, there wasn’t anything to really set this one apart. The Parmigiana was overpowered by the mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top, which mostly masked the eggplant hidden underneath. And as for the Patate e Salsiccia, it felt like there was something missing; the potato slices didn’t pack as much flavor as I would’ve liked, even with the added rosemary, while the sausage itself was average.

Of course, it’s difficult to come in with such a high bar, and as I wrapped up my lunch, I definitely saw the appeal of Rione. With a quality crust, a variety of slice options, a homemade feel, and a fresh taste, it already checks off some of the most important boxes for lunch-time pizza places. If you’re looking for a relatively cheap and quick option that’s different – and more artisanal – than most of the other standard pizza by the slice options in the city, Rione is worth a visit. Just be prepared to try a few different slices in order to figure out what hits the sweet spot.

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Dock Street Brewery Adventures

I’d been looking for an excuse to return to Dock Street since I moved back to Philly a year ago. Living in University City during college, Dock Street was one of the places we ventured out to when we wanted to go somewhere a little different than the usual options on campus. I took my wife there a few months after we first started dating over seven years ago. Shortly after I turned 21, Dock Street was among the first legal beers I purchased at dinner. And of course, the pizza was among the better options in West Philly. When I heard they recently opened a cannery, I decided it was time to make a trip back.

Last weekend, my wife and I headed out Saturday afternoon to catch the El at 5th and Market before switching to the Trolley at 30th St and heading up Baltimore. There’s definitely an element of West Philly nostalgia as we drive past houses with expansive front porches and wooden columns that start to pop up once you cross over the Schuylkill. The first stop is the cannery – it’s a lounge space open to the street, and at 80 degrees and sunny, the weather can’t be much better. We grab a beer and some pretzels with cheese dip for an appetizer, but this is just a warmup for the main brewery.

At the brewery, I grab a flight (not available at the cannery) to sample all the options. It’s a good range of beer, from the light and slightly sweet Summer Haze pale ale to the classic Rye IPA. In order to maximize pizza coverage as well, my wife and I order three small pies – a classic Margherita, the Sicilian (tomato sauce, black olives, capers, walnuts, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella) and the Brie (mozzarella, sliced pears, toasted walnuts, brie). My personal favorite was the Brie, with a great crunch from the walnuts and creaminess from the brie. It turned out to be the perfect counterpart for the Sicilian and the Margherita as well. The Sicilian also packed an interesting texture with the olives and the walnuts, and the sauce on the Sicilian and the plum tomatoes on the Margherita both tasted fresh. Just all around great wood fired pizza with a lot of flavor in each bite without being too fancy.

After one last beer to wash everything down, we catch the bus and wind back through West Philly and Grays Ferry until we hit Washington en route to home. Sure, there are closer places to get wood fired pizza that don’t require a 25 minute Uber ride or a 35 minute bus ride, but there was something about heading back into West Philly to grab a few freshly-brewed beers and a couple thin crust pizzas that made the experience even more worthwhile. Let’s just say it will be less than seven years before I’m back again.