Pitruco Pizza

When my brother, Joe, was younger, he played tennis with this kid named Jonah. They were buddies. Unstoppable on the junior doubles circuit and together all the time, they truly were brothers. Although Jonah was a little taller and skinnier, they even looked alike, down to the same haircut and that fateful prom where they donned matching silver suits (inevitably from Suit Corner or another one of those “high-quality” men’s apparel stores on Market Street) and spray-died silver hair. I felt sorry for their dates, although the memory, captured by a single photograph, is certainly a family treasure.

While the boys went to different high schools and colleges, they remained close, occasionally entering a tournament together, although they were both occupied by life’s various ventures. After college, Joe spent time in the middle East while Jonah returned to Philadelphia and channeled his background in education and tennis expertise with a position as tennis pro at Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education. Ashe was where Joe and Jonah began their tennis journeys, so it was only fitting for Jonah to return. He was, not surprisingly, quite successful in his position. Years passed and Joe and Jonah maintained this friendship, often separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles. They had one of those friendships, you know how it is, where they could call one another up and pick up conversation like nothing had changed. Beyond their relationship, of course, the two families got to know one another quite well, celebrating Bar Mitzvahs, birthdays and other momentous events together.

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A few months ago, I was perusing the various local food media outlets and came across a piece about a new food truck, Pitruco Pizza, which would feature a wood burning pizza oven INSIDE the truck. Super cool, I thought. But something else caught my eye. As it turns out, tennis-playing Jonah was one of the partners. What?! Having known Jonah for years, I was intrigued but not at all surprised. With his go-getting nature and entrepreneurial spirit, this was completely aligned with the young man I remember best in his tennis whites. Over the next few days and weeks, I gathered more information about the truck and learned that they would be at a fundraiser for Arthur Ashe one weekend when my brother was home. Ironically, my friend Sean of the nano-brewery, Mellody Brewing, would be at the event as well. I was unable to attend but sent my brother and father off to the fundraiser, with instructions to report back. Midway through the event, I received a phone call from my father.

“Hey dad,” I answered.

“Hey Zoe, hold on.”

All of a sudden, I heard a new, yet familiar voice on the phone.

“Hey Zoe.” It was Sean of Mellody Brewing. Sigh. I am 30 years old and my father still embarrasses me. Yes, it’s true. My father had sought out Sean and, always the overachiever, chose to not simply introduce himself as my father but to call me and shove the phone in Sean’s face. Double sigh.

But this is about Pitruco. When Sean returned the phone to my father, I heard nothing but good things about the pizzas they had tried. In fact, they went to Love Park later that week to sample more pies. At this point, I was jealous. They had tried Pitruco twice and I was yet to get even a taste.

This quickly changed during the Chinatown Night Market. Pitruco was one of the many, many vendors and food trucks selling their goods on the packed street that October evening. Luckly, we ran into some friends (including the aforementioned Sean) who waited in line for pizza while we checked out the other trucks. We were lucky enough to try the traditional margherita and the salame, a red pie with soppressata, mozzarella and a touch of pecorino. Both pies were tasty, with the necessarily crispy crust. I especially loved the chewy soppressata on the salame. Because they were busy that evening, I could only wave hello to Jonah and the guys, while I had a brief chat with his mom, who was helping out for the evening.

After that taste, I knew I wanted more. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to leave work for an extended lunch hour and it took a few months for me to get another taste.

Last Saturday, we were at a 30th birthday celebration for two of our friends who live in Fishtown. As we left, around 11pm, Zach mentioned that Pitruco was stationed at Frankford and Girard, just minutes from the party. This is why I love my husband, folks. There was no conversation; we simply knew we were getting some pizza.

As we approached the intersection, we spied the truck sitting just across from Johnny Brenda’s. He pulled over and I hopped out to place our order. I was pleased to be greeted by my dear old friend, Jonah. I hemmed and hawed about our order, asking them what I should get, considering the two I had already tasted. They wanted me to get a better dish than what I had tried at the Night Market, because the pizza that night were not up to their high standards. We settled on the traditional margherita ($8) and a sausage ($8.50.) Jonah and I chatted as the guys prepped the pies for him to put into the hot oven.

I love the tiling.

As we caught up on our lives and chatted about business, Jonah deftly operated the pizza peel, sliding the dough towards the flames.

The sausage emerged first, loaded with meat and other earthy toppings.

The margherita followed soon thereafter, with a heat blistered crust that was prime for eating right there on the chilly street. Check out the steam!

Unfortunately, we did not get the pleasure to eat it immediately (and I do think this pizza is best eaten as soon as humanly possible after it is removed from the oven.) I sat the two pies on my lap for the seemingly interminable drive home. As soon as we stepped through the door, we ripped into them. The verdict? The sausage was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t realize it had mushrooms until I was eating it and they created this earthy flavor that balanced the savory sausage, with a hint of sweetness from the caramelized onions and a creamy bechamel. Oh my. And I wasn’t the only one who liked it. I begrudgingly  tore off a small taste of the sausage for my dog and she literally quivered in anticipation as I held it above her head.

The margherita was, of course, everything a margherita should be. A perfect ratio of sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil created a humble and simple pie, packed with full flavors in each bite. And the crust certainly did not disappoint. I loved chewing on the charred pieces throughout.

Many might say that I had to say something nice about my brother’s best friend, the tennis boy. If I had tried the pizza and didn’t like it, I certainly would have struggled with what to write (and may have opted not to write anything.) Luckily, I wasn’t faced with this challenge in the least.  This post literally wrote itself. I am beyond beyond happy to see the success of Pitruco Pizza and its partners, Jonah, Nathan and Eric who embarked on this journey with incredibly interesting and diverse backgrounds. Besides, Craig LaBan liked the pizza so who even cares what I have to say…

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2 thoughts on “Pitruco Pizza

  1. Remarkably, Row Home Eats had the identical experience I had at Pitruco. The place is beyond pizza, beginning with the color scheme of the truck. I liked your evocation of the crust; I think that’s where the wood oven makes a difference. One has to admire the work ethic of the proprietors–they don’t serve bullshit, just good pizza. More people have to know about this place/truck.

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