By Judy Rubin
When I visited Italy, I had the “Aha! So this is what really good pizza tastes like” moment. I am happy to say that I recently rediscovered that great pizza experience at PD Pizza (formerly DiMeo’s Pizzeria), a BYOB family restaurant/pizzeria in the Andorra Shopping Center, 8500 Henry Ave. in upper Roxborough. I dragged my husband along, a pizza aficionado, who has been searching for a pizza that satisfies, and he thought it was the best pizza he’s had in a long time.
PD Pizza presents hand-crafted Napolitano 12″ round hand-pressed pizzas to bake in their 900-degree wood-fired oven, a 16″ round Americana (New York style), Roman-style square pizzas by the slice as well as salads, pastas, paninis and other traditional Italian dishes.
We tried their 16” Americana pizza, with a mix of provolone, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. The blistery crust, cooked to perfection and slightly charred, was balanced by a chewy, non-greasy, nuanced combo of homemade tomato sauce and the cheeses. The 16” is $13, and the 12” is $10. They also have what they call Double American pizza. They cook all pizzas in a wood-burning oven, not a stove.
The dough is also made of “double zero” flour two days in advance, yeast and water to get a natural rise. The DiMeos import buffalo mozzarella weekly as well as San Marzano tomatoes and expensive Neapolitan Pasta di Gragnano, which they contend is the best dried pasta in the world. Even the water used to make the dough is imported from Naples. “We made batches of dough with Wilmington tap water and with bottled water from Naples,” said Antimo, son of owner Pino DiMeo, in a previous interview. “It was no contest. It was much better with the bottled water from Naples.”
Pizzeria DiMeo, which opened in 2012, closed for a short period and reopened in February of this year with a new name after what Scott Stein, business partner, described as a “reimagining, a gravitating to a new feel, an upgrade but keeping prices reasonable.”
The restaurant is small, seating about 52, and informal. We were greeted by our pleasant server, August. We started our meal with a homemade crunchy, crusted Italian bread with a yummy sun-dried pesto dip. Next was a very generous portion of calamari fritti ($10), which was very tender. The crust was light but a little too salty for our taste.
The pasta pomodoro, ($14) was an ample platter of al dente spaghetti, pomodorini (cherry tomatoes), fresh basil and parmiagiano. Just the right balance of ingredients, light and flavorful.
My husband thoroughly enjoyed the gamberotti ($23), a wonderful combination of shrimp, crabmeat, zucchini and heirloom tomato over spaghetti. A dessert of homemade Tiramisu ($7) was lighter than air, and again, a perfect balance of all ingredients.
Owner Pino DiMeo, 49, came to Philly in the 1980s and 29 years ago opened Allegro Pizzeria next to the WCAU-TV building on City Line Avenue. He later opened a second operation in Maple Glen, a third in Conshohocken 10 years ago and a fourth in Wilmington six-and-a-half years ago. They also have a restaurant called Arde Osteria in Wayne on the Main Line. But in spite of their success with traditional New York-style pizzerias that depend mostly on takeout business and even on selling pizzas by the slice, Pino’s son, Antimo, now 24, who also works in the family business, was pushing for more authenticity.
“Ever since Antimo was 10 years old, he has said, ‘Pop, I want to make the real stuff — true to our roots, Napolitano,'” Pino said. “We tried for two years to get it just right. We used six different tomatoes and different cheeses. We finally added creamy buffalo mozzarella, which comes from the milk of water buffalo, and extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany, and we knew we finally had it right.”
Also, unlike most takeout pizzerias where you call ahead and it takes 15 minutes or more to bake the pizza in a traditional gas oven, DiMeo’s brick oven is set to at least 900 degrees. No one has to order ahead by phone because it only takes 90 seconds at this temperature to finish the baking.
There is plenty of free parking in the shopping center lot, just a few yards from the restaurant. For more information, call 215-621-6134 or visit www.pdpizzas.com