Classic Bakery Pizza and Tomato Pie from Cacia's in South Philadelphia

[Photographs: Hawk Krall]

Cacia's Bakery

1526 West Ritner Street, Philadelphia, PA (map);
Pizza style: Bakery
Oven type: 50 year old Brick Oven
The skinny: Classic south Philly room temp square slices
Price: Slices $1.10-$1.30 By the dozen - $10-12

Another piece of the great bakery pizza / tomato pie puzzle, Cacia's has been a south Philly staple for over 50 years, a tiny brick-oven bakery storefront - no chairs or tables and room for maybe 5 people, usually full - that sells room-temperature square sheet pan pizza along with bread, rolls, and stromboli.

Cacia's pizza is different from most in that their crust is much thinner than the sicilian-and-then-some tPhiladelphia tomato pie standard, maybe the thinnest in the city that still falls under the category of authentic bakery pizza.

Cacia is also insanely cheap and insanely popular. This is not the sort of place I visit once or twice to write about; I literally stop in for a slice or 5 every time I'm within a few blocks, and most of south Philadelphia seems to have the same idea. The slices move fast and if you're lucky you'll walk in the door when they're pulling something out of the oven and you can eat a hot slice right there and save the rest for later.

First up is the classic tomato pie, really basic here with no cheese sprinkled on top, and unlike most tomato pie the sauce is not sweet at all, but instead really rich in a meaty sunday gravy kind of way. It's definitely way different from the light, almost spongy super thick slices from Corropolese and Sam's, but it's still one of Philly's great tomato pies, with a great crisp yet soft in the center crust and a good choice for anyone who doesn't love sweet sauce.

What I really love are Cacia's white pies, super super minimal in a way I might dare to compare to Pizza Bianca. Brushed with oil and garlic, salt and pepper and just barely topped with cheese—mozzarella plus a hint of something sharper, I'm guessing provolone or Parmesan.

Check out the undercarriage on the white pie. Oiled on both sides and a little greasy but in a good way, with a nice color to the crust. They also definitely hit it with a perforator, which is unusual for this type of pizza.

And here's the infamous pizzaz, the only in Philadelphia concoction that consists of American cheese, sliced tomatoes, and usually pickled neon green banana peppers, but this time red cherry peppers—a nice change that makes it somewhat less wawa-hoagie-esque. I love pizzaz in theory, but can't usually deal with more than one slice.

The cheese pizza literally came out of the oven the second I walked into the bakery. I ate one immediately and had to buy this one just for the photo. A surprisingly solid slice, with the same meaty sauce from the tomato pie, and loads of well-browned cheese. Somehow the white and tomato pies work at room temp but these really don't. If you're lucky enough to catch one right out of the oven go for it, or heat it up in the oven at home.

I also really love this white broccoli slice, really just garlicky crust and barely caramelized broccoli with a hint of cheese, and possibly some anchovy going on back there somewhere. Simple and awesome; great hot or cold.

Loads of spinach on the thin, slightly chewy crust with that same mysterious anchovy flavor in the background. Good, but I think I prefer the broccoli.

I also checked out one of Cacia's cheesesteak strombolis, unlike the pizza it's not meant to be eaten at room temp, but heated in the oven for 15 minutes per the instructions on the bag. It was OK, but overall a little bready and it needed a side of sauce or something. Word is, the real deal is Cacia's roast pork strombolis, stuffed with pork roasted right in the bread ovens and available only on Sunday—and also as a sandwich. Whoa.

Cacia is a great introduction to what bakery pizza in Philadelphia is all about—super cheap, insanely consistent comforting slices from an unpretentious neighborhood spot that hasn't changed much in 50 years, and quite possibly the only tomato pie bakery in Philadelphia that's opened on Sunday and Monday.

Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: