January 18, 2013

Pizza Brain

It doesn't seem like very long ago when I was lamenting the lack of good pizza in Philly.  However, we've since been blessed with a plethora of delicious pizza places including some of our favorites, Pitruco and Nomad.  Much further north, Pizza Brain has been getting some national publicity recently. A free Thursday evening gave me a great opportunity to catch up with a good friend over a few (OK, a lot of) slices.
We ventured north on Frankford Avenue, quite a few blocks from the more familiar area of Frankford Hall and Fette Sau.  It's a quiet neighborhood, so the brightly lit Pizza Brain and neighboring Little Baby's Ice Cream stood out like a beacon of hope and pizza.

 Right away, our attention was pulled to the seemingly endless pizza-related decor; Pizza Brain does hold the World Record for the biggest collection of pizza-related memorabilia.  The multi-level pizza oven (gas-fired brick) shines brightly with a somewhat unnecessary "PIZZA" sign announcing it's contents.

Pizza Brain rotates a menu of available slices depending on what is fresh and hot out of the oven.  Slices come from 20" pies so they're quite generous. Full pies are 16", still plenty big to share.  The two of us are known to order a TON of food when we hang out, and this was no exception.  We split each of the three available slices ($3-$3.50 each) and a whole white pie ($20.50 because we did a half-and-half).  Fortunately, this allowed for leftovers!  Unfortunately, they're cash only and I had $0 in my wallet... but again, fortunately, I was dining with a generous friend.
While we waited, we explored some of the decor, including a couple of iPads full of celebrity+pizza sightings, as well as plenty of classic 80's toys (pizza oriented versions, of course).  Am I the only one who thinks trolls are impossibly cute?

Kardashians + Ghostbusters + Troll= ??
Although Pizza Brain (I want to abbreviate to PB but they're not peanut butter!) offers a TON of fun sodas (and they're BYO), they also kindly provide a jug of ice water for people who prefer to eat their calories rather than drink them.  As my Dad likes to say, "Gotta cut back somewhere!"  Unfortunately there is VERY limited seating, so we ventured next door to Little Baby's which offers a few extra tables and even more pizza decor.

Our super sweet "waitress" brought us the individual slices while our whole pie spent some time in the oven. We ended up calling this our "appetizer" and started by tearing apart the simplest slice- the "Jane."  Red pies have a hand-crushed tomato sauce that was incredibly well-balanced- acidic, slightly sweet, and full of bright tomato goodness.  The crust is on the floppier side- not soggy but not overly crispy either.  Definitely thin, maximizing slice consumption, but still present with a bit of a sourdough tang and a cornmeal finish (and no added sugar).  OK- back to the Jane- just sauce and a three cheese blend including the requisite mozzarella, provolone, and a fancier grana padano (similiar to Parm-Reggiano).  A few torn leaves of basil finished it off- just a great way to get to know the sauce and crust.

The white slice above was the Leonard Bookman, again highlighting a three-cheese blend.  In this guy, the trio included mozzarella, fontina, and blobs of riccota.  Black pepper and a sprinkle of fresh oregano adds a surprisingly noticeable spice/herbal element to balance all that salty cheese.

The third slice looked a lot like the Jane, with the addition of tiny rounds of pepperoni.  In fact, that's essentially what the Forbes Waggensense (who came up with these names??) is, also switching out the sharp prov for fontina.  The switch in cheese made a huge difference in flavor, providing a slightly nutty and sweeter taste that paired well with the spicy pepperoni.  This was actually my favorite of the three.

We had a little reprieve after we inhaled the slices while we waited for our whole pie.  Our waitress came to check on us a few times and let us know how the pie was coming along; unfortunately, she was too busy to join in our conversation about the Flyers.

Any whole pie can be split into two types of white or two red (obviously not red and white!), giving us the opportunity to try even more types of pizza.  We chose the simpler Felix Huppert, topped with gruyere (my favorite!), mozzarella, caramelized onion, and fresh thyme.  Pizza Brain loves their fresh herbs- and so did I!  It seriously (and surprisingly) made such a difference in flavor profiles.  The crust on the 16" pie seemed a little thicker, with a nice edge around the top and bit more doughiness.

The other half of our pie is called the Queenie Delouche- a silly name for a complex pie with three cheeses, two types of mushrooms, fresh garlic, and fresh rosemary.  Our waitress told us that many folks find the rosemary to be a bit much, but the two of us could probably eat a rosemary sprig on its own so we were in rosemary heaven.  The earthy mushrooms (shiitake and portabella) as well as goat cheese made this my favorite pie of the night.  White pies are heartier and richer so I'm glad we balanced this with the red slices- it would have been optimal to switch back and forth.  Regardless, I ate my fair share of delicious pizza and it was a real culinary adventure to try so many different kinds.

Overall, Pizza Brain is totally different from our previously mentioned favorites, but it deserves attention just the same.  Great flavors, such a quirky and fun atmosphere, superb service- a serious pizza joint with more than a touch of whimsy.  I wish they took plastic but that's probably my only complaint.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this adventure- of course I still had room for ice cream after all this pizza!

Pizza Brain
2313 Frankford Ave


  1. We got takeout from Pizza Brain at our work, and I really enjoyed their pies. I'm really looking forward to going to to the actual location some day-- all of that memorabilia looks amazing!

    Now I'm dying to know how Little Babies treated you.... I really like their stuff.

  2. I finally ventured here yesterday. I liked the flavor combos (we got the Queenie and the Lucy Waggle), but too much of the soft cheeses made both our pies pretty soggy. I'd definitely go again, and maybe try a red pizza instead!