Square Pie


In 2007, chef Gene Giuffi and his wife, Amy, opened Cochon BYOB, a charming French bistro in Queen Village. Although duck and rabbit are on the menu, Giuffi gives a strong nod to pork. I enjoyed my dinner there. Their second restaurant was Blue Belly BBQ in Bella Vista, a tiny eat-in, take-out place that I also liked. In November, Giuffi made a big decision; he decided to trade in barbecue sauce for excellent marinara, and open Square Pie.

Giuffi grew up in Brooklyn, where he cut his teeth on square Sicilian thick crust pizza. He wanted to bring a piece of his childhood to South Philly.

The crust differs from Chicago thick crust because it is prepared in small batches of dough that undergo a long fermentation. Thus, the crust is more akin to homemade bread than thin, crunchy crust.

This neighborhood shoebox is kitted out with red walls, colorful artwork, red and white checked tablecloths, along with white linen napkins. Like Cochon, it is a BYOB, and seats about 20 people.

We had to wait only about 20 minutes on a busy night, and sat at the bar. We watched two chefs pat fresh dough into square pans, top them with ingredients and bake them in the oven.

We began with ensalata ($11), which was a mix of fresh romaine, marinated artichokes, pickled eggplant, oven-dried tomatoes, shredded provolone and a perfectly hard-boiled egg topped with a red wine vinaigrette. Although the ingredients were crisp and fresh, I felt too much vinegar was used in the dressing. Sometimes a marinade contains too much vinegar as well, so if they were first rinsed and then dressed, the salad would not have made my lips pucker as much as it did.

If there is an award for arancini ($12), Square Pie wins it easily. I have eaten them all over town. Arborio rice is mixed with bits of prosciutto and roasted red peppers and mozzarella, covered in crumbs and deep fried. They were crisp and golden on the outside and creamy inside. They sat on a pool of what I think is the finest homemade marinara in the city. I asked one of the chefs what kind of tomatoes were used in making the sauce.

“The can says Jersey Fresh,” he said of the good news. Jersey tomatoes make one fine marinara.

The perfectly seasoned sauce was not sweet.

The pies come in small and large sizes. We sampled Salciccia ($12 and $15) and Porchetta ($14 and $17).

The first was prepared with tasty sausage, roasted peppers, sautéed onions, fresh mozzarella and topped with tomato sauce. Sausage and peppers is a true Italian culinary marriage. It makes for a delicious appetizer, but when mixed with onions and topped with cheese, it is one fine mixture for a pizza. Keep in mind, these pizzas do not have the crunch like their cousin from Naples. Still, it is a matter of taste. Sicilian thick crust pizza is akin to fine homemade bread with pizza toppings.

The porchetta pie was topped with Giuffi’s famous pulled pork, which was highly seasoned, sautéed fresh spinach, garlic and provolone. This combination worked as beautifully as the sausage pie.

There are five pastas on the menu, as well as side dishes. I watched one chef prepare some pasta dishes, and want to make a return visit to try them.

Square Pie is the first of its kind in South Philly. People were picking up pizzas throughout our dining experience, and as soon as tables opened up, those waiting in line were seated. The family-friendly is open Tuesday through Saturday. Lunch is served noon to 2 p.m., and dinner is offered 5 to 9 p.m.

Three tips of the toque to Square Pie. ""

Square Pie

Sixth and Catharine streets

Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.