Movable Feast: Pizza!

Thick or thin, white or red, pizza is a perennial favorite. Students love it because it’s easy on the wallet and convenient to scarf on the run. The rest of us like it because, well, do we really need to waste words? To help you satisfy your next craving for melted cheese and baked dough, we taste-tested two of the best places on campus for a pie or slice.

Pizza Rustica

3602 Chestnut Street, 215-985-3490

Several notches above your average pizzeria, this gourmet pizza restaurant and bar tucked under the graduate tower at Sansom Place East, serves up close to 20 variations on a theme.

On the tried-and-true side you’ll find Americano, with tomato sauce and mozzarella, Tony Pepperoni and classic Margherita. On the gourmet end of things you can treat yourself to a Vennetto with spinach, ricotta, sundried tomatoes, fontina and créme fraiche. And if you’re game for anything, try the Flammenkuche, a no-holds-barred extravaganza loaded with caramelized onion, prosciutto, gruyere and créme fraiche, with a sprinkling of fresh thyme.

The fancy pizzas here cost around $8 for a small pie, while the plain Americano is a little under $6. What makes these pizzas stand out, other than their outré toppings—which also include pine nuts, roasted walnuts and olive tapenade—is the smoky flavor imparted by the restaurant’s wood-burning stoves. This age-old cooking method also confers the crispiest, airiest crusts we’ve found anywhere.

One more thing to mention, this may be the only pizzeria around that serves a version with a whole fresh egg baked in the center—just ask for “a la Cocca.”

Pizza Rustica also offers pizza by the slice (usually cheese, pepperoni or vegetarian) for around $3.

Allegro Pizza

3942 Spruce Street, 215-382-8158

Pizza and beer go together about as well as college kids and, well, pizza and beer. Naturally, Penn students are a mainstay at Allegro, a noisy, sometimes crowded corner pizza joint where the music can blare and the pizza is reliably good. (It is, after all, right across the street from Gregory College House and next to several fraternities).

It’s definitely a no-frills place, where you can grab an oilcan of beer, a slice (starting at $1.60) from one of the fresh pies sitting on the counter and a piece of booth to watch the game on TV.

If you have a group to feed, opt for a pie. A plain cheese “regular” (14-inch) pie starts at $7.15 and toppings including everything from pepperoni to olives.

For those looking for something a little different, Allegro offers a delicious white pizza (just cheese and their chewy crust) with a layer of pesto, a tomato pie that smacks of fresh garlic and herbs and a white pizza with broccoli and spinach.

If it’s a cold drink you’re after, they also have a wide variety of soda and teas, as well as domestic and imported beers available for eat-in or takeout.

Like Rustica, Allegro offers outdoor seating, which is lovely this time of year—even if your view is the busy intersection of 40th and Chestnut sts.

Originally published on April 14, 2005