In no particular order, my current pantheon of Philadelphia pizza goes something like this: Santucci’s upside-down squares; Celebre’s cheesy pizzazz; New York Bakery’s tomato pie, with its tall black corners and not-too-sweet gravy; Gennaro’s tomato pie, with its molten center and poufy rim; Joe Beddia’s Nos. 1 and 2; Cacia’s bianca mattresses and Nomad’s spicy soppressata.
With apologies to Nomad’s owners, Tom Grim and Stalin Bedon, who opened a Bella Vista brick-and-mortar outpost of their Hopewell, N.J., shop and mobile truck nearly two years ago, their pie is coming off the list. But only to make room for the same pizza on a new crust at Nomad Roman, specializing in these regionally specific pies.
We’re not talking the bakery-style, scissor-snipped squares you see around Rome, imitated here at places like Bufad and Pizzeria Vetri. This is the other Roman pie, thin as a crepe and dark as a brownie, with toppings so to-the-edge that the impending tomato sauce under your fingernails will make you look like a CSI murder suspect.
At Nomad Roman, Grim and Bedon transformed a short-lived waste of space, Spiga, into a warm, cozy parlor, saving little more than the existing wood-burning oven. The furnace turned out 10 pies with crusts that snapped like crackers; the margherita had vivid sauce and voluptuous mounds of mozzarella, while my “new” favorite, the soppressata, featured spicy salami petals arrayed over the same sauce and cheese. I love the latter’s garnishes: grated Parm, oregano and sticky honey that soothes stinging lips.
The menu here is pretty much identical to that of the Seventh Street shop. Even the salads are the same: grilled romaine hearts garlanded with anchovies; spring mix with hunks of blue cheese, cranberries and pecans. Though a short list of specials — garganelli, lamb shoulder chop — made a cursory effort, Grim and Bedon could stand to vary the offerings to make Roman feel like a true second concept instead of just an alt-crusted carbon copy. Just don’t change my soppressata. Works of art like that should be left alone.
Nomad Roman | 1305 Locust St., 215-644-9287, nomadpizzaco.com. Hours: Mon.-Thu., noon-10:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., noon-midnight; Sun., noon-9 p.m. Appetizers and salads, $6-$12; pizzas, $11-$19.
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