Philadelphia Restaurant Review: The Infamous Pizza Brain

Brian Dwyer’s Fishtown pizza museum and the attached ice cream shop, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, are world-famous already. But are they actually good?

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First, a confession. I don’t watch the Today show or CBS This Morning—nor do I read Qantas in-flight magazine or Jeopardy’s Twitter feed—so by the time I walked into Pizza Brain, I didn’t fully appreciate just how many people had beaten me to it. I mean, Malaysian Insider? Nigeria News? That’s a lot of press for a six-table pie joint in Fishtown.

Oops, I mean the Guinness-certified “World’s largest collection of pizza-related items.” Because it’s amazing how far Fat Boys records and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gear can get you these days.

I’ve got a severe hype allergy. But Brian Dwyer and Joseph Hunter’s partly Kickstarter-funded brainchild—which shares space, and a cockeyed ethos, with Little Baby’s Ice Cream—had me on an EpiPen high by the time I was chasing a rosemary-scented mushroom/fontina/goat cheese pizza with dense scoops of chipotle chocolate and Earl Grey sriracha ice cream.

How did it happen? Well for one thing, nothing neutralizes a rambunctious preschooler like knickknack-crammed plexiglass display boxes. For another, this is inventive and frequently terrific pizza.

If, like one of my companions, you like “a crust you can fold over and stick in someone’s eye,” Pizza Brain’s day-plus-fermented sourdough jobs ace the test. Red pies feature a simple uncooked tomato sauce. White pies go the creamy route via béchamel. From there, anything goes. The Forbes Waggensense is an upscale pepperoni pie, with grana padano, fontina and basil leaves. Solid and unmemorable. The Lucy Waggle makes a deeper impression: prosciutto, pine nuts, dates, and three salads’ worth of cool, pristine baby arugula—all perfumed liberally by thyme.

It gets wackier—names and pizzas alike. The Bob Shieldsmoose is a pizza-fied brisket sandwich, amped up with horseradish and black pepper. The Charlie Mayfer is straight-up dessert, with paper-thin slices of sweet potatoes and apples layered over brown sugar, pie spice and honeyed goat cheese. I’d order both again in a flash.

But I’d save room for Little Baby. Pete Angevine, Martin Brown and Jeffrey Ziga are cut from the same cloth as Dwyer and the other “principal weirdos who believe in this thing” (Mike Carter and Ryan Anderson). From birch beer vanilla ice cream—which, wondrously, tasted almost effervescent—to peanut butter maple tarragon, they prove that even wackadoodle ideas can be insanely delicious.

Something’s happening on this block of Fishtown, and it’s more than just plain hype.

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