Joseph’s Pizza Parlor Is a Northeast Philly Comeback Story
A neighborhood classic is brought back to its former glory through specialty pizzas, overstuffed cheesesteaks, and the "StromZONE."
I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a better name for the hybrid stromboli the new-and-improved Joseph’s has on the menu. It’s half stromboli, half calzone, and Joseph’s calls it a “StromZONE,” which I think we can all agree is just awful. But it’s hard to think of anything better.
Why do I care? Because it’s awesome, this stupidly named thing. For starters, it’s massive — about as long as my forearm. Perfectly brown, it has a calzone interior, fat with mozzarella and ricotta, all wrapped up in a stromboli jacket. It’s a shameless cheese delivery vehicle, made for people (like me) who refuse to believe there can ever be too much of a good thing.
Joseph’s is a pizza joint with history. The people of Fox Chase and Rockledge have celebrated birthdays there, hung out there after Little League games, and for generations, it’s been a place for marking life’s small victories and bitter defeats.
But recently, it fell on hard times. The owners decided to sell and found willing buyers in Jimmy Lyons, Joseph Forkin (yes, the same guy who runs the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation), and Matthew Yeck — the partners from Gaul & Co. Malt House (with locations in Port Richmond and Rockledge). And they were the ideal gang to take over the space, because they’d all grown up in the Northeast. They’d known Joseph’s all their lives.
So they bought it and didn’t change it, which was smart. The takeout side is all black-and-white subway tile and a big open kitchen. The dining room — formerly Ristorante DiLullo and Moonstruck — is still dark and plush, a museum-grade replica of Sinatra-era cool with stained glass, red leather banquettes, private booths, mirrors on everything, and a tollbooth-size bar tucked into the front corner.
The new owners focused their attention on the kitchen — on new recipes, new processes and a new menu. They’ve got a medium-rise dough that stays chewy all the way to the bone, an aggressively un-sweet sauce, a “Standard” pie that’s like a New York thin, floppy and unadorned, and a whole spread of custom pizzas, like the garlic-heavy “Vampire Slayer” and the hot-honey-spiked “Queen Bee.”
The cheesesteaks are solid — overstuffed with chopped steak, gummed together with just the right amount of American, mounted on a Liscio’s roll (seeded or unseeded). There are salads, fries, onion rings, four kinds of stromboli, and cannoli dip for dessert. It’s a place that’s angling to fill the same hole the original Joseph’s did for decades. To be the place everyone goes to and everyone remembers.
Now if I can just convince them that “Calzoli” sounds better than “StromZONE,” the place will be perfect.
2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in Philly
★★★★: come from anywhere in America
Published as “Reviving a Slice of Life” in the October 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.