LaBan chat: Pizza on the grill; hungry in Roxborough

After an ingredient run to South Philly, Craig LaBan used his Big Green Egg to make this free-form pie.
After an ingredient run to South Philly, Craig LaBan used his Big Green Egg to make this free-form pie. (DOUG COOPER)
Posted: April 18, 2013

Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat of April 16, 2013:

Craig LaBan: Saturday night I was drafted by my daughter to be pizza chef for her birthday sleepover party. So, a field trip to South Philly (Faragalli's for dough, Claudio's and Di Bruno's for cheese, pesto, and meats) then I FIRED UP THE BIG GREEN EGG! Yeah, I'm a little enthusiastic. Here's my fave, an admittedly free-form round topped with prosciutto, mozz, and some organic tomato puree that went from tart and bright (when raw) to rich and scarlet sweet . . . .

Reader: I'm hungry and I am in Roxborough. Where do I go for food?

C.L.: Craig: Try PTG at 6813 Ridge Ave. for pretty good, refined Italian fare.

Reader: Food in Rox for right now: Dalessandro's for one of the better cheesesteaks in the city, Lenny's for a hoagie, Union Jack's for wings, Dimeo's (Andorra) or In Riva (East Falls) for pizza, the Foodery for beer.

C.L.: Thanks, I needed help there, but of course-YOU WERE CHEATING!! East Falls is not Roxborough. If that's fair game, don't forget Fiorino on Indian Queen Lane. Franco's lovely little Italian trattoria. Also, DiMeo's is a good call - a real upgrade for Andorra, more Roxborough than East Falls is.

Reader: Hi Craig, what is the most underrated BYO in Philly?

C.L.: Well, I do the ratings around here, so I don't plan on dissing myself. That said, one of the best BYO's that doesn't get talked about enough is Ulivo, Joseph Scarpone's fine Italian BYOB in Queen Village. Been meaning to get back there since my promising 2-bell review. May be the best ricotta gnocchi in the city.

Reader: We ate at Ulivo recently and were quite pleased with food & service. We had a somewhat quiet table in a corner, an added bonus.

Reader: Do you think the food-truck scene in Philly is getting saturated?

C.L.: No, I don't think it's saturated yet. Maybe at 33d and Market, which the owner of SpOt burger rightfully calls #foodtruckMecca. But there's plenty of places in the city that can use some mobile food love. What's more interesting, though, is how the scene has evolved. It's no longer enough to serve some cool grass-fed whatever on an artisanal bun. We've matured enough that food-truck consumers can look for quality on every level-not just a cool concept.

Reader: On the food-truck note - is there a reason they never visit Center City East/Old City? Definitely not saturated here!

C.L.: Haven't checked back with city officials on this, but mostly, the Center City district prohibits such trucks on the street. That's why their only presence in CC is on the curb at LOVE Park. Other public areas-the Porch beside 30th Street Station and the Navy Yard - are also getting into the food truck-hosting act. You need a lunchtime crowd, which may also explain why some more residential corners of CC aren't prime daytime spots.

Readers: Besides Amada, is there another tapas place you recommend?

C.L.: Jamonera, on 13th and Sansom. Really liked my food here, more "inspired" by Spain than genuinely authentic. But great ingredients in good combinations. Also, the plates are a shade large to be true "tapas." I'd love a platter of hand-carved Iberian ham right now with a cool glass of Amontillado and maybe some of those jet-black squid-ink fried calamari. Que rico!

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