If you’re new to the Feast of St. Pizza, I suggest going back to check out the posts from year one (Lebanon, PA) and year two (Philadelphia). To quickly fill you in, the Feast of St. Pizza is an event I adopted from these guys after hearing about it on a podcast. The first year I kept it in my hometown of Lebanon, PA, the second year (last year) we did it in Philly, and this year we took it to Lancaster, PA. What happens during the Feast of St. Pizza is you grab a bunch of friends and then eat a slice of pizza at ten different places in one city, all in one day. It’s always a load of fun, it’s a great way to explore a familiar or unfamiliar city in a new way, and we’ve discovered that we always walk away from it with a greater appreciation for the amazing food that is pizza. God bless.
This year’s event in Lancaster may have been the best so far. I kept everything in the downtown area, which meant we were able to walk between all the stops. That worked out super well for pacing, and it’s always nice to keep your blood moving in between pizza-eating. Our average walk in between places was only about half a mile. I also had the largest numbers this year: my smallest group was about 15 people, and my largest group was 28. We tried out a bunch of new places and got to know the cool little city of Lancaster a bit better. For those of you who enjoy stats (like me), the day included:
- 30 people
- 10 pizza places
- 3.65 miles of walking between pizza shops
- about 38 pizzas
- 13 hours from start to finish
The day was definitely a success. Below I will break down each spot for you, and then be sure to check out the bottom of the post for my overall reflections. My partner in pizza-eating crime, Laura from Roam and Golightly, created another fun podcast of our day like she did last year. Be sure to check out her show on iTunes, and here are the shownotes for this year’s pizza episode. She also created a blog post about the event to go into some more detail with her own thoughts like I did here. Furthermore, I recently chatted about this event on an episode of the Gatherings podcast, along with some tips for how to plan your own. Here we go:
Our order: one large plain, one large with bacon
Thoughts: Every year the first stop has been one of our favorites. I think it has something to do with our early stops being the typical mom-and-pop type of nostalgic pizza places. The first stop is usually the first because it opens earlier than the rest, and that’s more common with small neighborhood pizza places, as opposed to the “fancier” ones. We chose to get bacon on one since it was basically breakfast. They were both great, although a handful of people had a lot of love for the plain vs. the bacon because it was just so good on its own. Great gooey cheese plus a crust with a good crispy to fluffy ratio. This place is popular in Lancaster because it’s delicious but also because it’s open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Our order: 2 fig and prosciutto (mozzarella, fontina, drunken figs, arugula, sherry vinaigrette), 2 duck confit (caramelized onion, fontina, blue cheese, arugula, aged balsamic)
Thoughts: This one was a bit of a disappointment. It seemed like these pizzas were trying to be fancy artisan pizzas but just fell a bit short. The crust was a little soggy and didn’t quite stand up to the toppings. Overall, it was fine – but the group felt very “meh” about it. To give them credit, however, I will say that I ate pizza here the week before around midnight (after an evening of drinking with a bunch of friends, and I was the DD), and the pizzas were great. I would especially recommend their four cheese pizza. Maybe they were having an off day during our feast, or maybe the late-night pizzas just tasted really good before our drive home that night.
Our order: one large plain, one large white with ricotta
Thoughts: I’d call this one pretty good, but nothing special. However, we did cut pretty small slices at this place (16 skinny slices of each pizza for a group of about 16, so everyone could try both), and I think it was one of those where it would have tasted better as a normal-sized slice of pizza. It’s weird how that can affect the enjoyment of a pizza, but sometimes that’s the case. It’s one unfortunate road block during the Feast of St. Pizza since we often ask people to cut smaller slices for us. (We ran into this problem at Dock Street Brewery last year.) All in all, it was great and I would eat it again. It just didn’t wow us like some other spots.
Our order: one large plain and one large buffalo chicken
Thoughts: Great, classic pizza. Slugger’s was one of our favorite stops. It’s a small mom and pop pizza shop, and it tasted exactly like what you would want take-out pizza on a Friday movie night at home to taste like. The buffalo chicken was really good and not too spicy for me (I enjoy buffalo chicken but it has to be pretty mild), and the plain pizza was fantastic. I’d highly recommend this place.
Our order: 3 pizzas: FIRST: roasted veggies, red pepper coulis, herbed cheddar; SECOND: portabella, cremini mushrooms, kale, garlic, gruyere; THIRD: margherita (tomato, mozzarella, basil)
Thoughts: The Fridge is a cool little spot with a big fridge full of craft beers and then they make these great flatbread-esque pizzas. A few people in our group were more traditionalists and were hesitant to call this “pizza,” but I’d call it pizza. It’s a rectangular pie with a thinner crust and a hefty amount of toppings. The roasted veggie one with herbed cheddar was a sneaky surprise that was quite popular and was even the favorite of the day for a few people in our group. I’d definitely recommend this spot for a chill hang with friends.
Our order: one large plain, one large with bell peppers, one large pepperoni
Thoughts: I loved this place!!! Their shop is super tiny and would not have been able to fit our group of about 16 people, but luckily it’s right across the street from our friends’ house, so we all crashed there to eat this pizza. Even though this was stop #6, It was so good that I went back for seconds. I would describe their pizza as being kind of what Domino’s might be like if it was made at a mom and pop shop. I freaking love Domino’s (don’t hate), so this was like my dream. Espino’s has a dusting of cornmeal on their crust, and the crust was a bit doughier than others, like Dominos. The cheese, sauce and toppings were all amazing as well. The bell pepper pizza was a funny choice – That happened because our friends who live by this pizza shop ordered it once by accident and fell in love with it. It was pretty darn good. I think the pepperoni may have been my favorite, which makes sense because I love a Domino’s pepperoni pizza. Highly recommended!
Our order: 4 of the Sorrento (crema, basil, shaved garlic, buffalo mozzarella, shaved lemons & spring onions), 3 of the Piccante (crushed tomato, hot soppressata, mozzarella, pecorino, shaved garlic, hot honey), 3 of the Norcia (tallegio crema, mozzarella, thyme, black truffle, pancetta, black pepper), 4 of the Margherita (crushed tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil, olive oil)
Thoughts: Not only do I love the pizza at this place, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants EVER. With a handful of our friends living in Lancaster now, I had been there a few times and knew I needed to fit it into our feast. This is the kind of place where you’re better off getting a reservation, and you often need to do it 1-2 weeks in advance (and that’s for like a group of 4). I was worried they wouldn’t be able to handle a large group like ours, so I emailed them to discuss it about two months in advance. Well, they came through for us and I couldn’t be more pleased with how gracious they were in hosting us for this event. They planned out a reservation for us, but when the size of my group grew to 28 people (instead of my expected 10-15), they set us up in their new private event space next to the restaurant. It was so great! Our group was free to hang out there in a mingling situation. I had pre-ordered some pizzas, so they came out soon after we arrived to a table in the middle of the room, and we were able to order drinks from a few servers assigned to us. It felt like our own private cocktail party with plenty of amazing pizzas. I can’t sing their praises enough.
As for the pizza itself, my favorite of the evening was the slightly unusual “Sorrento” with shaved lemons, garlic and onions. The tang of the lemon was refreshing and unexpected on a pizza; I loved it. Everything else was wonderful, too, and a close second for me was the traditional Margherita. To be honest, my favorite thing on their menu is probably their Luca Sour, which is their spin on a whiskey sour with some Italian amari added to it. It’s my favorite cocktail these days and I will be devastated if they ever take it off the menu.
If you’re headed there for dinner sometime and are ordering more than pizza (which I hope you do), I can recommend the savory doughnut appetizer (it was on their winter menu earlier this year), and a salted caramel budino dessert that blew my mind. I’ve only been there a few times so far, but each time it’s been a pure treat. Thank you, Luca!
Our order: I’m not entirely sure of the quantities, but I think it went something like this: 2 Hawaiian Hog (smoked pork, pineapple, tomato sauce, aged mozzarella, cheddar), 2 BBQ Chicken (chicken breast, cheddar/jack, red onion, BBQ, Hoppy Ranch drizzle), 1 Walnut Street (pepperoni, sausage, caramelized onion, roasted peppers, tomato sauce, mozzarella), 1 Wild Shroom (caramelized onion, ricotta cheese, spinach, aged mozzarella, truffle oil)
Thoughts: The only pizza I personally tried here was the Hawaiian Hog. I LOVE Hawaiian pizzas. I know some people are anti-pineapple on pizzas, but I’m Team Pineapple all the way. The dough of this pizza was very thick and pillowy. It reminded me of the homemade pizza my mom used to make, so I had a serious fondness for it. I think Robert declared the Hawaiian pizza here to be his favorite of the entire day, so that’s saying something. If you’re a fan of thick and doughy crusts, this place should be on your list.
Our order: one “16-cut” plus a “3-cut,” original style
Thoughts: By stop number nine we’re usually just going through the motions of ordering and eating pizzas, but as an echo of the first year, this year’s #9 stop was a surprise hit. We walked in and I think we scared the pants off the guy working behind the counter because a group of 16 people walked in shortly before they closed. I told him not to worry and that we were only ordering like one pizza. (He breathed a sigh of relief.) I asked him what their specialty was, and he explained that their pizzas are made with 100% provolone cheese, but their “original style” pizza is made by putting the cheese on AFTER everything else bakes in the oven. Cooking the cheese steals some of the flavor from it, so by putting the cheese on last and just allowing it to melt on top of everything else, it helps to preserve that unique flavor from the provolone. Upon hearing that, we obviously ordered some pizza in their original style to try it out. It ended up being one of the best and most interesting pizzas I’ve had in a while. The provolone gave it something really unique, and it was interesting to have your cheese become MORE melted as you ate a slice, as opposed to starting really melted and then cooling off and hardening. The crust was fairly thick with a crispy bottom and a nice chewy interior. The pizza reminded me visually of those old Joe Corbi’s frozen pizzas, except 1000 times better. This place is absolutely worth a visit.
Our order: one large plain
Thoughts: Okay, so by stop #10 you’re DEFINITELY just going through the motions of eating pizza. It was late, it had been a long day, and we were all exhausted. This place was kind of a hole-in-the-wall, but we squeezed in and waited for our pizza to come out. It was cheesy, kind of greasy, and had what we decided was a “butteriness” to it. It was delicious, but I think it was a little too rich for us as the last stop of the day. If we had eaten it earlier we probably would have raved about it. As with most #10 stops, it deserves a proper visit at another time. All that said, I’d probably give it a 9/10.
That’s a lot of pizza. As with any group of 30 people eating pizza, you’re going to have conflicting opinions. However, we came to somewhat of a consensus this year. What you have below are my personal opinions, but I think most of the group would be on board with this. My brother Colin and I actually agreed this year, whereas the last two years we were basically opposite in opinion. Here are my thoughts:
BEST MOM AND POP SHOP
Espino’s – If you couldn’t tell from my description above about this place, I loved it. I would order their pizza all the time if I lived in Lancaster. My friends who live near this one were so thrilled to discover that it actually IS that good, and they weren’t just fans because it was in the neighborhood and easy to order. They lucked out with this gem.
BEST ARTISANAL PIZZA
Luca – I always like to differentiate between the small pizza places and the restaurants making “artisanal” pizza. They’re just different animals. As far as the “fancy” places go, Luca is way up there. Their ingredients are so fresh and they do some lovely combinations (try the fig pizza in the fall), plus the staff there is fantastic. Please get yourself a reservation at this place, pronto.
House of Pizza – Keeping with tradition, stop #1 always gets high rankings from me. Although I enjoyed a couple places more, this one was really good and it was a crowd favorite.
Slugger’s – This is a true neighborhood pizza shop cranking out some awesome pizzas. It’s classic and wonderful. Order it for your next slumber party.
Lancaster Brewing Co. – Although a little unusual, I did love their thick, pillowy dough. And I keep thinking about that slice of Hawaiian I ate. Worth a visit.
DiCarlo’s – One of my top favorites for sure. The provolone cheese on their pizza was so interesting. I’d actually love to try to recreate this pizza at home. (Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to figure out that recipe.)
So there you have it – another year of pizza feasting under our belts. I’m not entirely sure which city we’ll be visiting next year, so if you have some ideas please let me know. Don’t forget to check out Laura’s super fun Roam and Golightly podcast with the recordings from our day (>> show notes, >> blog post). We had a rowdy crowd so I’m sure it’s going to be an interesting episode. And as always, a huge thank you to all of my friends who go on this journey so enthusiastically with me every year. They’re the best. Now, go eat some pizza! (PS – you can get your own #feastofstpizza merchandise in my Society6 shop.)
Illustration at top created with Photoshop, Illustrator, pen and watercolor pens.
Prints of my illustrations (plus other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.