426 Belmont Ave.
Bala Cynwyd, PA
Going straight to the original source can be fulfilling.
If you find yourself stuck in Buffalo, by all means, stop by the Anchor Bar, where the buffalo wing was invented.
If you are cruising through the French Quarter, grab an original Muffuletta at the Central Grocery.
And when in the City of Brotherly Love, a stop at Pat’s King of Steaks, where the Philly Cheesesteak was first created, is obligatory on any itinerary.
But you know what? Just because it was the first doesn’t always mean it’s the best.
Cheap, sinewy beef tossed on a hard, chewy roll and slathered in Cheese Wiz is what they’ve been serving at Pat’s in South Philly since 1933.
Come on, man. You can do better than that.
And sure enough, someone has.
But you’ll have to venture out to the Philly suburbs to Mama’s Pizzeria to get it.
A modest Italian pizzeria deep in the heart of Philadelphia’s suburban hell might seem like a strange place to find the best version of the Philly Cheesesteak.
But not really if you think about.
After all, it was the Italians who immigrated to Eastern Pennsylvania who invented the Philly Cheesesteak in the first place.
It makes some sense that it takes an Italian pizza chef to perfect it.
And perfect it Paul Castellucci did here at this little joint on Belmont Avenue.
Castellucci’s Philly has been voted Best Cheesesteak in Philadelphia.
That’s like being named the drunkest guy at a NASCAR race. It’s pretty stiff competition.
Uncharacteristically, I ordered the “mini” version because I planned on eating again later that night.
Good call. The “mini” Philly Cheesesteak at Mama’s was stuffed with enough meat to tide me over for at least twelve hours.
It truly was a thing of beauty.
Tender and succulent, the beef just melted in my mouth. But it was the blend of gourmet cheese and caramelized onions that made this sub worthy of shirt-buying proportions.
Meat and cheese, not separate entities, but joined together as one in holy matrimony.
Each bite yielded an exquisite cheesy, beefy, co-mingling of flavor and soul.
The freshly baked Italian bread softened the goodness even further.
The ambiance of Mama’s cozy upstairs dining room goes well with their world class sub.
Soft pink, floral artwork and flowery vinyl tablecloths makes you feel like you’re eating in an Italian grandmother’s dining room back in the Old Country.
Out of style? For sure.
But as comforting as tender, grilled beef and melted cheese.
This is about as far removed from the classic South Philly experience as you can get.
At Pat’s, some mob-looking guy barks “Wit or witout!” as you eat your cheesesteak on a crowded sidewalk under the harsh glare of buzzing florescent lights.
Here at Mama’s, your grandmother’s favorite elevator music plays softly in the background while the family next to you bows their head in prayer just before sinking their teeth into the juicy goodness of Philly’s most gourmet cheesesteak.
Civilized. Warm. Comforting.
It’s good to see that even the most blue collar of culinary inventions can evolve. Even the Philly Cheesesteak.
Rating: Bought the Shirt!