May 14th, 2016
Old Forge, PA
Has anyone heard of Old Forge, PA? When we first read through this list, we had no idea where it was. Ghigiarelli’s is the only pizza place on the list that is not located in a major city in the US. As it turns out, Old Forge is not too far from Scranton (about 5 miles), which isn’t too far from us in NJ. So we decided to take a drive.
Old Forge likes to call itself the “Pizza Capital of the World”. Being the pizza fans that we are, we had still never heard of it. As we drove through the town, though, we realized why it goes by that phrase. It started as a coal mining town, but then in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when the big businesses closed, it turned to pizza. Ghigiarelli’s was the first pizza place to start serving “Old Forge style” pizzas. Now, the town has over a dozen pizzerias – all to serve the population of just under 9,000 and all within about 3 square miles of each other.
The pizzas are all essentially the same, with slight variations. The crust is rectangular and crispy, baked in a tray. You can order a “red” tray or a “white” tray (never a “pie”). And just to make it more confusing, it is called a “cut”, not a “slice”.
We got to Ghigiarelli’s shortly after their Facebook page said that they were open. They didn’t have a regular website, and when we showed up at the door it was closed. We were sure that we had the right place, but no one seemed to be around to let us in. So we called the number on the Facebook page, and luckily someone picked up! Turns out they were open but they had forgotten to open the doors. Phew.
The hostess then asked us if we wanted a “red or white tray”. A white tray is more like a calzone, with crust on bottom and top, folded over, with a bunch of garlicky cheese inside. While that sounded pretty good, it also sounded very filling. So we went with the red, which had a good topping of sauce and a blend of cheeses. The sauce had plenty of chunks of onions in it. It actually reminded us of frozen Ellio’s pizza, but with a crispy crust. Or maybe more like the pizza we used to have in the cafeteria in high school, although a bit more fresh (and not like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for hours).
There certainly isn’t anything like this style of pizza anywhere else. While Detroit-style pizza is now becoming trendy in NYC and elsewhere, Old Forge-style hasn’t quite made it out of Old Forge. We actually liked the crust as an alternative to Sicilian crust, the sauce was slightly peppery and sweet, and the cheese mixture seemed to work fine, although it wasn’t our favorite.
Of course, we could see why the Daily Meal had to rank at least one Old Forge pizza on the list, since it is the “Pizza Capital of the World”. We would never have tried this style otherwise! It would be fun to go back and compare Ghigiarelli’s with a few of the other Old Forge pizzerias. Especially now that we just saw that Ghigiarelli’s is permanently closed. Apparently, the owner went missing! From what I can see, he still hasn’t been found and the pizzeria has been closed since his disappearance in January.
To visit (if it ever re-opens):
511 S Main St
Old Forge, PA 18518