The DiGiampietro family brings its South Philadelphia heritage to the recipes at its Haddonfield pizza shop.
By Matt Skoufalos
For nine years, Danny DiGiampietro operated his own bakery in South Philadelphia.
But he said it was “a financial nuclear bomb” trying to compete against far more established shops like Amoroso’s, Aversa’s, Cacia’s, and Liscio’s–operations that “don’t have mortgages” after so many years.
So when his bakery folded, DiGiampietro started driving a bread truck along a delivery route that took him past a closed pizza shop in Haddonfield.
Sandwiched within the row of professional buildings from Jersey Java and Tea to the TD Bank building, the storefront at 122 North Haddon Avenue drew DiGiampietro’s eye every day.
It was only a promise to his wife Lauren that kept him from inquiring about the property more seriously for a year.
Six months later, the couple opened Angelo’s Pizzeria, named for their two-year-old son.
‘Not about the bottom line’
The DiGiampietros, who now live in Deptford, NJ, don’t believe that anything other than word of mouth will grow their business, and so it’s been a quiet seven months of operation.
But a family tradition of baking is helping the little shop with the black-and-white awning build a reputation for quality fare.
Freshness is paramount at Angelo’s. Cheesesteaks are made with prime hanging beef hand-picked from a Philadelphia meat packer. Chicken sandwiches are made from fresh, chopped chicken breast.
Lauren DiGiampietro—nee Sarcone—sources the sandwich rolls from her grandfather’s famous bakery. The sourdough pizza base is made from scratch over three days.
The only three canned ingredients in the shop are cheese whiz, Italian tuna, and plum tomatoes used in pizza sauce, Danny DiGiampietro said; the only item in the freezer is French fries. When a menu item sells out, it’s gone for the day.
When Danny DiGiampietro talks about food, he speaks about the “primal” connection he shares with his ingredients; about “nurturing” flour, water, salt, and yeast until it coalesces into bread—or in this case, pizza dough.
“We’re not about the bottom line,” Danny DiGiampietro said. “I throw away more slice pies than I sell.
“We’re about finding the best ingredients we can to make our stuff. We would rather give you good ingredients and let the money come when it comes.”
‘You’re going into our family’s house to eat’
Fountain soda is not served at Angelo’s, even though it’s a highly profitable item in the restaurant business.
Instead, the refrigerator case is filled with premium brands—Boylan’s, San Pelligrino, Jones, Stewart’s—and many of the varieties are made with cane sugar instead of syrup.
“We just try to keep everything fresh and simple,” Danny DiGiampietro said. “We don’t pinch pennies.”
When the DiGiampietros purchased the shop, the first thing they did was pull out the wall-to-wall freezer units that lined its interior. The second was to trim back the menu from some 100-plus items to fewer than 20.
“It doesn’t make sense to buy [something], freeze it, throw it in the deep fryer and serve it to you,” Danny DiGiampietro said.
He laments the outgrowth of pizzerias that “are like Italian diners,” with numerous, flash-frozen menu items, serving “skating rink pizza.
“There’s nothing that differentiates one shop from the next,” Danny DiGiampietro said. “They’re all using the same bread, the same meat, the same cheese, the same tomatoes.
“When you come in here and you get meatballs that we make fresh every day, that’s how our moms do it; our grandmoms do it,” he said. “You’re going into our family’s house to eat.”
That Italian cooking is evident in the Sunday gravy served at Angelo’s during football season. Slow-roasted, seared pork butt provides the base of a sauce rounded out with crushed tomatoes, meatballs, sausage, and seasonings. The 10-ounce plate of macaroni with which it is served hails from Severino Pasta of nearby Westmont; a scoop of ricotta completes the dish.
Like everything else on the menu, it’s simple, low-ingredient fare, lightly seasoned, and steeped in tradition. For a man so passionate about his connection with the food he produces, it’s the only way Danny DiGiampietro could go.
“I can’t sing,” he said. “I can’t draw; I can’t play an instrument.
“I love to express myself through food.”
Angelo’s Pizza is located at 122 Haddon Avenue North in Haddonfield. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 12 noon to 8 p.m. 856-429-3423.