Every now and then, you need to shake things up — and that’s true of long-standing, successful restaurants, too. That’s how High Street on Market’s staff felt last spring, around the time when Pizzeria Beddia 2.0 came online, Angelo’s Pizzeria (where pretty much everything is homemade) opened in South Philly, and pop-up pie master Dan “Pizza Gutt” Gutter announced the coming of his brick-and-mortar shop, Circles and Square, in Kensington.
The bakery team at High Street, long known for its top-notch bread, wanted in on the action, if only on occasion. “It just felt like something we wanted to be a part of,” said High Street general manager Avery Jannelli. “We wanted to do something that would include our bakery team in our dinner service.”
So for one evening, High Street transformed into what Jannelli calls an “old-school pizza party.” The wooden tables, usually left bare, were shrouded in red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Servers shed their usual chambray uniforms and donned white T-shirts and black aprons. And instead of the selection of laid-back New American dishes the Fork sibling is known for, the menu featured fried cheese curds, garlic knots, “meatball’s meatball,” and four pies, including the After School Special, a straight-ahead pepperoni pizza.
“It was so much fun for all of us, to do something different,” Jannelli said. “And we got such great feedback — you know, the guests loved it, our staff loved it.”
The team did it again in August 2019, and then they hosted a special dinner dedicated to Palizzi Social Club owner Joey Baldino’s cookbook, Dinner at the Club, in January. Baldino ran the dinner service, and High Street’s kitchen put out pizzas with topping inspired the book’s recipes and appetizers familiar to members of the South Philly club. An accordion player even came to serenade diners.
The creative stretch and collaborative opportunity was so enjoyable, High Street has decided to make it happen on the regular. They’ll be pairing up with other restaurants once a month on pizza-centric menus.
First up is East Passyunk newcomer River Twice. Chef Randy Rucker and his team will bring house-fermented miso, house-made mozzarella, and more to the High Street kitchen on Monday, March 9. No final menu, but there will be red and white pies using High Street’s pizza dough, made with white, whole-wheat, and rye flours from Castle Valley Mills and Small Valley Milling. In addition, expect River Twice-style appetizers and cocktails (which will perhaps provide some insight into what to expect when the BYOB gets its liquor license). Reservations are encouraged, as the events have booked up fast, according to Jannelli.
In April, High Street will host Res Ipsa Cafe, the Center City all-day spot best known for its square egg sandwich, striking Southern Italian presentations, and arguably Craig LaBan’s favorite roast chicken. In May, they’ll welcome the team behind Queen Village’s branch of Emmy Squared, serving Detroit-style pizza by way of Brooklyn.