You may walk into the new Paulie Gee’s pizza shop in Center City and think to yourself, “Wait. This place is new?”
The decor shouts 1980: black-and-white tile floor, orange seats and laminate tables, wood-paneled walls straight out of Hechinger’s, a bar lined with avocado-upholstered stools, framed photos of Philly sports heroes, a pool table, a Pac-Man game in a vintage TV cabinet, and a soda machine that dispenses glass bottles of Coke, Fanta, Sprite, and Fresca. A gray manual cash register sits on the counter, and a Coca-Cola menu board with those removable letters hangs over the glass pizza case.
You’re hearing rock-and-roll from the 1970s and '80s. Vinyl LPs, sleeved in plastic, sit in a rack by a window; they’re for sale, if you’re in the market for, perhaps, the Aerosmith or Boston debut albums, or some vintage Elvis.
Father-son owners Paul and Derek Giannone, working out of the former Amis at 412 S. 13th St. in Washington Square West, call it Paulie Gee’s Soul City Slice. It’s a Philly version of the senior Giannone’s hit Paulie Gee’s slice shop in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, which is similarly retro, down to the menu.
Only traditional New York- and Sicilian-style rounds and squares with toppings (mainly cheese, sausage, and pepperoni), by the slice and as a whole pie. No Italian-inspired apps or sandwiches, either.
The bar has a full list of cocktails, plus eight draft lines (seven beers plus a negroni on tap), and a varied selection of cans and bottles.
The most popular pizza at the New York shop is the Hellboy, a pepperoni pie drizzled with Mike’s Hot Honey, followed by the Hellboy², a sturdy, upside-down Sicilian version with a sesame-seed bottom. Vegan pizzas are available. Spumoni and lemon water ice are the desserts right now. Want something gluten-free? “We have soda,” reads the FAQ on the website.
» READ MORE: Backstory on Paulie Gee's
Paul Giannone had been looking to do business in Philadelphia for years — first in Fishtown and Northern Liberties. One day in spring 2013, he heard about Paesano’s Philly Sandwiches (then on Girard Avenue near the El stop) and drove down from his home in North Jersey with his wife, Mary Ann. They caught a North Brooklyn vibe. But real estate deals never materialized.
Around that time, Derek, now 30, moved to Philadelphia to get his master’s degree from Drexel University, and he stayed to work in addictions research. He runs the new pizzeria.
The pizza business was a career change for Paulie Gee, now 68. He was a self-described computer geek working in corporate information technology in the mid-1990s when he became fascinated with pizza-making.
He fed his obsession by building a wood-burning oven in his backyard. Egged on by family and friends, in 2010, he opened his first shop in Greenpoint, serving wood-fired Neapolitan-inspired pizzas. But Neapolitans do not travel well. “A pizza box is a coffin to a Neapolitan,” he said. In 2014, he banned takeout and delivery in a bid to preserve quality. It’s still dine-in only.
In 2018, Gee followed up with the slice shop nearby, and subsequently opened slice shops in Chicago and New Orleans, as well as Neapolitan restaurants in Baltimore, Columbus, and Chicago.
Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.