People will buy whatever Joe Beddia is selling. I realized this on a personal level when one day in June I put $495 on my credit card for some hoagies that I wouldn’t get to eat for weeks.
My friends and I were already on board with trying the “hoagie omakase” in the private room tucked into a corner of Fishtown’s nationally touted Pizzeria Beddia. Unlike a traditional omakase — the Japanese term for a menu chosen by the chef — this sounded like a mashup of high- and lowbrow, of Japanese elegance and Philly swagger, plus a lot of hype.
It’s the kind of absurd idea that could only be pulled off by Beddia, who has built a cult-like following as a pizza chef and a tastemaker, and who is the creative engine behind one of the hottest new restaurants in the country.
The experience costs more than a regular dinner at Beddia, where pies run about $25 and most appetizers are $12 or less. Booking the Hoagie Room costs $75 a person — excluding tip and including only one round of drinks. But hoagies are just the hook; the price includes small plates, soft-serve ice cream, and four pizzas. It’s a way to try the restaurant’s entire menu, plus three truly excellent sandwiches that you can’t get anywhere else.
You could argue that private dining was the logical next step for Beddia, who started slinging pizzas in a tiny, cash-only storefront with no chairs in 2013 and achieved local fame almost immediately. After Bon Appétit declared his pies the best in America, snagging one of the 40 pies he made per night became an almost comically impossible endeavor. The shop closed in 2018, when he decided not to renew his lease at the Girard Avenue building. On the last week, lines started forming six hours before opening.
This March, Beddia and his business partners opened a full-scale, 100-seat restaurant, making the pizza available to everyone. Now it’s the hoagies that carry Beddia’s trademark whiff of exclusivity.
It was a Sunday evening in late summer when six of us stepped through a pocket door in the back of the restaurant, into a quiet, softly lit room accented with blond wood.
The host of the hoagimakase is John Walker, Beddia’s longtime right-hand man and newly christened Hoagie Master. Other monikers include “Hoagie Darling” and “Hoagie Wan Kenobi,” titles he seems to find slightly embarrassing. “I like to think I know what I’m doing,” Walker told me, “but these large terms are intense.”
At Beddia’s original pizza shop, Walker was the guy who took your order and told you it would be ready in several hours. If you tried to go in the months before it closed, he was the guy with the apologetic smile, gently letting you know they were sold out by 5:05 p.m.
But things are different in the hoagie room, where it seems as if Walker will never stop bringing you food. He’s a big part of the room’s charm: a friendly, understated guide leading you through each phase of the feast, as much a part of the party as you want him to be.
The night started with cold, strong cocktails, a choice between a negroni or an old fashioned with amaro. In addition to the regular wine list, the Hoagie Room also offers magnums of wine. (I badly desired one but was outvoted by friends who, despite possessing many other fine qualities, wanted to try several different bottles instead.)
Appetizers arrived: a funky wedge of Red Cat cheese from Chester County’s Birchrun Hills Farm; a plate of shimmering anchovies; fat Judion beans from Spain, zested with citrus and bathed in olive oil; a hunk of tomato pie sliced into six bites. Bright salads, one with an addictive fish sauce dressing, the other with kale, creme fraiche, and mint.
Then Walker presented us with a platter of roasted vegetable hoagies, freshly made behind the counter and cut into quarters. Served on house-made rolls, they were juicy and much more flavorful than the phrase “veggie hoagie” suggests, with mushrooms, almost-bitter broccoli rabe, red peppers, provolone cheese, and lemon-basil mayonnaise.
Next came tuna-sardine hoagies with olive tapenade, tomatoes, and red onions, a smoky, briny combination with crunch from parsley stems.
Around then, we gut-checked ourselves and started leaving food on our plates. We had to slow down if we were going to make it.
Round Three was Italian hoagies, a rainbow of hot capicola and mortadella dressed with frilly iceberg lettuce, provolone, and bright-red summer tomatoes, packed into those crusty, richly sesame-seeded rolls, the Philly sandwich of my dreams.
We ordered two special seasonal pizzas — a white pie topped with peaches and another with garlic and habañero cream — plus one of Beddia’s classic, spicy “angry” pies and a tomato- and anchovies-topped pie from the regular menu. I ate at least one slice of each, because I believed in myself.
Dessert was soft-serve ice cream so light and airy, it barely seemed like food. Some of us could only manage a few bites. “Is this what it feels like to be pregnant?” wondered one male friend. Neither of the moms in attendance disputed the notion.
Later I asked Walker if anyone has ever eaten everything served in the hoagie room. No, he said, though some have eaten all of the hoagies.
“We want you to go home with pizza,” he said. “We want to keep the experience going even after you leave."
Reservations for Pizzeria Beddia’s hoagie room are available through Resy on Thursdays through Sundays, at 5:30 or 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $495 including tax, excluding gratuity. Includes six cocktails, four small-plate appetizers, two salads, six foot-long hoagies, four pizzas, six orders of ice cream.
Bring: Party people. Friends who are comfortable with excess and who don’t mind paying for an experience. Pizza and hoagie lovers happy to scrunch together at a cozy table.
Don’t bring: People with major dietary restrictions (whom the restaurant will try to accommodate but who, at the end of the day, will miss out on some of the fun). People who complain about portion size or “getting full.” People who think this might be too much food. You don’t need that negativity.