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Pizza and barbecue have their shining moments in 2012

Two oft-debated cuisines get sharp newcomers.

Farm-to-table was 2011.

In 2012, the two "it" food categories of Philadelphia's food scene were barbecue and pizza. (But not together. Please.)

Both cuisines are popping up all over, and with respectable quality.

That's important, because BBQ and pizza spark intense debate from partisans who sniff that Philly lacks the "real thing."

Whatever that is.

Philly's barbecue scene in 2012 saw the arrival of a few big names downtown:

Brooklyn's Fette Sau, drawn to Philly by Stephen Starr, was set up in a faux shack in Fishtown. With its assortment of brown liquors, it puts the bar in barbecue.

The microscopic Blue Belly BBQ popped up on a corner on the Bella Vista/Queen Village border, from Cochon's Gene Giuffi. I like to call it "Two-Belly Blue Belly" after its glowing Craig LaBan review.

Bubba's Texas BBQ is smoking on a corner in Fishtown. It's backed by a real live, Stetson-wearing Texan named Bubba, who boasts that you can cut his brisket with a feather.

Just as significant were a few openings in the burbs:

Barbacoa, which moved midyear from Upper Darby into an Ardmore storefront, bases its concept on Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken that owner Rob Hayes encountered in the D.C. area. He also offers Angus beef brisket, St. Louis-style ribs, and grilled Norwegian salmon.

Early word-of-mouth has been off the charts for Jesse's Barbecue & Local Market in Souderton, a few minutes off the Route 113 exit of Route 309. Jesse Sigmans was an environmental consultant and home cook who went down to Georgia, bought himself a smoker, and set up a family business that includes his mom and uncle. Menu includes pulled pork, brisket, and chicken, but the big draw are the Kansas City-style ribs, which he dry-rubs, smokes five hours, and finishes with a glaze. The market has local produce and groceries.

Also new: A Jenkintown location for Fat Jack's - whose pit boss Glenn Gross has been at it for more than two decades in the region. And though it opened at the tail end of 2011, let's count Big Daddy'z BBQ & Grill in Ridley Park among the better newbies. Deep-fried smoked chicken, anyone?

Thin but pillowy-crusted Neapolitan pizza was trailblazed locally in recent years, first by Osteria and then by Pizzeria Stella.

Then came 2012, when the mobile Pitruco Pizza started baking them on a Ford F-150, and Jersey-based Nomad Pizza brought its own truck-rooted operation indoors to the Seventh and South Streets area (review here).

Imports of 00 flour and San Marzano tomatoes must be setting records.

In 2012, we saw the introduction of other great pizzas everywhere - city, Pennsy burbs, Jersey burbs:

  1. By Frank Nattle at Vecchia in Phoenixville, where LaBan eats his "Regina" pie with a knife and fork.

  2. By father-son Pino and Antimo DiMeo at Pizzeria DiMeo's in Andorra Shopping Center, where they say they even import the water from Naples.

  3. By Brian Baglin and David Perini at District 611 in Riverton, where they have a climate-controlled dough room.

  4. By Holly Joyce, who turns out well-done, thin-crusted pies (including a stunning fig-and-gorganzola) at Spiga in Center City. (She replaced opening chef Brian Wilson a couple of months ago.)

  5. There's Pizza Brain - the pizzeria-slash-museum that shares a Kensington/Fishtown building with the new Little Baby's Ice Cream. The pies are not Neapolitan - the dough comes from a sourdough starter. LaBan says they do a "surprisingly respectable job of spinning some worthy variations on the classic crispy American genre."