Back in 2005, during the move to start work on what is now the 10 Rittenhouse condos on 18th Street north of Rittenhouse Square, a row of longtime businesses was forced out - Lombardi's Pizza among them.
Lombardi's carried the distinction of being an offshoot of the Manhattan parlor founded in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi at Spring and Mott Streets, reputed to be the oldest pizzeria in the United States. For my money, its coal-fired ovens dispensed one of the better thin-crust pies in Center City.
Mike Giammarino, who operated that Philly location, went back to New York. But he kept his place here and plotted his return.
And on Jan. 2, that will happen. He's opening Gennaro's Tomato Pie at 1429 Jackson St., in a South Philly corner property (Carlisle Street) near South Philly High that's hosted a bunch of pizzerias, most notably Russo's.
Why South Philly? Something happened between 2005 and 2013: Center City rents shot up. Besides, he says, many cool businesses are opening in South Philly.
He determined that the space was too small for a Lombardi's, so he is going with what he calls "American pizza." He'll serve tomato pie - not the thick-crusted, bakery-style tomato pie you find in Italian communities in Norristown and Conshy but what many people call "upside-down" pizza, with cheese on the bottom. (Electric oven, not coal.) The family-friendly atmosphere will be reminiscent of the 1940s - black-and-white tiles, Formica tables, WWII-era imagery, oldtime soundtrack.
Simple menu will include a few pies, a few apps, a few salads (including an iceberg lettuce) and homemade desserts - rather than tiramisu and other familiar faves, he'll do homey chocolate sponge layer cake and pineapple upside-down cake.