You can go to Paulie Gee’s new pizza shop downtown and think to yourself, “Wait. This place the new?”
The decor screams 1980’s: black and white tiled floor, orange stools and polished tables, wood-paneled walls direct from Hechinger’s, bar lined with avocado-upholstered stools, framed photos of Philly sports champions, pool table, Pac-Man game in a vintage TV cabinet, machine Soda dispensing bottles from Coke, Fanta, Sprite, and Fresca. There’s a gray manual cash register on the counter, and a Coca-Cola menu board with those removable lettering hangs over the glass pizza box.
You hear rock and roll from the ’70s and ’80s. Vinyl LPs, with plastic sleeves, sit in a shelf by the window; It’s for sale, if you’re in the market, perhaps, first-time Aerosmith or Boston albums, or some old Elvis albums.
Father and son owners Paul and Derek Giannone, working from the former Ames at 412 S. 13th St. In Washington Square West, it’s called Paulie Gee’s Soul City Slice. It’s Philly’s version of Paulie Gee’s mega chip shop at Giannone in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, which feels retro, right down to the menu.
Just traditional New York and Sicilian style rounds and squares with toppings (cheese, sausage and pepperoni mainly), by the slice and as a whole pie. There are no Italian-inspired apps or sandwiches either.
The bar has a full cocktail menu, as well as eight draft lines (seven beers plus Negroni on tap), and a variety of cans and bottles.
The most popular New York store pizza is Hellboy, a pepperoni pie dipped in Mike’s Hot Honey, followed by Hellboy², a firm Sicilian version upside down with a sesame seed bottom. Vegetarian pizza is available. Spumoni and lemon water ice are the sweets now. Want something gluten-free? “We have a soft drink,” reads the FAQ on the site.
»Read more: Backstory on Paulie Gee’s
Paul Giannon has been looking to do business in Philadelphia for years – first in Fishtown and Northern Liberties. One spring day in 2013, he heard about Paesano’s Philly Sandwiches (then on Girard Street near El Station) and set off from his North Jersey home with his wife, Mary Ann. Caught the North Brooklyn Vibe. But the real estate deals never materialized.
Around that time, Derek, now 30, moved to Philadelphia to earn his master’s degree from Drexel University, remaining to work in addiction research. He runs a new pizzeria.
Doing pizza was a career change for Paulie Gee, now 68. He was describing himself as a computer expert working in the company’s IT field in the mid-1990s when he became fascinated by the pizza industry.
He fueled his obsession with building a wood-burning oven in his backyard. Encouraged by his family and friends, in 2010 he opened his first store in Green Point, serving wood-fired pizza inspired by Naples. But the Neapolitans do not travel well. “The pizza box is the coffin of a Neapolitan,” he said. In 2014, he banned takeout and delivery in an effort to maintain quality. Still eating indoors only.
In 2018, Gee pursued a nearby chip shop, later opening chip stores in Chicago and New Orleans, as well as Naples restaurants in Baltimore, Columbus and Chicago.
Hours of operation are 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.