It’s one day before the acclaimed Fishtown restaurant Pizzeria Beddia will be closing down. Their five–year rent is up. There's a line of 35 people that's wrapped around the corner; I can't even see the entrance. It’s clear they've come prepared to be camp out on the sidewalk for a while. A few people are huddled beneath a bright red canopy tent, their makeshift shelter against the afternoon drizzle. Others stand by, a beer in one hand and an umbrella in the other. A copy of Catch–22 lies abandoned on a fold–up chair. Any unknowing passerby would assume that the queue was for a small concert venue—definitely not a restaurant.
But Pizzeria Beddia isn’t—or wasn’t—just an eatery. Open from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, the owner and chef, Joe Beddia, would make only 40 pies, all 16–inch New York–style pizzas, a day. And due to their popularity, heightened by Bon Appetit’s glowing reviews, the process of getting one became a daily spectacle. You couldn’t just call in to order, because they didn’t have a phone. People usually began to line up at around 2 p.m., before the man himself even arrived. On this day, the day before closing, people were waiting outside the door since 8:30 a.m.
But the waiting doesn't end once you order your pizza—most people were given a time to come back to pick their order up, which could be as late as 10 p.m.
As for myself? I arrived at around 3 p.m., armed with an umbrella and a fully charged phone, eager to see if the pizza was worth the wait.
I never found out.
The door opened a few minutes before 5:30 p.m. and the first half of the line slowly made their way inside. The second half, myself included, jealously watched the people who had already placed their orders stroll confidently out, supposedly just to come back later to pick up their pizzas. The cut–off ended up being at least ten people in front of me. I never stood a chance.
But at least I wasn’t alone in my misery. It was the second time that the woman behind me, a grad student at Penn, had failed to get a pizza. Last time, Asja Radja had “gotten pretty close to the front and then they ran out.” She had heard about Pizzeria Beddia from Bon Appetit magazine. This time around, she and a friend were already in the area when they saw the line outside the restaurant. They joined the line on a whim, hoping to make up for their previous failed venture.
Despite my pizza–less future, I wandered into the restaurant. The location, which was cash–only, wasn’t much to look at. The space itself was small and cramped, with a standing table for people to hang around and wait if they wished. Two customers, locals Luke Zeller and Zeke Richardson, were drinking beers at the table, waiting for their orders. They had been around 12th in line, but “were 15, 16, 17, and 18 in terms of pizzas.”
Zeller dropped Richardson off at 11:15 a.m. and then joined him in the afternoon. Both “wanted to give [Pizzeria Beddia] a try before it was gone.”
During the six–hour wait, the two friends got to know the other people in line. “We met a couple of emergency physicians, some people further downwards were teachers, and we just chatted with people about their lives. At some point it started raining, so we had to put away all our tech and it was a nice moment where this forced community of the pizza–starved made us meet people,” said Richardson.
Zeller commented, “It was an interesting group because there were lots of different people coming together for a common cause.” He and Richardson recognized that what they were doing was “a weird thing to do.” He added, “We knew it was strange going in, spending this much time waiting for a couple pizzas, but we went for it.”
They drove by the day before, but the line had been around the corner, and so they resolved to get to the pizzeria as early as possible on its second–to–last day. They had never tried the pizza before, but the other people in line reaffirmed that it was exceptional.
“I was surprised,” said Richardson, “I thought people were going to be like, I’m just doing it for the show, but like, one guy has been coming here every week for the last two years. He said, ‘I know it’s a longer line, but hey, I gotta have my pizza.' That’s pretty impressive.”
Unfortunately, Pizzeria Beddia has closed ... for now. Beddia has plans to open up a new, larger location in Fishtown, with seating for 100 and a bar. But don’t expect to be able to try one of “America’s best” pizzas until at least the end of 2018. Even then, you might have to prepare yourself for a wait.