Joe Beddia could use a break from making pizza. But when you're churning out pies Bon Appétit called the best in the country, and you’re doing it alone, it’s a little hard to walk away.
Beddia owns Pizzeria Beddia in Fishtown, where he’s spent about 15 hours a day, Wednesday to Saturday, since he opened four years ago. There are no seats in the small shop and there’s no ordering ahead to snag one of the 40 pies he makes a day — Beddia declined to install a phone. On the rare occasions he takes off, he’ll post a note on social media to warn customers there’s no reason to get in line.
In his limited spare time, Beddia has been laying out his recipes in a cookbook of sorts.
“I didn’t need to do the book. It was a pain the ass at times,” Beddia says. “I was working 60 hours a week at Pizzeria Beddia, and on top of that I had the book deadlines. And I’m not used to working with other people.”
But he also calls it a passion project, and says he purposely picked a publisher that focuses on art books.
Pizza Camp, out April 18, is part cookbook, part “love letter and thank you to Philadelphia,” Beddia says, with photos of food, people, and art, and a dash of random musings. “Irreverent” might be the best way to describe it — Beddia conceived it as a book you’d see for sale in Urban Outfitters: “If I could have made it more weird, I would have.” But the recipes, geared for the home cook, are dead serious.
“I can do my pizza that I do every day at the shop at home. My thought was, most of the pizza cookbooks are from restaurants that have wood-fired ovens, and that seems like such a disconnect,” Beddia says.
Pizza Camp opens, after a foreword by Bon Appétit’s Andrew Knowlton and an introduction from Beddia, with the basics of dough, going beyond the ingredients into the all-important technique.
“It takes time to learn how to handle dough, and there’s no cheap, quick method where you’re just going to be good at it. The reason why I think my pizza is good in the first place is because the dough is good,” he says. “People talk about the oven, and it’s almost this machismo thing where guys talk about, ‘oh my oven goes to 1,000 degrees,’ but that’s more or less irrelevant. It’s more about, is the dough well fermented and is it going to have good flavor.”
Beddia promises that if you follow the dough recipe, the dough will taste good — but probably not as good as his, at least not for a while.
“I’ve done it 10,000 times,” he says. “But look at it this way: Practice makes pizza. Every time you do it, you at least have pizza.”
Past the book’s dough, sauce, and cheese directions, nestled between the white pizza recipes and the section on toppings, Beddia devotes a couple of pages to museums and public art in Philly. Turn the page for a treatise on sausage, covering both the recipe used at Pizzeria Beddia and one from Beddia’s Uncle Pete (it’s just pork, sea salt, and black pepper). Before he gets to sandwiches (which are recipes developed for the book), Beddia discusses pepperoni and lays out his guiding principle: What would Willie Nelson do?
But you might want to start practicing Beddia’s pepperoni pie recipe now, because Pizzeria Beddia may not be long for this world.
“I’ll probably do it for another year,” he says. “I just had a four-year anniversary. So if I’m open for five years, I think that’s enough. That’s a good, solid time of making pizzas.”
The idea of closing the shop wasn’t a serious thought at first, but Beddia is starting to warm up to it: “My joke idea was I’ll make a pizza book and give away the recipes, and then I’ll never have to make another pizza again. But then I was like, ‘wait a minute, what am I going to do in a year when my lease runs out? Do I want to renew it for another five years?’ It’s hard to have a normal life when you’re working like that. I just turned 40. I don’t know.”
Beddia is toying with the idea of opening a restaurant next, also in Fishtown, but he stresses that nothing is set with that just yet.
“I’m weighing my options; I’m open to a lot of things.” he says. “I like the idea of making wine, but I don’t know how to do that. I’m talking to some people about opening a restaurant, but I’m not sure. I’d want to have control and I don’t know if I’d be able to have that.
“Maybe the book will do really well and that will change things. It doesn’t even really matter at this point, I’m really just happy with the book and grateful I got to do it, and everything else will be icing on the cake.”
But he is already thinking about a second book. “I want to do a kids’ pizza book,” Beddia says. “I think it would be a day in the life of a pizza guy.”