Jim Mirabelli writes about and reviews northeastern Pennsylvania pizza restaurants at his website, NEPAPizzaReview.com, and is a leading expert on Old Forge-style pizza.
Old Forge pizza is a unique pizza style derived from a small coal-mining town of nearly 9,000 residents in northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA). Old Forge, the self-described “Pizza Capital of the World,” serves up rectangular “trays” of pizza by the “cut.” The crust is not all that different from a Sicilian pie except that it tends to be a bit more dense and sometimes spongy. The sauces are usually pretty hearty, flavorful and generally made with onions. But the top-secret cheese blends are what make these trays truly unique.
The cheese blends are generally kept under lock and key by the pizzeria owners, but it is common to find blends that include cheddar, American, brick, cooper, mozzarella, and others. The end result is a one-of-a-kind pizza that sticks to the top of your mouth and is a big hit with the locals and pizza-loving tourists alike.
Having lived in northeastern Pennsylvania my entire life and having tried at least 300 different pizzerias in the area, I have had the opportunity to sample nearly every Old Forge pie in the Pizza Capital of the World and surrounding communities. The following are the Top 10 Old Forge pizzerias ranked by my personal experiences spanning over three decades:
1. Arcaro and Gennell – Old Forge
In business since 1962, Arcaro and Gennell has gotten plenty of national attention and accolades for their pizza over the years, and for good reason—it’s excellent! Located on Main Street in Old Forge and surrounded by a handful of pizzeria competitors within a stone’s throw, A&G consistently pumps out tasty tray after tasty tray. People also rave about the double-crust white pizza, which can be described as a giant grilled cheese pizza. The restaurant’s footprint has grown exponentially over the years, adding a banquet hall, multiple bocce ball courts, and a covered outdoor seating area. From fine dining to pizza and clams, Arcaro and Gennell does it all, and they top NEPA Pizza Review’s list of the best Old Forge pizzas in the region.
2. Anthony’s – Old Forge
Anthony’s in Old Forge is probably best known for its fine dining and delicious Italian cuisine, but those in the know are aware that Anthony’s serves among the very best Old Forge pizzas in the area. They offer both regular and thin Old Forge-style pizzas and, while the pies are comprised of the same ingredients, each pizza gives a totally different experience. This is a great place for a romantic dinner or a casual drink. My favorite non-pizza menu item is the seafood fra diavolo, which provides a huge portion and is packed with spicy seafood. Like many of the restaurants in this top 10 list, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
3. Samario’s – Scranton
Samario’s is an Italian bistro in Scranton, which is very near the Pizza Capital of the World. They offer multiple styles of pizza, including New York, Chicago, and, of course, Old Forge. One bite of their pizza made me think I was actually within the Old Forge city limits—it was that authentic and delicious! The Chicago deep-dish pizza at Samario’s is also amazing, along with the rest of their expansive fine dining and takeout menus. The growing business has also expanded to a second location in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, so Old Forge pizza can be found in Wyoming County as well!
4. Colarusso’s Cafe – Avoca
The Colarusso’s name is synonymous with the pizza elites in NEPA, boasting multiple locations scattered throughout the region. I have had the pleasure of eating at all of them, as well as talking to hundreds of local pizza enthusiasts, and the consensus is that the Avoca location has the best and most consistent pizza. Besides the regular Old Forge pizza here, people rave about the White Fresh Tomato, which features thinly sliced tomatoes, garlic and a sprinkling of Romano and other cheeses.
5. Maroni’s – Scranton
Maroni’s Pizza is quite popular and well-known throughout the region. Their Old Forge-style pizza is a little unique in that the sauce has a little spice to it, and the American cheese is usually burned on top, which is how many locals like it cooked. My favorite way to order Maroni’s pizza is with extra sauce and the hand-cut pepperoni, but you can customize yours anyway you like, even with mozzarella cheese.
6. Mary Lou’s – Old Forge
Located on Dunn Avenue, Mary Lou’s is a pizzeria in Old Forge that doesn’t get as much notoriety as the other pizzerias along Main Street. They are only open three days a week and serve pizzas until they sell out for the day. They offer a fresh and vibrant Old Forge Red pizza, but their Fresh Tomato Pizza is to die for. I recommend getting one of each because Mary Lou will often give you a volume discount when you buy two.
7. Elio G’s – Old Forge
Elio G might have the most unique pizza on this list because he packs the most flavor into each slice, thanks to a hearty and robust sauce packed with onions and seasonings. This is a takeout-only establishment, and you have to call in advance to order because it is very popular and wait times can be well over an hour. The best bet is to call in as soon as they open to schedule your order, so you can be guaranteed the time slot you desire. A popular topping choice at Elio G’s—and all of the Old Forge establishments—is shrimp and peppers. It may sound like a bizarre combination, but people in the area swear by it! If you love flavor-packed pizza, you’ll love Elio G’s.
8. Revello’s – Old Forge
If you ask a NEPA resident about Old Forge pizzerias, chances are the first place they mention will be Revello’s Pizza Cafe. Revello’s is quite well-known in the region for its original location on the main drag in Old Forge, but they have also expanded rapidly to multiple locations in Kingston, the Mohegan Sun Arena, Lackawanna County Stadium, and the Marketplace at Steamtown. Philadelphia has cheesesteak tourist locations like Geno’s and Pat’s, and Revello’s is the NEPA pizza equivalent. I recommend taking a quick walk to the back to see how the pizzas are made, and even more interestingly, how they are cut—with a giant pizza machete, which is even part of their logo!
9. Lou’s Pizza – Olyphant
Lou’s Pizza “By the Bridge” is another small pizzeria, located in Olyphant, that I first stumbled upon after taking a wrong turn across “the bridge” near which they are located. I’m glad I did, because their pizza is excellent, and they have a loyal fan base. Lou’s pizza shops can be found sprinkled around NEPA, in gas stations and markets, serving prebaked and wrapped slices for convenient and quick consumption. Although there is no substitute for a fresh tray of pizza, the room temperature slices provide a tasty snack while on the go.
10. Ferri’s Pizza – Moscow
Probably most famous for their Potato Pizza served during the Lenten season, this third-generation, family-owned business originated in Old Forge in 1936. The restaurant pays tribute to the area’s coal-mining history and offers a mini coal museum in the dining room and entryway! The high-quality Old Forge pizza alone is worth the trip, but being able to see what it was like in the coal mines more than a half-century ago makes Ferri’s Pizza a must-visit in Pennsylvania!
Old Forge Pizza is a truly unique experience best shared with a group of friends and family around the table. The restaurants in this top 10 list are all family-owned, local businesses that form the backbone of communities, particularly in the town of Old Forge itself. People love to visit New York, Chicago, and other big cities for pizza tours, but look no further than Northeastern Pennsylvania for your next road trip steeped in rich history, family, and of course great pizza!