Ricci’s Pizza – Wilkes Barre, PA
I found myself in NEPA again; this time for a graduation ceremony. I cannot visit this region without making ambitious plans to do some pizza reviews and I’ve had Old Forge style pizza on my mind. After making a tray of my own pizza for my family Friday afternoon it was time to go, but, it wouldn’t be to Old Forge. My family lives a little off the beaten path in an area that has plenty of barns, cattle, horses, etc. It turned out that after a heavy dose of country air I had caught the lazies, and I didn’t feel like the 2 hour round trip to Old Forge, so once again I put off visiting the self-proclaimed Pizza Capitol of the World.
It wasn’t the first time that I wrote a rain-check to Old Forge and it wouldn’t be the last (see my next review), but I still needed some pizza. I usually fall victim to indecisiveness but not this time; I knew that I wanted Ricci’s Pizza. Ricci’s is located on Park Ave. in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and for those of you not familiar with the area, let me set the scene with this info: (1) I’ve never been there when I didn’t see someone walking out of the joint without a beverage concealed by a brown paper bag, and (2) twenty-four ounce cans of Genesee can be had for .85¢. Anyway, I didn’t spend $57 on pizza to scare you from visiting the place, let’s get to it…
N.Y. Style cheese pizza
My first tasting was of Ricci’s regular N.Y. style cheese pizza, which I’ve never had before this visit. The dough-sauce-cheese ratio was perfect to my liking which leans toward having a little more sauce than cheese, with each of those components neither being too much for the crust to handle nor too little and in effect having a pizza short on taste. The crust had a firm undercarriage and a crispy handle with each having been browned nicely with some sporadic charring. The cheese seemed to be a good quality mozzarella, and it too had some nice browning in areas. The sauce was very well-balanced. There were faint traces of herbage but it wasn’t overly zesty nor was it sweet or acidic. When this pizza is fresh from the oven it is very good and should satisfy your pizza craving. When this pizza got cold (room temperature) the crust stiffened up and became chewier than a lot of other pizzas do. Overall I’d say this pizza is very good; I’ll be getting it again, and I have no reservations in recommending it to you.
Buffalo chicken pizza
My second tasting was of Ricci’s buffalo chicken pizza, and like the cheese pizza, I’ve never had their buffalo chicken pizza before this visit. Much like the crust of the cheese pizza this crust had a firm undercarriage, but the handle was not as crispy as that of the cheese pizza. Also, unlike the crust on the cheese pizza, this crust didn’t become as tough when it cooled. The chicken was the average size you find on most pizzas and it was applied generously. The sauce was a typical buffalo wing sauce; I got the hot, which was hot enough to provide a prominent buffalo wing taste but not hot enough to get the too-spicy sweats. The cheese on this pizza was mozzarella (no blue cheese or gorgonzola!), and while it was adequate in the big picture there were clearly strands that didn’t melt. This pizza did the trick for me, as I was craving a buffalo sauce taste, but a gourmet pizza this is not. My recommendation on this pizza is obvious; if you’re just after the buffalo sauce flavor this pizza will not disappoint, but if you’re after a more complex gourmet buffalo chicken pizza I would recommend looking to fill that void elsewhere.
Although it’s been a long time since I last had Ricci’s Sicilian pizza I’ve had had it plenty of times throughout the years, and after having it this past time it’s definitely in contention as my favorite Sicilian cut. This pizza is thick and heavy and well browned on the handles and undercarriage, but it isn’t crispy; the crust is soft and moist. The mozzarella cheese and well-balanced sauce are applied liberally giving each slice plenty of tip sag. This pizza goes against the grain of some of the common attributes that make good pizza good, but this pizza is good despite missing some of those marks. You can judge a pizza on its textures, visual appeal, quality of ingredients, tip sag, etc., but what matters most is its taste, and this Sicilian pizza has it. I have to point out that I order this Sicilian pizza with hot peppers. While the pizza is good without the peppers I cannot speak highly enough of the overall taste when the peppers are added. Even my wife who doesn’t enjoy eating pickled peppers of any kind, especially hot ones, orders the peppers on this pizza and then takes them off before eating each slice, leaving the picked juices work their magic. I strongly recommend this pizza.
Judging a book by its cover I would say that Ricci’s isn’t in the best part of town, but having said that I also have to let it be known that I’ve never experienced or witnessed anything to make me worry about stopping in for take-out. For many years I believed Ricci’s to be a one-trick-pony with their Sicilian pizza, but having just tried their regular cheese pizza I was impressed, and I look forward to exploring some other items on their menu. While Ricci’s Pizza is well-known to many I feel that they don’t necessarily get the credit that they deserve, and are perhaps confined to the shadows of the more well-known brands that define NEPA pizza. I suggest giving Ricci’s a try; I did years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since.
155 Park Ave.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
Dining: eat-in / take-out
Payment: cash or card
Other: pizza & Stromboli only, beer sales, on-street parking
Bang for the buck: I forgot specifics & a take-out menu; reasonably priced though