You can walk into Paulie Gee’s new pizzeria downtown and be like, “Wait. This place is New?”
The decor screams 1980s: black-and-white tile floors, orange laminate seats and tables, wood-paneled walls straight out of Hechinger, bar lined with avocado-upholstered stools, framed photos of Philadelphia sports heroes, pool table, Pac – Man game in a vintage TV cabinet and a soda machine that dispenses glass bottles of Coke, Fanta, Sprite and Fresca. A gray manual cash register sits on the counter, and a Coca-Cola menu board with these removable letters hangs above the glass pizza box.
You hear rock and roll from the 70s and 80s. Vinyl records, wrapped in plastic, are placed in a rack near a window; they’re for sale, if you’re looking for, maybe, early Aerosmith or Boston albums, or vintage Elvis.
Paul and Derek Giannone, father-son owners, working for the former Friends at 412 S. 13th St. in Washington Square West, call him Paulie Gee’s Soul City Slice. It’s a Philly take on Giannone’s successful Paulie Gee slice shop in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, which is also retro, right down to the menu.
Only traditional New York and Sicilian style rounds and squares with fillings (mostly cheese, sausage and pepperoni), sliced and as a whole pie. No Italian-inspired apps or sandwiches either.
The bar offers an extensive list of cocktails, as well as eight lines on tap (seven beers plus a negroni on tap) and a varied selection of cans and bottles.
The New York store’s most popular pizza is the Hellboy, a pepperoni pie drizzled with Mike’s Hot Honey, followed by the Hellboy², a robust, upside-down Sicilian version with a sesame seed base. Vegan pizzas are available. Spumoni and lemon popsicle are the desserts at the moment. Fancy something gluten-free? “We have soda,” reads the FAQ on the website.
» READ MORE: Backstory on Paulie Gee
Paul Giannone had been looking for years to do business in Philadelphia, first in Fishtown and Northern Liberties. One day in the spring of 2013, he heard about the Philly Sandwiches in Paesano (then on Girard Avenue near the El stop) and drove down from his home in North Jersey with his wife, Mary Ann. They caught a North Brooklyn vibe. But the real estate deals never materialized.
Around this time, Derek, now 30, moved to Philadelphia to earn his master’s degree at Drexel University, and he stayed to work in addiction research. He runs the new pizzeria.
The pizza industry was a career move for Paulie Gee, now 68. He describes himself as a computer geek working in corporate information technology in the mid-1990s when he became fascinated with making pizza.
He fed his obsession by building a wood-fired oven in his garden. Encouraged by his family and friends, in 2010 he opened his first store in Greenpoint, serving Neapolitan-inspired wood-fired pizzas. But the Neapolitans do not travel well. “A pizza box is a coffin for a Neapolitan,” he said. In 2014, it banned takeout and delivery in order to maintain quality. It’s still dining room only.
In 2018, Gee followed the nearby slice store and later opened slice stores in Chicago and New Orleans, as well as Neapolitan restaurants in Baltimore, Columbus and Chicago.
Hours of operation are 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.