In South Philadelphia, Mexican pizza has evolved into a cherished local specialty over the past eighteen years. A unique fusion of Mexican and Italian flavors, it’s a phenomenon found in numerous restaurants across the region.
The story begins with Valentin Palillero, a chef who learned pizza-making at an airport restaurant in 2000. He combined his skills with the flavors of his native Puebla, Mexico, and opened San Lucas Pizzeria in 2005. The idea was simple: a pizza slice could resemble a taco, and thus, the Mexican pizza was born.
Initially met with skepticism, Mexican pizza gradually gained popularity. Palillero offered free samples to win over customers, and soon, people from all over were flocking to his tiny South Philly shop. His creations, laden with al pastor, carnitas, or chorizo, became a regional sensation.
Now, Mexican pizza has spread to various South Philly eateries, Wilmington, Delaware, South Jersey, and beyond. Local chefs from Puebla, like Odilon “Odie” Sandoval and Israel Cortez, have joined the movement, combining meticulous pizza craftsmanship with traditional Mexican flavors.
The Mexican pizza’s journey is a testament to culinary innovation, blending two diverse cuisines to create a unique and beloved dish. While some may debate its authenticity as pizza, its deliciousness remains undisputed, capturing the essence of both cultures on a single slice.