Michael Carter talks about pizza like a proud father.
As he waxes philosophical about Pizza Brain, the new — and only — half pizza shop, half pizza museum he owns with three others, it’s clear these guys are not joking around about their passion for pie.
“It’s meant to be a journey through the lives of Americans,” Carter said of Pizza Brain, at 2313 Frankford Ave. “We want to honor that whole rise of pizza from an obscure treat to the American icon it is today.”
The shop, also owned by Brian Dwyer, Ryan Anderson and Joseph Hunter, hosted its official opening event last Friday at 5 p.m., and for several hours the streets were alive with all things cheese, sauce and crust.
Pizza Brain has already been acknowledged by Guinness World Records as having the largest recorded collection of pizza-related knick-knacks, almost all of which come from Dwyer’s personal stash.
One wall of the parlor-slash-museum features the mind-boggling results of years of collecting all things pizza: framed photos of iconic pizza boxes, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” memorabilia (they sure did love their pizza), delivery boy T-shirts, even a photo of a group of Hasidic women coddling babies in front of a New York City pizza parlor.
The museum also boasts movies, records, toys, games, and a wraparound wall mural dedicated to legendary Philadelphians — including Boyz ll Men and Bill Cosby — chowing down on “‘za.”
“Around 30 percent of our collection is up on the walls now, so we’re going to be rotating through on a regular basis,” Carter said. “We’d love to have new exhibits in connection with First Friday, as well. We really see ourselves as being just as much a part of the art scene as we are the restaurant scene.”
The foursome’s partnership is a result of the common belief that pizza is the best thing on earth.
“Pizza is the great equalizer. It really has a tendency to bring people together,” said Carter. “When Brian [Dwyer] showed me his collection, I really thought it should be preserved in a museum setting.”
At Friday’s opening event, the line was out the door and around the corner. Sitcom-themed music and Will Smith tunes from the 90s made up the play list, and Dwyer rallied the crowd with promises that the pizza would be worth the wait.
Sounds like it was—the restaurant offers diverse toppings from vegan cheese and pine nuts to meatloaf and pepperoni, as well as white pies, red pies and unique pies like the barbecue-flavored “Beulah Tiggins Bennet” pie, topped with fontina cheese.
Along with the belief that pizza fires up favorable memories, slices through societal boundaries, and feeds more than just faces, Carter and the crew believe in the city itself.
“I love Philly, it’s an amazing city,” Carter said. “I think if more people with a lot of business knowledge come back and invest in it, it could be even greater.”
Reporter Nikki Volpicelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.