Philly’s got pizza on the brain

Fishtown's much-an­ti­cip­ated pizza res­taur­ant and mu­seum, Pizza Brain, opened last Fri­day to a hungry crowd.

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 nikkivolpi­

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