The crowd, anxious to become the first guests of Pizza Brain — the world’s first Pizza museum — stretched around the corner of Frankford Avenue on Sept. 7.
After two years of work and planning, Brian Dwyer’s vision became a reality, but not before some pre-opening festivities. After megaphone speeches, a few words from Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis, a raucous introduction from Pizza Brain’s kitchen team, a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Dwyer’s final comments, the ribbon was cut.
Pizza Brain, 2313–2311 Frankford Ave., was open for business.
For the grand opening, four slices were available: the Jane, a plain slice; Forbes Waggensense, Pizza Brain’s take on the classic pepperoni slice; and white pie variations, such as the Lucy Waggle with arugula and the Felix Huppert with caramelized onions. The pizzeria will eventually offer a full menu of artisan pies.
Pizza Brain makes thin crust, traditional pizza with premium ingredients, striving to produce pizza reminiscent of what customers grew up eating.
Buzz about Pizza Brain has accumulated throughout the community, in some part due to its presence online and through social media. More than 1,000 people confirmed as guests to Pizza Brain’s pizza party invitation on Facebook, leading many to show up early for the opening.
“I knew it was going to be crazy over here,” Matthew Kay, who purchased the first slice in Pizza Brain history, said. “I’m almost obsessed with pizza, but I think these guys are way more obsessed with pizza.”
And with Kay’s first order, the register rang and a dream two years in the making was fulfilled.
It started about two years ago when Dwyer, a local artist, and a friend, Chris Powell, put together Philadelphia’s first “Pizzacentric” art show, which included different types of art created by around 30 local artists, all dedicated to pizza.
“That night kind of changed my life,” Dwyer said, who has loved pizza since he was a kid.
The event inspired Dwyer to imagine a pizza place “self aware” enough to celebrate the culture of pizza, and not just the food itself.
From there he began assembling a team including head chef Joe Hunter, business manager Michael Carter and space designer Ryan Anderson.
“We all basically formed in about four months. We didn’t even know each other before hand,” Dwyer said. “The power of pizza” brought everyone and everything together, he said.
The partners and others involved with the project joked about boasting the biggest pizza collection in the country or the East Coast. The jokes continued until one day Dwyer called Guinness World Records.
“Someone has done this, right?” Dwyer asked about the project.
The surprising answer was that Pizza Brain was the first of its kind. After completing the appropriate channels, Dwyer was officially named the record holder for the Largest Collection of Pizza Related Items by Guinness World Records.
The museum and pizzeria, along with its neighbor, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, occupies a century-old brick building in Kensington. The space is decorated top to bottom, including panels in the floor, with pizza memorabilia varying from vintage comics to LP’s to action figures and practically anything else imagined featuring the Italian pie.
For the grand opening, customers of the pizzeria flooded into Little Baby’s Ice Cream where they were treated to free craft beer from Barry’s Homebrew Outlet.
The building also features a courtyard behind the shop that includes a unique mural representing pizza and the Kensington community.
Dwyer has been a Kensington resident for eight years and sees the neighborhood as the perfect fit for his ode to pizza.
“Kensington is a beautiful place, I couldn’t imagine opening it anywhere else,” Dwyer said. “It’s a weird town man, and this is a weird place. We fit right in.”
In fact, Pizza Brain has already made waves across the country, being featured in such publications as USA Today, the New York Times and internationally in BBC Travel.
As for what’s in store for the future of Pizza Brain, Dwyer has confident, yet simple, hopes.
“Lot’s of pizza, lots of smiles and just community, man,” Dwyer said. “This is community building.”
Kyle Noone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.