Sabatini's Pizza - Exeter

A Satisfying Return to Sabatini's

Sabatini's Pizza has been a NEPA fixture since 1958 and remains as popular as ever with the somewhat recent addition of their uber popular Bottle Shop and Bar next door to the restaurant.  They serve pizza that is very different from those who grew up on New York, Old Forge, or really most other styles of pizza.  As is the case with anything that is very unique, you will have people love it and some that don't care for it.  There are clearly an army of people who love the pizza as Sab's is a longtime and highly successful business which seems to be super busy every time I drive by.  It was even busy on a Monday evening when we stopped in on a whim!

Before I go on with the review, I have to give a little history on my experience with this pizzeria.  I visited Sab's way back in 2012, when I was just starting out as a pizza blogger.  I had a lot of energy, a very small following, and was a little less polished and a lot more aggressive in my approach.  At that time, a friend and I had a dining experience that wasn't perfect and I used my platform to talk about it.  The review was honest, perhaps more brutally so than necessary, and I took a lot of heat and received quite a bit of hate mail for it.  Once I realized people were actually reading my content and this might have been impacting someone's livelihood in some way (although doubtful that one guy with a few readers and a laptop can take down a legendary business) I rewrote the article to tone it down a bit, but maintain my honest opinion.  Over time as I tried pizza after pizza, I realized that all restaurants have an off night and the pizza I received as a "secret shopper" isn't always indicative of the typical product served.  I also started to think that perhaps I didn't actually understand this pizza and it's crazy thin crust, super sweet and savory sauce, and ultra unique appearance.

So with nearly 7 more years of trying hundreds of different pizzas and actively experimenting with, studying and making various styles of pizzas at home I returned to Sabatini's to give it another try.  The first lady, the 8 month old Pizza Prince of NEPA and I headed to Exeter and found a very crowded parking lot on a Monday evening.  I wasn't sure if everyone was at the Bottle Shop or the pizzeria, but there were quite a few customers excitedly waiting for pizzas when we entered the pizza shop.  We seated ourselves in one of the wooden booths in the back of the restaurant and waited to place the order.  Normally, I'm very stubborn in ordering the regular cheese pizza with no alterations to it and judging it on the merits, but so many people told me I had to try it with extra sauce and onions, I knew I had to make an exception and ordered a large pizza ($10.95) with extra sauce and half onions.

It was super busy and it appeared that they were short on staff for the night, and our pizza took almost an hour to arrive at our table, but when it did it was steaming like crazy!  The generous amount of sauce on top gave off clouds of steam for close to 5 minutes.  Check out the YouTube video for footage of that!  First glance at this pizza nets a super thin crust with the sauce spread on top of the cheese, so much so that it's hard to tell if there is cheese on the pizza (exactly what I asked for and expected).  The sauce and cheese is sprinkled all the way up to and even over the edge so there is no handle and the whole pie is flat.

The crust is very flat and uniformed, and I presume it's rolled out in some other manner than by hand, but I am not certain.  Everything is uniform including the way that it is cooked, which is to be expected from a conveyor oven.  The crust was slightly crispy, a little chewy, and a tad bit brittle because I believe it's made from a lower hydration dough, which I would call a "cracker crust."  The cheese is sprinkled directly on the dough and if I had to guess was something in the cheddar family because it had a little sharpness to it and gave the base some flavor.  Both the crust and cheese are sidekicks to the superhero of this pizza - the sauce.  This sauce is quite unique in its flavors and textures.  It has a very smooth, and even somewhat pasty consistency because of some reduction that occurs since the cheese isn't trapping in the water and the moisture rises out as evidenced with the impressive steam bellowing forth.  The flavor profile was exceptionally complex.  At first, I wanted to say it was just a sweet sauce but as the flavors percolated across my taste buds I noted that it was quite savory and even had a little kick of spice to make it very interesting.  The onions added even more flavor and texture to the equation.  Where I can say I enjoyed the half with the onions more than the half without, I didn't see them as totally necessary to enjoy the pizza.

I will say that the extra sauce certainly was a welcome improvement to the pizza that we had last time.  I will also say that the Pizza Prince was head over heels in love with the sauce.  So much so that when we removed the sauce and cheese from the crust, he took the unprecedented and unprompted step of reaching his piece of crust out and dipping it in the sauce on the first lady's pizza!  We had a good laugh and he enjoyed the heck out of the pizza.  I will say that we enjoyed it as well.

Overall, I am really glad that I finally returned to Sabatini's.  I can definitely say that although this style of pizza probably doesn't make my personal top 10 types, I can set personal preferences aside and rate the pizza on the merits.  The sauce is truly a culinary marvel because it is so complex and unique.  Like I said when I reviewed Tony's Pizza in Peckville, anyone who simply calls the sauce "sweet" is just not taking in all of the flavors.  The crust is interesting, and making the pizza "upside-down" with the cheese on the bottom creates a whole different experience.  Regardless of my personal preferences, I can see why this pizza is beloved by so many and why Sab's has been so successful for so many years.  I'm very glad that I finally went back, and it sounds like we'll be back again soon, because of all the pizzas my son has tried so far this seems to be his favorite!

Have you tried Sabatini's Pizza?  Share your thoughts on it in the comments!  I love to hear your pizza talk!

Restaurant: Sabatini's Pizza
Location: Exeter, PA
Date: June 2019
Pizza Ordered: Large Pizza X-Sauce and Onion
Price: $10.95
Eat In/Take Out: Eat In

Crust: 2.75/5
Sauce: 4.5/5
Cheese: 3.75/5
Overall Taste: 4/5
Crispy/Cooked Properly: 3.5/5
Overall Value: 3/5


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