Pub crawls have become a popular pastime in cities across America.
A pizza crawl, on the other hand, seems a little more unique a concept — but a uniquely perfect one when the locale in question is Old Forge.
Two weeks ago, the self-proclaimed “Pizza Capital of the World” was the site of the first-ever Old Forge Pizza Crawl, a daylong escapade spotlighting some of the borough’s most popular establishments.
The event was organized by Dunmore native and magazine writer Lisa DePaulo, Moosic native and New Jersey-based food writer Rich Pawlak and West Scranton native and longtime Scranton Preparatory School guidance counselor Ed Cosgrove.
All told, the Pizza Crawl drew about 55 participants, the vast majority of whom came from outside the area. The group sampled various-style cuts at four restaurants — Arcaro & Genell’s, Revello’s Pizza, Salerno’s Cafe and Café Rinaldi. In addition, the group made it a point to pay their respects outside the front door of Ghigiarelli’s, which closed several months ago following the disappearance of owner Robert Baron.
“It was fabulous. It was so great,” said DePaulo, a New York City resident, of the Pizza Crawl. “People who had never been to these places before, they loved the pizza. But they really loved the people, and I think that really made it.”
The idea for the Pizza Crawl took root when DePaulo started posting links to stories related to the Baron case on Facebook. Talk of the tragic circumstances surrounding that story inevitably gave way to inquiries from non-NEPA friends about Old Forge’s unique style of pizza.
“People were like, ‘What’s with this Old Forge pizza thing?’ I said, ‘It’s the best,’” DePaulo recalled. “I live in New York and there’s nothing like Old Forge pizza.”
From there, momentum built around the idea of a full-fledged Old Forge Pizza Crawl, and, with help from Pawlak and Cosgrove, DePaulo set up a group page on Facebook.
Before long, the planners were getting commitments from area natives who dearly missed Old Forge pizza, as well as from curious folks who had never sampled a tray of red or white.
Luckily, the restaurants DePaulo and Company reached out to were all too happy to participate in the festivities.
“After we came up with the idea, we said, ‘Let’s see how the establishments feel about it,’” DePaulo said. “And they were great. They were like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’”
The Pizza Crawl started around 1:30 p.m. at Arcaro & Genell’s. The group ended up staying there for quite a while because some participants from the Philadelphia area got held up in traffic on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The pizza splurge continued at each of the other restaurants on the crawl until about 8:30 p.m.. Anthony’s Restaurant was also on the itinerary, but by the time the group arrived the restaurant’s dinner rush had made accommodations all but impossible.
While the group was predominately made up of out-of-towners, there were some local participants, DePaulo said.
“They said, ‘This is just fun,’” said DePaulo, who was among many in the group to take home a few par-baked trays. “It was a great mix of people.”
DePaulo said one of the things the newcomers were particularly impressed with was the non-competitive camaraderie that exists among the Old Forge pizza places. That tight bond has no doubt helped the community get through the dark days that came in the wake of the Baron disappearance, she said.
“They’re all friends there — half of them are related,” DePaulo cracked. “The way they look at it is, the more pizza places, the more Old Forge’s reputation as the Pizza Capital of the World is cemented.”
Not surprisingly, there’s already talk of a second Old Forge Pizza Crawl, which could include even more establishments, DePaulo said.
“It really went well,” she said. “I think it’s going to have to turn into a thing – a yearly thing.”