COLUMN WRITTEN BY MATT BRASCH
For Digital First Media
Pizzeria Felici, the newest addition to Feliz Restaurants, opened its doors in October to welcome the public into a comfortable and friendly atmosphere with a seasonal Italian menu, an abbreviated yet exciting craft beer list and approachable Italian wines.
Pizzeria Feliz is the first Italian eatery by the restaurant group known for its three Mexican restaurants located throughout the area — La Calaca Feliz in the Fairmount Section of Philadelphia, Taqueria Feliz in Manayunk and Cantina Feliz in Fort Washington.
Brian Sirhal, co-owner of the Feliz Restaurants, explained that the decision to try something different “came from what my business partner (Tim Spinner) and I both like to eat. If we go out with our families, it’s food like this that’s more comforting — something that has a family feel to it.”
In developing Pizzeria Felici (sounds like “Fee lee chee”), Brian and Tim envisioned an “approachable Italian restaurant.”
As soon as you walk in, there is no question that this is an Italian restaurant — you are greeted by a wall behind the hostess station built entirely of Don Pepino Pizza Sauce cans. Around the corner is a 30-seat bar with several HD televisions, 10 draft taps and pizza peels on the walls, each one adorned with a famous Italian celebrity. Nine of the 10 bar taps provide a creative and strong selection of local and national craft beers, with the 10th tap reserved for wine. On a recent night, three taps were pouring local brews, including Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co. J.A.W.N. and Sly Fox Helles Lager. Most notably for craft brew fans, Pizzeria Felici is one of the rare places where you can always find a dedicated tap for brews from Ambler’s Forest & Main Brewing Co. It’s really no surprise — Daniel Endicott, brewer and co-owner of Forest & Main, explained, “We love those guys. Anytime we have a chance to be on tap at one of [their] places, we jump on it. We are honored to have our beers served with their food in any of their restaurants.”
In addition to local beer, the selection of other craft brew strongly favors IPAs, which pair well with Pizzeria Felici’s menu. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, Oskar Blues Pinner, Bells Two Hearted and Terrapin Hi-5 were all available the last week of November.
Sirhal explained that the beer selection is a group effort.
“We have a beverage manager and a general manager, but we all talk about what we are drinking and what we like and what we want to see on draft,” he said. “That’s really what it comes down to — everyone in the management team likes beer and we all talk about what we should get and what would taste great with the menu.”
On Wednesdays, Sundays and every happy hour (Monday to Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.), all drafts (including Forest & Main beer) are $3.
Pizzeria Felici also has a wine program that currently offers strictly Italian wines, “although that could evolve over time,” according to Sirhal.
As fans of wines, Sirhal and Spinner want their patrons “to drink wine and feel comfortable with it. It’s a great experience to share a bottle of wine with a group of friends. Everything is approachable here — we give samples for people to try. And our markup on the wine is very small; it’s important to us — we want people to drink the wine and not get gouged,” said Sirhal.
Following the overall concept of the restaurant, the menu offers truly comfortable food. Appetizers include a wonderfully prepared “crispy calamari” that is served with two sauces — Calabrian chili aioli and marinara sauce; the Neshaminy Creek J.A.W.N. provides a perfect balance for the spice of this dish. A Pizzeria Felici specialty appetizer that can’t be missed is the fried gnocchetti — shell pasta, sundried tomato and fontina baked into a ball and set in a pool of pesto aioli. But be warned — according to Sirhal, the gnocchetti is such a hit at happy hour that it goes fast — so it’s probably best if you arrive promptly at 4:30 p.m.
Pizzeria Felici’s selection of wood-fired, 12-inch Neopolitan pizzas includes red and white styles, ranging from the traditional margherita to the South Philly-inspired roast pork pizza. The fig pizza, which includes pistachios, Gorgonzola cheese, arugula and fig spread, is a delicious experiment in flavor combination that pairs well with the Sly Fox Helles Lager (regardless of the toppings, you can’t ever go wrong with beer and pizza).
Pizzeria Felici’s menu also offers hand-crafted pastas and entrees made with seasonal ingredients. Currently, the autumn flavors found in the brown butter squash risotto are perfect for warming you up from the inside on a chilly night. For those who have children and want to experience Pizzeria Felici, good news — a kids menu is available. As Sirhal said, Pizzeria Felici is “lively enough that you could feel comfortable bringing your kids, but it’s the type of place where you can bring your spouse or a date for a beer or wine and feel totally at home as well.”
Pizzeria Felici looks to be a fantastic addition to the Philadelphia suburbs and to the Feliz Restaurant group. Located at 303 Horsham Road, Suite F, Horsham, PA, 19044, it is only a few short miles from the Pennsylvania Turnpike. More details about its menu (both beverages and food) can be found on its website, www.pizzeriafelici.com. Cheers!