Pizza Ninja goes down to the riverfront for a taste of In Riva, the Falls’ upscale pizza restaurant.
Welcome to the first East Falls pizza review of 2017 – In Riva, the riverfront pizza destination in the Falls. (They offer other Italian dishes too, but for the Ninja there is only one food that matters — pizza.)
As 2016 came to a close, so did the old format of the Pizza Ninja review. Quite simply, the Ninja had run out of pizza shops in East Falls that offer delivery. So what’s new for 2017?
The reviews will now be further expanded to either:
- Restaurants in East Falls that offer pizza but DO NOT offer delivery
- Pizza shops outside of East Falls that DO deliver to 19129.
So let’s get into it — In Riva, a restaurant with an outdoor deck is on deck for this month. In Riva has been praised throughout the city, yet was not reviewed due to a lack of a delivery option. Until now.
Opened in December of 2011, perhaps no business in East Falls has perfectly encapsulated the ever-changing landscape and makeup of the neighborhood. Old vs new. Lifelong fallsers vs. hipster transplants. Traditional neighborhood pizza vs fancy wood fired Napoletana style pizza. Is In Riva simply slanging a new style of pizza? Or is this a larger metaphor for the evolving social construct of Philadelphia neighborhoods? Read on:
The Ordering Experience: (4 out of 5 stars)
Overall, the ordering experience with In Riva was prompt, easy, and efficient with a few perks. That being said, the Ninja can’t give out a perfect score for a restaurant that doesn’t offer a delivery option. It’s 2017, In Riva should seek to partner with UberEats, TryCaviar, Postmates, or any of the other delivery service options out there. Currently, the ways to grab a pie are:
- In Person
- Over the phone
Order placed at 6:15, pickup time quoted at ten minutes. Ten minutes for some premium eats that aren’t fast food? Excellent.
The Ninja took a walk down to the restaurant, arriving early. To his surprise, the pizza was ready to go two minutes early. Seven minutes total, people! Walked in, went to the bar, paid for the pie and left. Easy, cheesy, peazy.
What about these perks the Ninja mentions? For one, you can enjoy a drink at the bar or play a game of Street Fighter 2 in the basement while you wait for your pizza to be made.
Another great feature of In Riva is the attached outdoor fenced in doggie seating area. East Falls loves dogs as much as it loves its pizza, so this is a welcomed pairing. When you’re about to stuff your face with some pizza, you can go ahead and take your dog for a walk at the same time. He’s been looking at you all week begging to go outside anyway.
The Pizza Experience:
Presentation: (3 out of 5)
Let’s look at the box. It’s small, it’s unbranded, very nondescript. What is the underlying message here? We don’t need fancy branding, we let our pizza speak for itself?
OR is this the hipster version of a pizza box – we are too cool for marketing? It’s probably the thickest weight of cardboard the Ninja has encountered so far. That’s a good thing as it keeps the pizza at temperature while you walk or drive home with it.
Now look at this pizza. On the minus side, this is small. Very small. You can literally fit the whole pizza on one large plate. Is this a pizza or a pizza appetizer? Is this a pizza for ants?
Sadly, this is the only size that In Riva offers, and the Ninja says “sadly” because this is a seriously tasty pie. More on that later.
Check out the char on the crust. You will not find another pizza like this in East Falls. Literally, go back and look at the previous reviews. Nothing else looks like this. It’s a true Neapolitan style pizza baked in a wood-fired oven. One of a kind in the Falls, and it’s beautiful.
Cheese: (4.75 out of 5)
Fantastic cheese. You can instantly tell this is a premium cheese and not the local corner shop variety. It melts nice, and has a good snap when you bite into it. Not greasy at all. A rich, velvety taste to it.
Sauce: (5 out of 5)
The sauce is the star of the show, hands down. Fresh sauce you can tell has been made in house. Sweet, chunky, but not watery or runny. You can see fresh pieces of oregano and basil contained within. This is the Ninja’s favorite part of this particular pizza. You could drink the sauce on its own out of a cup, it’s that good.
Crust: (4.5 out of 5)
A polarizing crust experience for sure. People generally either love a nice wood fired crust or hate it. Check a box in the “love” column for the Ninja.
Curiously, the crust takes a backseat in the pizza eating experience until the end. When paired with the cheese and the sauce, it is largely nondescript. But when finishing off your slice and eating the crust alone, the taste really shines through.
The black areas of char add a new dynamic to it and this results in a very complex and tasty bread. The crust is very much on the soft side of the spectrum, even with the charred spots, I wouldn’t dare call this crisp. On anything larger it would be a detriment, but the composition of the crust and its pliable nature works for this size of pizza.
Conclusion: (4.25 out of 5)
What is In Riva? On its face, it’s small pizza with a large price. Does it represent the best pizza value for the dollar? No. It’s premium pizza. Boutique pizza with fancy toppings.
But In Riva is selling something more than that. It’s selling an experience. To that end, maybe In Riva is on to something by not offering a delivery option. Perhaps this pizza isn’t meant to be enjoyed in front of a TV watching a football game, or drunk at 2AM.
This is pizza you eat in the confines of the restaurant. Over candlelight, sharing a bottle of wine and multiple pizzas among friends. Really appreciating the nuances and complex tastes.
In Riva is relatively new to the area, it’s a new way of doing pizza compared to what the neighborhood has had. Does that make it any less of a pizza? Not at all.
Choice is good, diversity is good. When the neighborhood has options that run the gamut from affordable neighborhood shops to pricier artisanal options, everyone wins.
What is pizza? What is life? Is pizza in fact, life?
Wood-fired pizza and northern-Italian inspired cuisine in this modern, urban restaurant with riverview patio and enclosed dog-friendly yard.
4116 Ridge Avenue
Tues – Thurs 12pm -2:30pm
Dinner: Tues – Thurs 5pm – 10pm
Brunch: Sunday 11am – 3pm