The Inside Out pizza has nothing to do with Florida and everything to do with South Philly

Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

When passing by the unassuming pizza shop on the corner of 22nd Street and Snyder Avenue, more than a few pizza enthusiasts have wondered aloud, "What is Florida style pizza?"

The Inside Out pizza has nothing to do with Florida and everything to do with South Philly

When passing by the unassuming pizza shop on the corner of 22nd Street and Snyder Avenue, more than a few pizza enthusiasts have wondered aloud, “What is Florida style pizza?” 

Pizza is a fiercely regional topic. There are deep-dish Chicago pies, charred New Haven slices, Detroit squares and, of course, our own Philly bakery tomato pies. It is important to note, though, that the Sunshine State is not home to any long-practiced pizza traditions.

Vinny Golini, owner of the Florida Style Pizza shop, tries to spell out the history of his South Philly place.

“Back in 1972, the owner was Greek and Florida was half swamp,” he says. At the time, it was in vogue to tack the word “style” onto the name of your pizzeria — hence the number of ’70s and ’80s places with names like New England Style or Family Style. Golini isn’t sure why this guy chose Florida as the word to pair with style.

Golini started working at the pizza shop  in 1986 as a delivery driver when he was in college.But he moved into the kitchen when he got a new car and “didn’t want to mess it up.” 

He’s the go-to guy when it comes to describing the shop’s biggest seller, the Inside Out. 

“There’s nothing better than a Florida Style Inside Out,” Golini says, “little pillows of heaven.”

Perhaps more of a zeppelin than a pillow, this is one style of pizza you won’t find in Florida and not that many other places in Greater Philly. The Inside Out is custom-blended sauce and hand-grated cheese wrapped in a specifically (and secretly) concocted pizza dough that’s deep fried until the insides are super gooey and the outside is crisp, golden and delicately blistered. It’s Florida Style’s competitive take on the similar, predecessor panzarotti, a signature offering of the long-shuttered Mr. Panz shop that opened up across the street in the mid-1970s threatening Florida Style’s business.

After working his way up the pizza chain of command, Golini took over the business in 1999 from the original owners.

 “When he was ready to sell he offered it to me. That’s rare. The Greek guys usually sell it other Greek guys,” he says.

Putting in 60-hour weeks with his wife and brother, Golini was hand-making each and every Inside Out, a labor-intensive process that involves hundreds of pounds of hand-grated and blended cheese, custom spicing a signature sauce and kneading countless batches of that special dough. 

It meant a steady business of regular pies and Inside Outs, hoagies and steaks until last year when Golini suffered a heart attack.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Golini says, forcing him to slow down and reevaluate his business.

At the time, he was considering getting rid of the shop, but with a little (mandatory) time to think about the future, he decided to get into the wholesale business. 

Steak ’Em-Up, the 11th and Shunk cheesesteak spot known for its totally amazing and super South Philly commercials, was Florida Style’s first wholesale account. “They gave it the kick in the ass we needed,” Golini says.

Then he reached out to other clients in the city, the suburbs and Jersey. Now Inside Outs are available at Tony Luke’s (“His name is gold!” Golini says); Goomba’s in Colmar; Angelo’s Pizzeria in Haddonfield, N.J., and at Pastificio deli in South Philly, where he’s teamed up to make a custom margherita Inside Out, using Pastificio’s house-made mozzarella. The Inside Outs are also available at the Bocce Club around the corner from Florida Style and Maddy’s Poolside Café in Aldan, Pa. 

The beauty of the Inside Out is its customizable nature. The dough-sauce-cheese-base can be filled with any manner of pizza topper, from classics like pepperoni, mushrooms and sausage, to Buffalo chicken and cheesesteak, both of which are big, big sellers.

He’s currently experimenting with dessert Inside Outs filled with Nutella and Marshmallow Fluff and has plans for a new mac and cheese Inside Out, available with or without bacon. 

Without a website and with a storefront that’s far from flashy, Florida Style Pizza is still something of a cult-pizza phenomenon. But Golini and his wife, Anitra, are changing that via social media. Golini is quick to admit that up until last year he didn’t have a cell phone. (“I was always at the shop if you needed me.”) But now he heads up a Florida Style Instagram account. Golini attempts to entice customers with Inside Out glamour shots depicting daily specials, happy customers and lots and lots of molten cheese spiced up with the occasional cat, dog or kid picture.

Dominating pizza-centric social media is one thing, but Golini has plenty more in mind for his Inside Out empire, including more collaborations and even a possible second location with a little more foot traffic than deep South Philly. 

FLORIDA STYLE PIZZA | 2052 S. Beechwood St., 215-755-7946. Mon.-Thu., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. 

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