San Lucas Pizzeria in Philadelphia
Philly’s original Mexican pizzeria serving up pizzas, strombolis and sandwiches with flavors from Mexico
When Eva Mendez and Valentin Palillero, the couple behind San Lucas Pizzeria in South Philly, decided to open up a Mexican pizzeria in 2005, they were not sure if anyone would try their innovative toppings like Al Pastor (al pastor meat, homemade hot sauce, cheese, lime, onion and cilantro) or Carnitas (pork, homemade hot sauce, cheese, lime, onion and cilantro).
“At first, no one dared to try these pizzas,” explained Mendez. “Not even Mexicans or Hispanics. We were the first to make this type of food.”
In order to grow their client base, they would send a slice or two of the Mexican pizzas along with other more traditional orders.
“People would look at it and say what’s that?” said Mendez. “Then they tried and liked it.”
Together Palillero and Mendez expanded their menu adding options like the Mexicana pizza (beans, cheese, onion, jalapeno, chorizo and avocado) and other dishes like cheesesteaks and sandwiches.
“They started to experiment,” said Jacquelyn Palillero, Palillero and Mendez’s daughter. “They thought well if we can do it with a pizza, why not with a stromboli? That’s how the menu grew.”
Today, they offer a wide variety of strombolis, cheesesteaks, sandwiches, burgers and salads that you can order in the traditional or Mexican flavors. They also have classic Mexican and Tex Mex plates like quesadillas, tacos and burritos. The Mexicana and the Al Pastor pizzas are the most popular items on the menu. People travel from as far as New Jersey or Allentown just to have the opportunity to eat these unique pizzas.
“People now know what the pizza is going to be like,” said Mendez. “We don’t make any changes. People are familiar with the food. They know it’s always made like this.”
The success of the restaurant is not surprising, given the couple’s extensive experience working in other pizzerias around the city.
“I worked at a pizzeria in the airport around 2000,” said Palillero. “I did all the prep for the dough, salsa. The chef there taught me all about this work.”
Palillero is originally from the town of San Lucas Atzala in Puebla, Mexico, which was the inspiration for the pizzeria’s name. He came to Philly in search of better opportunities.
“I came for the American Dream,” said Palillero. “Pennsylvania is very pretty. I had lived in New York. Here it is much more relaxed.”
The family is passionate about providing the best possible service for their diverse customers.
“We have clients of many types, White people, Hispanic people, Asian people,” said Palillero. “They like it, that’s the most important thing. That’s how we know we’ve done our job well.”
Going forward they hope to open a larger restaurant in the same area of South Philly (near the Snyder stop on the Broad Street Line) where customers have more room to sit and enjoy their food. They primarily reach customers by delivery or pick up.
To learn more about San Lucas Pizzeria, check out their Facebook @SanLucasPizza. You can read their menu on their website sanlucaspizzeria.webs.com/menu. Phone: 215 465 0134. Hours: Sunday - Thursday 11am to 11pm. Friday and Saturday 11am to 12 midnight. Address: 2000 S Bouvier St. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19145. Prices: $7 - $22.