Food Column

I promise Pennsylvania has at least one good pizza place

A Margherita pizza, which is one of the menu items you can order at Switchback Pizza Company.

Switchback Pizza Company is housed in a sunny yellow building next to the railroad, tucked just away from the rest of downtown Emmaus. The patio seating, dotted with cheery red umbrellas, is mostly closed up for the winter now, but, in summer, sitting at the wooden picnic tables as trains pass by feels like something out of a children’s storybook. Just inside the door, a kitchen with a large wood-burning stove and pale wooden work surfaces behind a short glass divider invites patrons to watch their food being made. The space is small, but feels larger from the huge windows along one side.Still, it fills up quickly with the heat from the stove and the chatter of diners sitting close together at small tables and counters. 

As shown by their open kitchen, the team at Switchback cares about transparency. They focus on providing sustainably sourced and delicious food and all the local farms they buy from are listed on a chalkboard behind the register. The owners of Switchback, Marguerite Viola and Andrew Foreman, also grow a portion of the restaurant’s produce in garden beds at the restaurant and at their home. 

Putting a focus on fresh and sustainable pays off in Switchback’s food. Switchback offers two sizes of each of their pizzas, a 10-inch, good for one hungry person, or a 12-inch, easier to share. At my most recent visit, I ordered the classic Margherita pizza: fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil. It is perfect in its simplicity, the raw tomato sauce is both tart and sweet, which is well complemented by the creamy fatty goodness of the patches of melted mozzarella. The crust is has a crisp leopard-spotted outside and a beautifully puffy inside and when I picked up a slice of my personal pizza, the tip slouched down toward the plate and I lost some sauce. The Neapolitan style of pizza is much softer than American (specifically New York) pizza, so it is often better to shove it into your mouth quickly than rely on the structural integrity of the slice. 

Switchback Pizza Company also offers a variety of less traditional pizzas, from pepperoni and Veggie Lovers to a vegan option and some Switchback specials. They also work to offer seasonal options, like the Drunken Apple and Swine, which utilizes gorgonzola, apples flambeed in liquor and local sausage for a dish that was tasty, but a bit too rich and stinky for my tastes. The Green Tomato pizza was more up my alley, with fresh green tomato slices, mozzarella and thick-cut bacon, topped with grated cured egg yolk, which created contrast between fresh and smoky flavors, with a warm and almost nutty finish from the egg. 

Be aware that Switchback’s small scope does mean that the later in the week you visit, the more likely that they’ll run out of ingredients for some specials and even some regular menu items, like for the red beet and burrata salad my friend ordered. However, because of my companion’s dietary restrictions, the chef improvised a similar salad, burrata, arugula and apple and garlic puree that she said was delicious, so their small scope also results in increased attention on customer interaction. 

At just $9, the 10-inch Margherita is one of the cheapest items on the menu, though the whole menu is well-priced for college students, with entrees ranging from $7-13, and up to $16 for certain 12-inch pies. Desserts and special drinks may also push up pricing, but the cheesecake is fluffy and sweet and totally worth it, and my mom says great things about the chocolate tahini tart.

Switchback Pizza Company is open Tuesdays to Saturdays at 525 W Jubilee Street in Emmaus, PA. It is BYOB (though they also have a rent-a-growler program with the brewery across the tracks).

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