San Lucas Pizzeria lands laurels from The New York Times

The publication included the Newbold spot on its best-of pizza list.

Valentin Palillero would likely strike anyone as a modest man. Having gone about his business in the food industry for three decades, the 49-year-old has sought only to support his family, especially over the last 19 years in heading San Lucas Pizzeria. Since June 26, however, the proprietor has had to welcome fame to his life, as that date saw The New York Times (NYT) list his location in its “22 of the Best Pizza Places in the United States” article

Valentin Palillero stands in front of  San Lucas Pizzeria. He is the owner of the pizzeria in South Philadelphia. He is wearing a white apron.
Valentin Palillero operates San Lucas Pizzeria at 2000 S. Bouvier St. (Photo by Joseph Myers)

“I have no breath,” Palillero said with a smile during a rare break at the Newbold site, 2000 S. Bouvier St. “That’s what I’ve heard referred to as a good problem to have.” 

The NYT piece did not explain how the reviewers reached their conclusions, but Palillero and wife Eva Mendez received kudos for uniting Italian pies and Mexican staples, the latter of which he perfected thanks to his Mexican upbringing. While tacos, tortas, quesadillas, burritos and huaraches enjoy plenty of renown at San Lucas, which is mostly takeout but has seating for 12, the 18 pizzas that Palillero and his staff prepare six days a week have become superstars, thanks to the newspaper profile. 

“Business had been nice before the story, but, yes, as you can see, we have many people who want to try what we have,” the boss said. “It’s all very amazing to us.”  

Calling East Passyunk Crossing home, Palillero revels in being able to serve the South Philly community, particularly through the aforementioned pizzas, a few of which, including the Pizza San Lucas, with jalapenos as an element, and the Pizza Carnitas, bursting with flavor through a medley of pork, onions, cilantro and guajillo sauce, honor his roots. Stromboli, cheesesteaks, grilled chicken sandwiches, burgers, salads and various appetizers round out the menu, but everyone who visited over a recent hour had the staff busily and lovingly preparing pizzas. 

“Simply amazing,” Danielle Anderson, of Pennsport, said of her Pizza Mexicana experience that stood out because of beans, chorizo and avocado. “I hope this place continues to win fans.” 

Palillero knows the NYT buzz will further San Lucas’ reputation for the foreseeable future, but he is not letting anything go to his head. Instead, he is treating each day with as much care and consideration as he has done over his 30-year stay in Philadelphia. 

“We feel fortunate to have been in this community for such a long time,” the owner said, nodding to a delighted customer immediately after. “The recognition is great, and we’re just going to keep working hard here.”

San Lucas Pizzeria
2000 S. Bouvier St.
215-465-0134 and 215-607-7870
Hours: Noon – 10 p.m. daily (Typically closed on Wednesdays but open these days during the summer)