I did not grow up in Philadelphia. I did not vacation at the shore. In fact, I tend to call going to the ocean "the beach." I'd like to think, however, that I listen to the advice of friends. Among those from the Philadelphia area, who have fond memories of summers at the shore, I had received near unanimous recommendation of Mack & Manco's. I had even sampled it before, but never fresh. Nonetheless, it had become legendary in my mind.
Will I reveal to you that the emperor has no clothes? Not quite. But not quite the clothes you would expect from royalty. Mack & Manco's offers standard, reliable, thin-crust pizza. The ingredients are not extraordinary. I have not craved it since eating it. But I did enjoy it, given the time and place.
I was enjoying my off-season vacation at Ocean City with my happy ocean front condo, when some of my friends suggested biking there for a late afternoon snack. Mack & Manco's is apparently the Starbucks of Ocean City, with storefronts on every block (okay, just three, but seemingly close to one another). This being March, however, only the 9th Street post was open. We were cold and up for pizza, after mastering things like a "tandem bicycle" and the "tricycle" (built for adults with the giant basket and strange steering capabilities). I supply this context because any pizza at this point would be a welcome shift from the freezing wind in our face.
My one friend suggested we get an entire pie to split amongst the four of us, under the "we're not messing around here" approach. Large regular it was. The pizza is thin crust style and when piping hot, was somewhat tasty. I got the feeling that in about twenty minutes, the crust would have turned pretty hard. The sauce is swirled on top in several concentric circles with a thin consistency. The cheese tasted less of pure mozzarella and more of an unknown mix, yet I still wanted a bit more cheese in my cheese-to-sauce ratio. That being said, I have also sampled their white pizza and think it may be superior to their plain. Ultimately, Mack & Manco's was not much more for me than a nice break from the bike ride, scarfing down hot pizza on a cold day overlooking the ocean.
Perhaps Mack & Manco's is best appreciated for the reasons I enjoyed it -- the ocean and the camaraderie. That particular combination will always be legendary.
Mack & Manco Pizza has three locations in Ocean City, NJ, http://www.mackandmancos.com/.