One of the most innovative charities in Philadelphia.
Meet Mason Wartman, a former Wall Street equity researcher turned pizza chef. At just 26 years old, the Philadelphia native decided to trade in his stock portfolio for a pizza peel, and according to Wartman, he hasn’t looked back.
Wartman says he first got the idea for the drastic change of pace after observing, firsthand, the success of New York City’s famed and long-standing “dollar slice” pizzerias. But with a natural inclination toward business, Wartman decided he didn’t want to be just another face in NYC’s historied pizza crowd. Instead, he opted to return to his hometown, known more for its signature cheese steaks and wonderful murals than its quality pizza (in fact, many say it’s one of the worst things about living in Philadelphia).
“I was always fascinated by businesses, and New York’s dollar-a-slice pizza model really stood out to me,” he told us, beaming from behind the counter as we dug into our eight-dollar pie. “But I also knew that I wanted to bring something back home [to Philly].”
And with that, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza was born.
Delicious Pizza – And that’s it.
Rosa’s menu is simple: One slice of pizza is one dollar. A whole pie is eight dollars. A bottle of water is a buck, and if you want a can of soda, tack on another 50 cents. There are only three toppings – pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese. Wartman uses only real mozzarella cheese, and the sauce and dough are all from scratch.
And that’s it. No fried calamari or baked ziti; no chicken parmigiana or mussels marinara. Just pizza. Simple, to the point, and most importantly, delicious. Wartman says that his goal wasn’t to be Philadelphia’s top Italian restaurant, but rather to pick something – one thing – and do it the best he could. And his customers love it!
Food for the homeless
But what separates Rosa’s from the city’s other popular pie places – aside from the elegantly simple menu and quality made-to-order pies – is Wartman’s unique dedication to helping out the people of Philly and giving back to the community.
He made headlines last march for single-handedly creating one of the most innovative charities in Philadelphia — a revolutionary pizza-sharing program geared toward feeding the homeless and needy. The program, brilliant by design, relies on the charitable donations of kind patrons, who purchase one dollar slices for themselves, and then donate another dollar to go toward a slice for someone in need. In return, the patron is given a Post-it note on which to doodle, pass on encouragement, recite a prayer, or most commonly, just say, “Enjoy!”
Success smells like a pizza, fresh from the oven.
The program has done exceptionally well, garnering financial support from thousands of local residents and even corporate entities. Since the program’s roll-out a little over eight months ago, over 7,200 slices of pizza have been given to those in need, Wartman says. (Editor’s note: It’s important to mention that this program is available to everyone who is truly in need — not just the homeless.)
As if the sauce pot couldn’t get any sweeter, Wartman has decided to step things up a notch, announcing this week that he’ll be partnering with Rush Order Tees to help not only provide food for homeless and less fortunate city residents, but clothe them, as well. For a limited time, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza will sell t-shirts and crew neck sweatshirts in conjunction with Rush Order Tees, to help raise money for the pizza-sharing program and offer free clothing to the less fortunate.
With a profit-sharing plan that would make most Wall Street bankers blush, Wartman says he intends on injecting 25 to 50 percent of the profits from the t-shirt sales right back into the pizza-sharing program. The sale of sweatshirts will mirror the buy-one-give-one attitude Wartman has become so well known for. For every sweatshirt purchased, Wartman will give one to someone in need.
Giving more than just food.
The best part? The apparel will provide more than much-needed warmth on cold Philadelphia winter nights.
“They’ll provide helpful information,” Wartman says. “The outside of the sweatshirt will look like a normal sweatshirt, but on the inside, you’ll find the phone numbers and addresses of homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the area, as well as a list and schedule of places that provide food, computer classes, and other services to the less fortunate.”
Rush Order Tees is very proud to enter into a partnership with another Philadelphia business, to help give back to a community that has given us so much. With the holiday season in full swing, we hope our customers – both local and not – will take some time to give back to (and spread the word about) such a tremendous cause.
T-shirts will be $14 and sweatshirts will be $40. Apparel can be purchased online or in person from Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, located at 25 South 11th Street (near Chestnut Street) in Center City.