How a City Pizzeria Put a New Spin on Philadelphia Charities

Helping the Needy with More Than Just Pizza: How a City Pizzeria Put a New Spin on Philadelphia Charities

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.

Rosa's Fresh Pizza Sign

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!

Rosa's Pizza Pie

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.

5 Sandwiches T-Shirts Love to Hate

5 sandwiches t-shirts love to hate; nations best sandwichesWhen some people see a loaf of bread, they see lunch, or perhaps a midnight snack. They see two simple pieces of bread, holding together a little bit of peanut butter, followed by a little jelly; some ham, a little Swiss cheese, a little mustard, and maybe even a little mayo — but only if they’re feeling daring!

But then there are others — those crafty artisanal masterminds — who see past the mathematical certainty of bread + stuff + more bread = something to eat; who see more than just two pieces of fermented yeast, water, flour, and sugar acting as convenient buffers between meat and hand. They see a vast canvas, upon which limitless works of art can be sculpted to appeal not just to our visual senses, but to our gustatory ones. They see more than just an answer to the age old question, “What’s for lunch?”

And for those people, sandwiches are both an art form and a messy business. Just as the best artists color outside the line, the best sandwich makers color outside the crust. For humans, the right sandwich can mean eternal joy. But for t-shirts, it can mean certain death. Here are 5 sandwiches that will make you send your favorite t-shirt straight to the guillotine:

The Chicken Conquistador Sandwich – Zunzi’s – Savannah, Ga.

Zunzi's Chicken Conquistador Sandwich

Savannah is a beautiful and historic gem of a city, tucked delicately up the U.S.’s geographic sleeve. One of the oldest cities in the country, Savannah is filled with beautiful 18th and 19th century architecture, breathtaking greenery (it’s chockfull of that famous Spanish moss everyone is always going on about – especially on the waterfront walk!), and friendly people.

And as with many of the more “authentic” small Southern towns (from this Yankee’s perspective, at least), you’d expect a good barbecue spot to be culinary king. In reality, Savannah’s debatably most well-known foodie haven is a sandwich shop named Zunzi’s that specializes in South African cuisine.

The shop’s staple, The Godfather (a delicious concoction of homemade marinara sauce, chicken, homemade sausage, and mozzarella cheese), didn’t make our list because it’s just a little too “neat” for our intent.

But another popular menu item, the Chicken Conquistador, fits the bill perfectly. Winner of Best Sandwich in the South, according to popular TV food critic Adam Richman, the sandwich is simple and to the point: tender chicken marinated and cooked to perfection is layered over fresh lettuce and tomato, and then covered with two sauces. The secret, however, is in the sauces. First, the conquistador catches a healthy layer of a light and zesty white sauce, which settles well into the nooks and crannies of the chicken. It then receives another generous slathering of Zunzi’s thicker famous secret sauce. The succulent juices from the chicken mix with the sauces, and what would normally soak into the fresh spongy bread hits a buffer of slick lettuce, which means this particular sandwich ranks high on our mess-o-meter.

But is it worth a sacrifice to the t-shirt gods? Absolutely.

Kryptonite – Ike’s Place – San Francisco, Calif.

Kryptonite Sandwich From Ikes in San Francisco

San Francisco is probably the top foodie destination in the country. In fact, Travelocity rated it the number one food destination in the world – beating out New York City, Lyon (France), and Tuscany (Italy). With a varied array of some of the country’s best cuisines – everything from legendary Chinese takeout to some of the best seafood in the world  – as well as being a pioneer of the burgeoning farm-to-table movement here in the U.S., San Francisco is a foodie’s paradise.

And while there are plenty of messy foods in San Fran (and the rest of the Bay Area, for that matter) the Kryptonite from Ike’s may very well be the Holy Grail, as far as we’re concerned.

Ike’s Place is a West Coast phenomenon. First opening its doors in 2007, Ike’s took the West Coast by storm. Now, just seven years later, there are 11 locations in California and Arizona, all packed to bursting with foodies who claim these are the best sandwiches they’ve ever eaten.

What caught our attention wasn’t the signature Dirty Secret Sauce that gets smothered on every order, nor was it the baked-to-order bread they use. Instead, it’s what we can only describe as the gastronomic sorcery that goes into making this jaw-dropping, pant-splitting sandwich.

The Kryptonite includes avocado, bacon, beer battered onion rings, extra pepper jack, ham mozzarella sticks, pastrami, pesto, roast beef, salami, stuffed jalapeno poppers and turkey, all with a thick layer of Dirty Sauce, hugged tightly between two pieces of beautiful fresh bread.

… All waiting to turn your favorite shirt into your favorite food cache.

The Tipsy Texan – Franklin BBQ – Austin, Texas.

The Tipsy Texan Sandwich - Franklin BBQ in Austin Tx

Wearing your favorite t-shirt to a barbecue is just a tasty way of saying you’re going to its funeral. Be it a backyard BBQ among friends or an all-you-can-eat rib-fest, for shirts, it’s a one-way ticket to the afterlife.

The problem with selecting a BBQ sandwich for this list was that the term itself, “barbecue,” means many different things to many different people. To some, it means pulled pork, caramelized in it’s own drippings, and foot upon foot of smoked sausage. To others, it’s a fall-off-the-bone rack of ribs smothered in sweet sauce or a hickory-smoked half chicken. Still, to others, it’s a dry rubbed brisket, slow cooked to perfection.

While methodology varies, one thing is certain among all BBQ aficionados: Good BBQ is good BBQ, regardless of how it’s prepared.

And for this selection, we take a trip to Franklin BBQ in Austin, Texas. Opening its doors for the first time just a few years ago (2009), Franklin BBQ is heavily lauded as the best barbecue spot in the country. To the people of Austin, Franklin BBQ is an absolute necessity. Mouthwatering brisket, pulled pork, and smoked turkey keep customers coming back and waiting on long lumbering line, which is usually stretched out of the front door and down through the parking lot. To put things into perspective, Anthony Bourdain – yes, that Anthony Bourdain – waited on line for 2.5 hours to earn his taste of Texas BBQ heaven.

While all of Franklin BBQ’s sandwiches are absolutely worthy of a stain on your favorite t-shirt, our personal nod goes to the Tipsy Texan. This concoction of juicy melt-in-your-mouth brisket, sliced and diced sausage, pickles, coleslaw, from-scratch BBQ sauce, and onions, is held together more by the sheer luck than by the soft white bun between which it comes. It’s so perfectly sloppy it’ll make you wish it came with its own shovel.

The Big Fat Ugly – Fat Sandwich Company – Champaign, Ill.

Big Fat Ugly Sandwich - Fat Sandwich Company Campaign IL

Chicken nuggets, hash browns, onion rings, gyro meat, chicken cheesesteak, pork roll, and cheeseburgers. You’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “Ok, these are some of the menu items offered by my local diner – and?”

And on any other day, at any other time, in any other blog post, you’d be right. But right here, right now, in this blog post, we’re talking about just a few of the items used in the Big Fat Ugly by the Fat Sandwich Company out of Champaign, Ill.

More than a drunk college kid’s dream (this spot is located right near the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, after all), the Big Fat Ugly is probably more sandwich than any single human being can – or should – handle. Nearly the size of a football, this monstrous example of man-made gluttony comprises four cheeseburgers, chicken cheesesteak meat, a double helping of regular cheesesteak meat, gyro meat, a grilled chicken breast, bacon, sausage, pork roll, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and chicken nuggets, mac and cheese bites, fried mushrooms, jalapeno poppers, pizza bites, onion rings, hash browns, cheese, ketchup, and mayo – all somehow stuffed between two whole rolls.

You could make a three course meal just out of the things you’ll find on your shirt once you finish this monstrous masterpiece.

Cheesesteak – Sonny’s Famous Cheesesteaks + Burgers – Philadelphia, Pa.

Sonny's Famous Cheesesteak - Sonny's Philadelphia PA

Oh, come on. You didn’t possibly expect us, a proud Philadelphia-based company, to write a blog about messy sandwiches, and not include our culinary claim to fame, did you?

(Disclaimer: When we first pitched the idea for this blog post, we knew the base line of what we’d have to include for a Philly cheesesteak selection: It’d have to be a spot we’ve all been to, and it would have to be one that real Philadelphians would read and not say, “OK, you Googled ‘Best cheesesteaks in Philly.’ Poser…” We feel we made the right choice.)

The debate over who has the best steak in Philly is one that has raged for decades – literally decades. While different spots offer different selections, and each one has their advantages and disadvantages (honorable mention goes out to John’s Roast Pork, Campo’s, and Jim’s) only one steak can rule them all. At the end of the day, we chose Sonny’s Famous Cheesesteaks + Burgers.

This not-so-hidden-anymore hidden gem, located on Market Street in Old City, uses fresh hand-cut rib eye in their top-tier, grade “A,” picture-perfect rendition of the Philadelphia classic. Variations include pepperoni cheese steak, pizza steak, a cheese steak hoagie (with lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, and cheese), and a mouthwatering bacon cheesesteak. The rib eye is tender, immaculately seasoned, and juicier than any cheesesteak we’ve tasted. When it mixes with the cheese (we still prefer classic Cheez Whiz – extra, please), it all melds into a drippy, gooey, delicious mess.