Brian Dwyer holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of pizza memorabilia. He’s also the driving force behind Pizza Brain, which he calls the first pizza museum in the US.
The quirky Philadelphia establishment is part art gallery, part restaurant. It’s a place to enjoy a slice or two of artisan pie while looking at pizza-related photos, records, knick-knacks and videos.
“We thought it was a funny idea, and we started doing some research,” Dwyer said. “And when we discovered that nowhere on earth was there a physical place, a monument built to pizza, we said, ‘This is going to be huge.’”
Hundreds of people turned out for the September 7 grand opening.
One wall is covered with framed pizza-related photos and magazine covers, another boasts dozens of vinyl records, such as the soundtrack to Mystic Pizza. Display boxes show off pizza-bearing figurines from Homer Simpson and Spider-Man to the Tasmanian Devil and Pillsbury Doughboy. A cluster of small TVs plays pizza-related shows.
Dwyer, 28, said he had some pizza mementoes a couple of years ago when friends decided to create an art exhibit called Give Pizza Chance. Reaction was so positive that he continued collecting, becoming the world-record holder with 561 items in July 2011.
He now owns a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Pizza Drop” arcade game and Star Trek Enterprise pizza cutter.
A few months later, Dwyer quit his supermarket job to work on Pizza Brain full time. He and his team bought the rowhouses and raised some dough online — more than $16,500 (Dh60,605) — through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. Grassroots publicity and social media created major local buzz.
Dwyer said he was caught off-guard by the response. He calls pizza “the great equaliser”.
“I think that’s why pizza is so powerful — it’s inherently communal,” Dwyer said. “Pizza is one of the few things that everyone can agree on.”
Speaking of which, what about the food? The menu offers pies with an array of artisan ingredients and offbeat toppings, including beef brisket and meatloaf.
On his first visit recently, customer Sean McGettrick played it safe with a plain slice garnished with basil leaves. He gave it a thumbs-up and pledged to return.