Altoona-Style Pizza: One of PA’s Most Interesting Culinary Delicacies

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I’ve tried many different varieties of pizza in my life including New York pizza, Chicago deep dish, Old Forge pizza, and even real Italian pizza in Italy. However, until recently, there was a PA variety that I had never tried: Altoona-Style Pizza.

Altoona-Style Pizza, also known as Altoona Hotel Pizza or Altoona Sicilian Pizza, is a style that even a lot of residents of Blair County have never heard of. However, I assure you that it is a real style that can be found at several different restaurants throughout the city of Altoona.

Altoona-Style Pizza got its start at the Altoona Hotel in the 1960s or 1970s. The hotel, which in its later years was just a restaurant, burned down in January 2013, but, prior to that, one of their most popular menu items was their unique style of pizza.

Altoona Sicilian sign in 29th Street Pizza, Subs and More
Altoona-Style Pizza is also known as Altoona Hotel Pizza or Altoona Sicilian.

After the hotel burned down, several restaurants around Altoona picked up the item, including 29th Street Pizza, Subs, and More, where I grabbed a few slices.

Altoona-Style Pizza is a Sicilian-style pizza (though they might be offended to hear that). The pizza is cooked on a Sicilian pizza dough, which makes it thicker than many other types of pizza that you’ll find in the area.

The pizza is topped with tomato sauce, green bell peppers, peppercorn salami, and, most controversial, yellow American cheese. The yellow American cheese now typically replaces Velvetta cheese, which was the original cheese of choice.

Outside of 29th Street Pizza, Subs, and More with my Altoona-Style Pizza.
Outside of 29th Street Pizza, Subs, and More with my Altoona-Style Pizza.

While I’ll admit that I was initially put off by the strange look of the pizza, I decided to give it a try on a recent visit to Altoona. After all, Old Forge Pizza is often maligned, but I quite enjoyed it.

While there are other places to get it, as I said, I went to 29th Street Pizza, Subs, and More. This pizza shop is located south of downtown Altoona in a residential area near Tuckahoe Park and the Baker Mansion Museum.

The front counter at 29th Street Pizza Subs and More in Altoona PA
The front counter at 29th Street.

Other than it being obviously located in an old house, there is nothing to really distinguish it from the dozens of other local pizza shops from the outside. In fact, even walking inside, there’s not much to note, aside from the historic photos and the large sign that reads “Altoona Sicilian Sold Here”.

Since you can get the Altoona Sicilian, as the menu calls it, by the cut (what they call a slice), I opted to get two cuts to go ($2.50 a cut as of September 2021). The cuts are served either hot or cold, and I opted to get both of mine hot. You could also get an entire pie if you wanted.

The crust of the Altoona Hotel Pizza in Altoona Pennsylvania
A close look at the crust of the pizza.

The first thing that jumps out to you when you see the pizza is that it is cut into squares instead of triangles. I’m honestly not sure why that is, but it adds to the uniqueness of the pizza.

Before biting into the pizza, I was struck at the thickness of the crust. It actually reminded me a bit of the type of bread that you’d find on an artisan sandwich, which should give you an idea of the size of the cut.

I had in my head what I thought a pizza comprised of thick bread, tomato sauce, salami, bell peppers, and American cheese would taste like, and I’m betting that you can also probably imagine it as well.

Inside seating at 29th Street Pizza Subs and More in Altoona PA
There is seating inside or you can get your pizza to go.

And, if I’m being honest, it tasted exactly how I expected it to taste.

However, while the overall taste didn’t surprise me, I was able to tell that the bread and sauce used on the Altoona-Style Pizza were quite good. It might taste a bit like something your mom threw together with what she had in the refrigerator when you were a kid, but there was clearly care in picking high-quality ingredients.

Ultimately, I wasn’t really a fan of Altoona-Style Pizza, though I think that’s mostly because I don’t particularly care for cooked green peppers and American cheese. I think that if you read my description and thought that it sounded good, you would probably like it as the ingredients used are top quality.

A close up of Altoona-Style Pizza
Another close look at Altoona-Style Pizza.

The next time I’m in Altoona, I doubt I’ll be checking out another restaurant to try their take on Altoona Hotel’s pizza, but I just might check out 29th Street Pizza, Subs, and More to try something else on their menu.

Have you ever had Altoona-Style Pizza? Is it something that you would try? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking for more places to visit nearby? Check out the best breweries in Altoona, the Railroaders’ Memorial Museum, Chimney Bluff, and the limestone kilns at Canoe Creek State Park.

You can also check out Pizzeria Beddia in Philly which was once named the Best Pizza in the US.

Click the map to see more nearby things to do

Map of the the Alleghenies"

More nearby places worth exploring

Find more things to do in the Alleghenies Region

22 thoughts on “Altoona-Style Pizza: One of PA’s Most Interesting Culinary Delicacies”

  1. And so now you have to try Claysburg Pizza. Also sold in cuts, the original has very little sauce and minimal cheese with 1 slice of pepperoni per slice. I live in the Chicago suburbs and we know pizza here. But that Claysburg Pizza still gets my money when I’m in town!

    Reply
    • The Claysburg Pizza looks so good. The square cut will be my first choice next time I visit family in Portage. It looks like a traditional Sicilian pizza. The stromboli also looks good. Some years ago Giselle’s in Portage made a very good Sicilian style. Thanks for posting.

      Reply
  2. Never tried it but I work for the fine company that had those Middleswarth chips on the rack. I’m sure you’ve tried them.

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  3. I had Altoona pizza from the Altoona Hotel in 1974 and have been looking for a place where I can get it again. Thanks for the article.

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  4. Originally from Altoona. when I was younger you couldn’t pay me to eat it! LOVE, LOVE, Love it! Usually try to get a slice when I go home & usually from Jack & George’s.
    P.S Middlesworth BBQ chips are the best!

    Reply
  5. You need to make a trip to Natrona Heights, PA and give the Birdsville Pie from Phillippi’s a try. Cracker thin crust and a unique blend of molten cheese.

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  6. It sounds very much like the pizza my mom used to make, except she didn’t add peppers. I’m sure I’d love it. I’m gonna have to find some the next time I make a trip to PA! Great article, by the way. Thanks!

    Reply
  7. As a young adult working in Altoona, I LOVED Altoona Hotel pizza. Have had it at 29th Street; not quite the same but helps to fill the nostalgia void. Next time you’re in Altoona, try Dutch Hill chocolate. I’ve travelled to 20+ countries, and their dark chocolate is some of the best I’ve had.

    Reply
  8. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s going to the Altoona Hotel for dinner every Friday night and getting pizza often. None of those imitations in Altoona that I’ve tried quite make it, but they serve the purpose of remembering good times and fill the void. The green pepper slices were paper thin on Hotel pizza. I had one at Michael’s on 4th St near the old Fairview school and it was good. Jack and George’s is good but the key is to get it fresh, not reheated. I will have to try 29th St next time I’m in Altoona. Thank heavens Meadows is still the same!

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  9. The pizza wasn’t the same after the Altoona Hotel burned down the first time in 1968. A whole pizza, 8 cuts, with added pepperoni and black olives was $2.02 tax included. The AH was 3 stories tall at the time. After the first fire, the quality was right back up as before, but the remodel lost a lot of the period feel. Haven’t had any since it burned in 2013. Guess I’ll head over town for a slice.

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  10. Grew up on it, especially at the hotel, 1960’s. The pizza was cut into squares because it was prepared on a cookie sheet. I sent in the original recipe several months ago on a FB social media page.

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  11. In 1973, I visited my college boyfriend’s family and tasted Altoona Hotel pizza during that trip. One square, and 49 years later, I have never forgotten it. I have lived on the West coast since the mid ‘70’s, and am visiting PA once again later this year. I was hoping to have a visit to the hotel once again for a second square of that pizza. So sorry to learn of the fire. They created something truly wonderful.

    Reply

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