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Online Jon in Albany

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Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« on: December 23, 2017, 12:23:21 AM »
I can’t believe my family routinely lets me do this to them. This weekend we were heading to Staten Island for my nephew’s birthday party. Why not extend the trip a little, spend Saturday night in a hotel and eat a lot of pizza on the way? And we brought the dog too.

First, some background on the behind the scenes thinking of the tour stops. I've read some Pete Genovese stuff online, he seems like a decent guy so his pizza ranking lists should count as much as anybody's list. I was curious to see how Pete Genovese’s thoughts on pizza lined up with my own. HEre's a link to one of his lists.

http://www.nj.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2016/10/nj_pizza_power_rankings_traditional_pizzerias_stor.html

So factoring in the list, the route, and a hotel willing to let us keep a dog in the room and I had 3 stops in mind.

The pizza tour stops in order were:
1.   Pizza Town in Elmwood Park
2.   Star Tavern in Orange
3.   Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza in Elizabeth

Stop 1
Pizza Town USA
I have been here before and should I ever find myself within 20 miles of the place, will come again. When I think traditional NY Slice joint pizza, it’s this slice. It’s crisp yet tender. I have no idea how they do that. Here’s what we got: a slice, a deep-fried calzone filled with ricotta and ham and a bag of zeppole. The kids loved everything about this place. Pizza was great. Calzone was great. Zeppole were great. My youngest wants to move closer. She once said, “All you need to survive is a Target and Bella Napoli (a local bakery with good doughnuts).” She would be willing to forgo the Bella Napoli doughnuts for these zeppole.


Stop 2
Star Tavern
I have wanted to try this place for years. It’s very thin pizza that would go very well with beer. Classic bar pie. We got here around 4:30 on a Saturday. The parking lot was packed and there was a short wait for a table. When the pizza came to the table, the melted cheese was approximately the temperature of lava. I am usually one that digs right in and takes a bite, roof of the mouth be damned. But not this time. Let’s give that a second to cool. The pizza was good. It was crazy thin. The texture of the crust reminded me of a better version of a Blaze pizza. The best bites were the crusty bits of melted cheese around the edges. The restaurant was full of families having dinner. If this is what I ate regularly as a kid, this would definitely be craved pizza. However, I didn't grow up in this area eating this style, so while very enjoyable, this isn't my kind of pizza.


Stop 3
Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza
I was definitely looking forward to this stop. At one time this shop was at the top of Peter Genovese’s list. In the more recent version it has dropped to Number 2. On a busy Saturday night, this was a 2 person operation. It is take-out only. There’s a small place for customers to stand and at times while I was there, it was packed. The place and the block around it smells delicious. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I got the best that Santillo’s has to offer. They have a variety of options to choose from, some of them are by year. I asked the person in front of me for their favorite. He was picking up three pizzas and seemed to have his own thermal bag to get them home (which is seriously next level pizza purchasing). He recommended the 1964 (their standard pie garnished with EVOO and Parmesan) but said everything is good. I took his advice. I spoke with a few customers and they all love this place. I thought it was just OK. But again, I might not have picked the best of the best. I thought the sauce was a little too sweet and there was too much of it on the pizza. The crust was good but not amazing. If I lived closer, the menu would definitely require further exploration. All in all, OK, but I would have to disagree that this is the best pizza in New Jersey since it wasn’t the best pizza of the day.

The family consensus was that Pizza Town was the best of the day. So we all disagree with Pete Genovese. It was fun tour and it left me feeling a little bit cocky. I felt like I could put some of my pizza next to a pizza some have argued is the best in New Jersey and I’d like mine more. I’m sure there’s a wee bit of bias in there. The whole trip made me want to make some dough and get cooking.

Online Jon in Albany

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2017, 12:24:57 AM »
Pizza Town USA

Side note: a got to time a bake here. It was almost exactly 6 minutes. When it was served to the two guys that called it in on their way over, it was delivered with the description “well done.”

PIc 1 driving
Pic 2 a slice
Pic 3 bottom
Pic 4 deep fried calzone filled with ricotta and ham. Also came with some very good sauce
Pic 5 a zeppole, better to eat these outside because powdered sugar goes everywhere

Online Jon in Albany

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2017, 12:26:06 AM »
Star Tavern

Pic 1 Outside
PIc 2 Packed at 4:30 on a Saturday
Pic 3 Piping hot cheese pizza
Pic 4 bottom

Online Jon in Albany

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2017, 12:27:58 AM »
Santillo’s Brick Oven PIzza

Pic 1 Front, You have to go down a alley between the buildings to get to the entrance
Pic 2 Entrance
Pic 3 Pizza, no underside shot. There wasn’t a table or plates so we were eating out of the back of a minivan. I seriously can’t believe I’m still married sometimes.

Offline waltertore

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2017, 02:30:00 AM »
I grew up near all 3.  Star was a bike ride away as kid and I worked at Bunny's who used the same dough as Star.  Star is my favorite of the 3 and the other 2 are way overrated and are mediocre pies IMO .  Glad you got to taste them all.  Resevior in South Orange, my hometown, use to be great but I haven't been there in 10 years or so.   NJ pizza at its best stands as tall as any in NYC  :)
« Last Edit: December 23, 2017, 02:36:15 AM by waltertore »
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Online HBolte

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2017, 03:53:42 AM »
Good write up Jon. I agree PT USA and Star are both excellent. Now I have to get to Santillo's!
Hans

Offline hammettjr

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2017, 01:13:24 PM »
Perfect family trip! Any particular flavors really noticeable in the Pizza Town slice? It looks like oregano and maybe pepper rose to the surface?
Matt

Online Jon in Albany

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2017, 05:40:56 PM »
Perfect family trip! Any particular flavors really noticeable in the Pizza Town slice? It looks like oregano and maybe pepper rose to the surface?
I thought there was a little basil in the sauce too. Here's a video of a pie being made there.


Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2017, 07:47:15 PM »
Thank you for this Jon! And love the driving photo..very nice!


Haven't been to Star or Santillo's but looking forward to a return to Pizza Town. It's really terrific pizza! Does New Jersey proud  :)


I totally get your feelings about a lot of pizza that  normal people... ie, not us ...non-pizza-obsessives...think is great pizza. I have no doubt that a lot of people here...including you.. make better pizza at home than the  majority of places. Kind of a blessing and a curse, isn't it? LOL. Today we were eating some bread slices included with soup at a place in NYC. Good bread, isn't it? MY wife said. Me, saying: Sure, pretty good. Me, thinking: Uh, no. 

Offline hotsawce

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2017, 10:24:16 PM »
Pizzatown would be one of the best slices in NYC if it were located across the river. Love the vibe of that spot. Small calzone and slices are destination worthy!

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Online Jon in Albany

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2017, 11:16:25 AM »
Thank you for this Jon! And love the driving photo..very nice!

Haven't been to Star or Santillo's but looking forward to a return to Pizza Town. It's really terrific pizza! Does New Jersey proud  :)

I totally get your feelings about a lot of pizza that  normal people... ie, not us ...non-pizza-obsessives...think is great pizza. I have no doubt that a lot of people here...including you.. make better pizza at home than the  majority of places. Kind of a blessing and a curse, isn't it? LOL. Today we were eating some bread slices included with soup at a place in NYC. Good bread, isn't it? MY wife said. Me, saying: Sure, pretty good. Me, thinking: Uh, no.

This is going to sound awful, but the worst is when people are giving you a compliment on how good your pizza is but you know it could/should be better. I mean it's still good but it isn't quite there. And the frustrating part is not knowing what's missing. For awhile I was trying to avoid eating pizza out since I was making it so often. Lately I've been finding other people's pizza inspiring. And if the pizza isn't that good, there might still be a topping combination worth stealing.

There is definitely a lot of pizza to explore in Jersey. A few years ago I was invited along on a Trenton Tomato Pie tour. That was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it was on a Sunday DeLorenzo's didn't open until 4 and there was a line when we drove by. We had to get back to Albany. So it wasn't meant to be.  A place called Gennaro's was the best of that day. You're probably already aware of it, but Halo ice cream is worth checking out there too.I'd like to get there and there are some boardwalk pies on my to-do list. I might have to drag the family to the Jersey Shore sometime.

Online Jon in Albany

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2017, 11:19:30 AM »
Pizzatown would be one of the best slices in NYC if it were located across the river. Love the vibe of that spot. Small calzone and slices are destination worthy!

I know one of my kids is going to ask if Pizzatown is nearby every time the minivan drives over the Jersey state line. She won't get any argument about a pit stop there from me.

HarryHaller73

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #12 on: December 25, 2017, 01:21:32 PM »

There is definitely a lot of pizza to explore in Jersey.

Many of the best NY style pizzas in northern NJ aren't listed in the media, but famous in their neighborhoods.  This is also the case with NY slice pies in the outer boroughs of NYC.  Not included in Thrillist.com, grubstreet.com, the voice, etc.  One of the best plain cheese slice pies in Northern Jersey is a place called Wyckoff Pizza that also makes a great NY Margherita, another is Turvino Pizzeria in Glen Rock, Santoni's Pizzeria and Rose's Pizza in Garfield, Curioni's slice and sicilian square in Lodi and Bruno's in Clifton has a great "L&B style" sicilian.  The grandma at Esposito's in Mahwah imho, is the best grandma pie in the tri-state.  I have encountered  them randomly on weekends doing errands in and around Bergen County or just word of mouth.   I agree with you that the pizza one likes has alot to do with what one grew up with.

« Last Edit: December 25, 2017, 01:50:27 PM by HarryHaller73 »

Online Jon in Albany

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2017, 02:10:31 PM »


The grandma at Esposito's in Mahwah imho, is the best grandma pie in the tri-state.

I will have to check this one out. We almost always drive through Mahwah when we head into Jersey. The rest I'll have to look up location-wise. Most of my visits to New Jersey are passing through on our way to visit friends in Maryland.

Thanks for the recommendations.

HarryHaller73

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #14 on: December 25, 2017, 02:40:30 PM »

I will have to check this one out. We almost always drive through Mahwah when we head into Jersey. The rest I'll have to look up location-wise. Most of my visits to New Jersey are passing through on our way to visit friends in Maryland.

Thanks for the recommendations.

Would make a good rest stop.  Their other entrees and the meatballs are also excellent.  Here's half sauteed brocolli rabe/sausage half plain grandma.  Has a unique crust.





« Last Edit: December 25, 2017, 02:42:18 PM by HarryHaller73 »

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Online Jon in Albany

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #15 on: December 25, 2017, 03:19:45 PM »


Would make a good rest stop.

Looks great. I'll show the kid's the pictures. Plant the seeds of another tour.

Offline beaunehead

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Re: Mini Northern NJ Pizza Tour
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2018, 03:17:23 PM »
FWIW, I think Santillo's sauce is too dominant....too sweet/personalble and too much of it on the pies. If you don't like the sauce, you don't like the pizza, and I didn't.

Star Tavern: is the super thin bar pie a la Federici's in Freehold; Pete and Elda's in Bradley Beach, etc. I like that style, though I prefer Trenton tomato pie. But....Star was sort of bland, uninteresting and somewhat tasteless. I love Federici's, so it's not the style. Just not exciting.

To each his own, I guess.
Stuart

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