Category Archives: Restaurant

Ponzio’s, a New Jersey Diner in Cherry Hill, NJ

I couldn’t conclude a tour of New Jersey without visiting a Jersey diner.  And without getting Taylor ham, although it’s referred to as pork roll in South Jersey.

When you step inside Ponzio’s, the first thing you see is the huge bakery with cases of cakes, pastries and cookies.  A sight that has me drooling.

For an appetizer, we got the bay fries. These were really delicious!

I got a pork roll and cheese sandwich.

Pretty good, although I prefer a breakfast Taylor ham and egg roll.

My friend was excited to get calamari marinara, calamari as an entrée without breading.

I thought I’d try the peach pie, which looks amazing in this photo, with its whipped cream piled high. I have to say it was a bit disappointing though, as it didn’t have a fresh, farm-fresh pie flavor to it.  I think the whipped cream was artificial.

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Delaney’s Irish Pub & Grill in Cape May, New Jersey

There are so many great places to eat in Cape May, but when I saw Cajun Pierogies on the menu at Delaney’s Irish Pub & Grill, I was sold.  These are cheese and potato pierogies with Cajun seasoning.  They were delicious!

Also got the basket of tater tots with white cheddar bacon cheese sauce.

Some fried calamari.

And for some greens, a tomato and mozzarella salad.

This menu has a huge selection of items, and it was the perfect place to share some appetizers. They were all very good.

The Best Pizza in New Jersey: New Jersey Pizza Tour Results

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What is the best pizza in New Jersey?  This post ends my New Jersey pizza tour, where I tried eight popular New Jersey pizzerias.  I tried Trenton-style tomato pies, bar-style pizza, coal-fired pizza and classic-style pizza.  My friend thinks that Star Tavern in Orange was the best, delicious and unique.  I agree, but I also think it’s a tie with Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza in Hackensack.  But you can’t go wrong at any of these pizzerias.  Most are family-owned businesses, many started by Italian immigrants.  Kudos to them for keeping these businesses open in the ever-increasing corporate culture we have going on in America now.  There are pizzerias in Italy that date back a couple of hundred years, so should there be here in America.  Long live apizz’, long live the Jersey bar pizza, long live the Trenton tomato pie, long live coal-fired pizza, and long live the classic American slice.

Tie:  Star Tavern in Orange, NJ, and Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza in Hackensack, NJ.

I just want to add one thing since I posted this.  There was only one pizzeria that I visited that had an excellent-tasting, traditional, old-world dough.  That is Papa’s Tomato Pies in Robbinsville, NJ.  They know how to make pizza dough.  For my taste, it was thinner than I like it, but it was a great example of how pizza dough should taste.  In my book, dough is the hardest component of pizza to master.  Papa’s masters it.

 

Stay tuned:  The next two weeks, I look for the best ice cream in New Jersey.

New Jersey Pizza Tour, Eighth Stop: Sam’s Pizza Palace, Wildwood

Sam‘s Pizza Palace in Wildwood, New Jersey, was the only place on the boardwalk where I saw a line.  The left line is for dining in, but if you just want a slice, the line on the right side is much shorter.  While it looks chaotic in the photo, it’s actually not that bad.  I opted for a slice, which I don’t normally like to do if I’m testing pizza because slices often sit around.  Sam’s is so busy that I don’t think any pies sit for very long.  This time, I got lucky, as they just took a fresh pie out of the oven and gave me the very first slice.

Sicilian native Salvatore “Sam” Spera moved to Trenton, New Jersey, in 1951.  He started out with a shop called Sam’s Steak House selling steak sandwiches but later transitioned to pizza.  Now, his children and grandchildren run the pizzeria.

The menu at Sam’s is simply pizza and sandwiches (including steak) and the toppings are your basics like mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni and sausage.

I got a slice, fresh out of the oven.

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I think Sam’s typifies the classic slice of pizza, as you can see from this photo.

New Jersey Pizza Tour, Seventh Stop: Maruca’s Tomato Pies

Maruca’s Tomato Pies in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, serves up Trenton-style tomato pies in a full restaurant right on the boardwalk.  Originating in Trenton, the pizzeria opened on the boardwalk in 1950.  It was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and then destroyed in the Seaside Heights fire of 2013.  Ever resilient, owners Domenic and Joseph Maruca, twin brothers, reopened a month later.

The menu is limited to pizza, some appetizers and what you would expect near the beach, seafood.  We were happy to find broccoli rabe on the menu, so we got an order of that as an appetizer.  They also have bar-style pizza, which is what we ordered, with Maruca’s signature tomato sauce swirl.

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Here, they use a pizza screen, so the bottom crust is not blackened.  The tomato sauce was mild with a fresh flavor.  The cheese tasted like it was a blend with cheddar.  I’d like to come back and try the tomato pie, but as many times as I went to Seaside Heights as a kid, I am sure I’ve had it before.

New Jersey Pizza Tour, Sixth Stop: Star Tavern, Orange

Star Tavern wins all the accolades for best pizza in New Jersey.  I first heard of it on Viceland’s Pizza Show hosted by Frank Pinello, pizzaiolo of Best Pizza in Brooklyn, one of my favorites in New York City.

Star Tavern is known for its bar pizza.  I was fascinated to learn on The Pizza Show that they cut the lip off of the pizza pan and also that they put cheese all the way to the end of the crust.  Extra-cheesy pizza?  I’m in!

The tavern is owned by Gary Vayianos, who took over from his father, Aristotelis, who had bought the tavern in 1980 from its original owners, who had opened it in 1945.

The menu is bar food, but with an Italian edge to it like peppers and egg sandwiches, Italian-style hot dogs, mussels marinara, cavatelli, eggplant parmesan, etc.

First, we ordered the tricolore salad with arugula, endive and radicchio in the balsamic vinaigrette.  The dressing was delicious, so we had high expectations for the pizza.

We ordered a regular pizza.

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The crust was crispy, but pliable.

Every component was good: the crust had a nice taste, the cheese was flavorful, and the sauce was seasoned well. We particularly liked the crispy cheese on the ends.  Both of us felt that this was an excellent pizza.  My friend declared it the best that we had.  For me, it was a tie between this and Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza.  They are two different styles and both great examples of their respective style.

It may be the cooking method that sets Star Tavern’s pizza apart.  First, they cook it for a few minutes in the pan and then they remove it from the pan (easily done since the lip is removed) and finish cooking it in the oven.  The heat is 650 degrees, not exceptionally high, like in a coal- or wood-fired oven, and that’s why it is cooked longer than it would be in one of those ovens.

The tavern is a nice place to visit too, as it has a parking lot and a full dining room.

 

New Jersey Pizza Tour, Fifth Stop: Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza, Hackensack

Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza is a mouthful to say, but I think they want you to know how their pizza is cooked.  The owner, John Grimaldi, is in the Grimaldi family related to Patsy Lancieri, New York City pizza royalty. Patsy had also taught his nephew Patsy Grimaldi who opened Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, and Patsy Grimaldi taught John.

Full disclosure: Coal-fired pizza is my favorite. I love the whole milk mozzarella and the char on the crust.  I was always a big fan of Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn and Hoboken.  So I thought that I would like this pizza best in all of New Jersey.

We ordered a plain cheese and tomato pie.  Here, they serve you your first slice, so that is why the pie is already eaten in the pic.

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I loved the flavor of the fresh mozzarella and basil. There was a hint of oregano. The sauce was mild, not overpowering, which I like. The crust had a nice char to it and wasn’t thin like the other Jersey pies we had tried.

The menu also has some other Italian items like antipasto and pasta dishes and dessert. We opted for the yummy tortoni.

Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza is a nice experience. They have a parking lot and good-size dining room. I admit I found it by chance en route to B&W Bakery for crumb cake.  When I saw “coal-burning,” I had to stop, so the name, while long, works.