Lauren: The best Italian food around Westfield is a highly contested matter. I sometimes feel like I live in pizzaland—there are more pizza and pasta places in town than any other type of cuisine, and they each have their loyal following. There seems to be no saturation point for pizza joints around here, as new ones continue to open and thrive. My pick is Gallo’s Pizzeria. The restaurant itself is a few miles to the west, in Plainfield, but for years my family and I have been enjoying their food via catered parties and special events right in my own ‘hood.
The inspiration for this review was a lunch with Morris County editor Deanna Quinones at Tomato Pie in Morristown, where we wrote our first Double-Bite restaurant review. Deanna used to live in Westfield and said she loved Sorrento’s. They have changed ownership since she left town, and besides, I had another place in mind.
Deanna: The search for good pizza knows no bounds. In the fall, I tempted Union County editor Lauren Weiss into the wilds of Morris County for a sampling of Morristown’s recently opened Tomato Pie. Then Lauren countered with an invitation to her neck of the woods to try Plainfield’s Gallo’s Pizzeria. I braved the rain and unknown terrain last month to meet Lauren for the second in our “Double-Bite” tasting series. Mangia!
Lauren: It doesn’t get more local than Gallo’s for me and my family. The Gallos live down the street from us, and our kids have playdates while Cristina and I talk about food, cooking, and travel. The house in between ours is owned by the former owners of Sorrento’s Pizza in Westfield. Maria showed the Gallos how to make her sauce when they opened Gallo’s Pizzeria. Sure, Cristina and her mother-in-law, Maria Gallo, are fantastic in the kitchen but opening a new pizza joint in pizzaland requires top-notch technique, ingredients, and recipes to provide a competitive edge. When I told Cristina about the Tomato Pie review, she invited me and Deanna down to Gallo’s where she promised we would be treated to not only terrific pizza but the best arancini this side of the Atlantic. I’ve sampled their fare at catered events and our block parties, but it was time to visit the hallowed Gallo’s in person.
Deanna: Gallo’s may only be a few years old, but it has that old-school neighborhood pizzeria feel. There’s nothing fancy about the place but you walk in and instantly feel comfortable. Whether you grab a table and order a pie to eat from paper plates with a shaker of pepper flakes at hand, or peruse the display of slices and glistening garlic knots while waiting for your take-out order, you’ll get a warm welcome from the owners and staff and a nice surprise when you flip open their paper menu. Going well beyond the standard pies and Caesar salads you’ll find at most pizza joints, Gallo’s offers an extensive Italian menu and even a handful of Mexican selections for anyone who can’t resist a side of tacos with their pizza.
With five pages of items to choose from—including appetizers, calzones, stromboli, pasta, veal, chicken, and seafood entrees, hot & cold subs, wraps, salads, homemade soups and desserts—Gallo’s really offers something special behind the run-of-the-mill façade. Despite the menu’s many temptations, Lauren and I stuck to our favorites: rice balls and pizza. Choosing slices from the array of specialty pies wasn’t easy but we sought the wise council of one of the owners and were soon rewarded with a heaping platter of samples.
Lauren: Kids love pizza, and my daughters absolutely love Gallo’s. My older daughter raved about Gallo’s on my Westfield Foodie blog and my younger daughter tells everyone she knows about her friend Marcella’s pizza that is served at her school every Thursday. If you live in Westfield your kids may already be familiar with their pizza, since they participate in school fundraisers in some local schools such as Jefferson Elementary School.
Deanna: We sampled four types of pizza, including three of the gourmet combinations and one amazing hunk of plain cheese Sicilian. At first glance, I thought the Sicilian looked heavy and might be too filling. What a surprise when I took my first bite and discovered a light, airy, crusty bread with delicious marinara sauce and lightly herbed cheese. This is a thick-crust pan pizza that would make a lovely light meal with a salad. Good luck stopping at one piece, though.
Lauren: While the plain pies are excellent, there are pizzas that appeal to a more sophisticated, adult palate as well. For example, they have a buffalo chicken pizza, with chunks of crispy chicken marinated in wing sauce and drizzled with blue cheese. There is a chicken alfredo pizza loaded with broccoli that is a meal unto itself. And the Sicilian pizza was thick, yet light and airy, offering a delicate crispy crust.
Deanna: The gourmet slices were all heaped with special ingredients. The Buffalo Chicken includes chunks of marinated chicken and mozzarella cheese drizzled with hot buffalo sauce. Spicy! The Gorgonzola Cheese pie pairs sautéed chicken and Italian gorgonzola with red onion, tomato chunks, and a light cream sauce. Mamma’s Alfredo Pie is a white pizza with sautéed chicken and broccoli. Both of the chicken-based slices were like entrées on a pizza crust—unique combos that were flavorful and satisfying. If we’d had room for one more, I would’ve gone for the Melanzana, featuring eggplant, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella. Next time!
In total, Gallo’s offers 14 gourmet pizza combinations ($15.50 – 17.95) as well as standard pies (in either thin traditional style or that amazing Sicilian pan-style) with a choice of traditional and gourmet toppings (such as bacon, broccoli rabe, sautéed spinach, pineapple, and prosciutto), with prices ranging from $9 (for a plain medium) to $14.25 (for a Sicilian) plus additional per-topping charge.
Lauren: The most outstanding dish I sampled at Gallo’s were the rice balls, or arancini. Cristina Gallo describes them as a labor of love, and recalls days in Italy with her aunts making the time-intensive treats. Luckily she shared the recipe with me. You make the inside first, a combination of chopped meat, sauce and peas that is similar to a Bolognese sauce. Then the rice, which is Arborio of course. Form the rice in your hand like half of a tennis ball. Scoop out a gumball-sized well and place some of the sauce mixture and mozzarella in the middle. Then add the other half of the ball to finish it up, making sure the sauce is completely sealed inside the rice. Dip it in a milky eggwash, roll it in bread crumbs, and then deep fry. YUM! (If you think they sound delicious but too laborious, call ahead to Gallo’s and ask them to make a batch of these off-the-menu delicacies.) This sounds best made in the Italian countryside with a bottle of Montepulciano but if you can’t get a flight to Rome or Sicily, your next best bet, believe it or not, is Plainfield, NJ.
Deanna: Ahh, the rice balls … the delectable combination of Arborio rice, tender chopped meat, and oozing cheese! After our shared passion for the rice balls at Tomato Pie, Lauren and I were happy to dig our dualing forks into Gallo’s version which were much smaller and chock-full of ingredients: meat, peas, mozzarella, and rice, rolled together then dipped in batter and panko crumbs for frying. They’re served with a marinara sauce so smooth and sweet, I was sure it used added sugar, but was assured it was only the imported San Marzano canned tomatoes giving it a natural sweetness. Compared to Tomato Pie’s version, these rice balls were almost more like meatballs encased in rice, but the flavors came together beautifully and the sauce made them irresistible.
Lauren: It was a real treat to eat at Gallo’s Pizzeria, just on the other side of Fanwood. Close to home, but worlds away. The sweet smile of Maria Gallo and the promise of fabulous tiramisu is enough to entice me back. They also have a full selection of wraps, salads, subs, pastas, and entrees. For larger orders and for catering, they will deliver a taste of Italy to your doorstep.
Deanna: Big thanks to Lauren for introducing me to this quality pizza place. I’m just sorry it’s so far from home for me to get take-out. I definitely need to go back to sample more of their homemade specialties next time I’m tootling around Union County. With such an extensive menu to choose from, and both take-out and catering available, Gallo’s Pizzeria is well worth a visit, rain or shine.
211 West Front Street, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Deanna Quinones is a freelance writer and blogger who is always ready to drop anything for a good bite, especially if it’s chocolate flavored. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.