In Honor of National Pizza Month: Our Pizza Picks

In honor of National Pizza Month and in response to Senator Launtenberg’s Tweet the other day when he asked for comments from his followers on their Favorite Pizza places in New Jersey, our writers are here to offer up a slice (or two) of their preferred destinations for the ultimate Jersey Pie.

Michele Errichetti, Atlantic County
Pizza is a very personal thing and everyone has a strong opinion about why they love a particular place over another. I think pizza should be added to what not to talk about in mixed company, alongside money, religion and politics!  🙂  But here goes… My personal all-time favorite is Manco and Manco on the Ocean City Boardwalk. The perfect thin crust with just the right saltiness, cooked to perfection, not too light and just enough char, with optimally balanced tomato sauce neither salty nor sweet, I prefer no real discernable sweetness, and just the right amount of mozzarella and other cheeses that may or may not be combined. Family secrets never fully disclose all ingredients. Then take that hot, cheesy goodness and sit on a bench and watch all the people pass by on a perfect summer evening. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Veronique Deblois, Morris County
Having moved to New Jersey from Florida seven years ago, I’m thrilled to finally have access to good, thin crust pizza. There are several places that serve up a good pie, but two of my favorites are the Wild Mushrooms pizza with Pecorino, truffles and thyme at VB3 Restaurant in Jersey City and the Salumi pizza with sausage, capocollo, prosciutto di Parma and cacciatorini at Spuntino Wine Bar in Clifton. Great quality ingredients make such a difference!

Melissa Baratta, Ocean County
Great pizza isn’t hard to find in New Jersey, but there are two spots in Toms River that really stick out. If you’re looking for brick oven flavor and crispy crust, Nino’s Coal Fired is your place. Nino’s offers individual bar pie-size pizzas for under $10 each, as well as large pies, and while plain is good, the white clam is amazing. For a classic hand-tossed Friday night pie, Tony’s Pasta House is the absolute best. The crust has so much flavor and they offer a wide variety of toppings. The white pie with broccoli rabe is cooked perfectly and is loaded with garlic. Tony’s is great for takeout but also has a cute dining area—it can’t be beat!

Terry Krongold, Passaic County
Two favorites in this area—Kinchley’s in Ramsey and Bivio in Little Falls. Very different, but both so good. Kinchley’s (201-934-7777) is an Irish bar in Bergen County that offers a full menu, but I’ve never had anything here but pizza! Wafer-thin and crisp, we usually get a plain and a bacon-sausage pie. Top it off with a nice, light Rolling Rock and you’re happy! It gets packed on the weekends, but you can call ahead for a table.

Bivio (973-256-0050) is the total opposite of Kinchley’s. Walk into the small, warmly decorated storefront and you will find yourself transported to Naples. With a wood-fired oven built in place by a master builder from Naples, the pizzas are cooked to perfection in 90 seconds. Favorites include the Porcini Mushroom, and the Potato and Sausage. There are always two specials rounding out the regular menu. And now, Tom (owner and baker) has started to offer artisan breads—check out the Ancient Baguette, it’s heavenly. Bivio is BYO.

Heidi Raker Goldstein, Bergen County
Cassie’s in Englewood has the best pizza, crisp crust, great sauce, excellent mozzarella.  The Italian Connection in Dumont has excellent value slices, topped with lots of gooey cheese—a favorite with kids. While not in Bergen County, I must mention Trattoria la Sorrentina in North Bergen, which is worth driving to for great pizza and other offerings. Kritchley’s and Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, the latter a chain, both in Ramsey are worth mentioning as well.

Lauren Lee, Bergen County
The best slice around to me is La Gondola in Ramsey.  Many beautiful variations, sold by slice.  The best pie, in a nice BYO atmosphere is Brooklyn Coal Fired pizza in Ridgewood, NJ.

Melissa Beveridge, Monmouth County
As a preface, I am currently writing this post in one of the best places to eat pizza in the world: Italy. As I sat in Siena, Montepulciano, and Amalfi, I had countless pizzas. Enough pizzas to rate them on a 1-10 scale. I have to say there are two places in New Jersey that rival the pizza country of the world: Zachary’s in West Long Branch and Ferraro’s Famous in Bradley Beach. Zachary’s has a pizza with a flaky crust, with just the right amount of sauce, cheese, and toppings that make it delicious without weighing it down. Ferraro’s is a little more traditional. Try their classic Margherita pie with buffalo mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, and you won’t have to travel all the way to Italy to get the same taste. As much as I’ve eaten over in Italy, I can say I’ll be happy to eat pizza from Zachary’s and Ferraro’s without missing Italy too much.

Deborah Smith, Executive Editor
When I’m in the mood for straight up, “every day” pizza, my joint of choice is Luigi’s Famous Pizza in Point Pleasant Beach. (They’re so good they don’t even have a website. Eh, who needs a stinkin’ website, we’re that good!) The crust is on the thin side, but not so thin it doesn’t hold a fold, because, let’s face it, New Jersey pizza should hold a fold. The sauce is not too sweet and Ragu-tasting like so many of the pizzas my kids prefer. One of my favorite pizza experiences happened while my son and I were doing the Boardwalk Fare story for WHYY. After eating our way down the Seaside Boardwalk, we stopped in to try Maruca’s Tomato Pies which has been serving up Trenton-style pizzas since 1950. “Trenton-style” means the cheese comes first, then the sauce on top which creates a colorful, swirl drawing you into its tempting vortex. What stood out—and made it our favorite bite on the Seaside Boardwalk that day—was the crust. As my son observed, the crust cracks, it doesn’t bend, which gives the pizza a great crunch that we both adored. My last pick for great pizza comes in a  new and innovative package at Porta in Asbury Park. You can read my review of Porta here. My absolute favorite Pie is their Pesto Pizza with green beans, potatoes and of course, pesto. It is out of this world.

Colleen Wood, Camden County
I have two favorites in my neck of the woods: Bruno’s Restaurant & Pizza in Haddonfield and Forno’s Pizzeria & Grille in Maple Shade. Bruno’s is nestled between the owner’s liquor store and larger restaurant. Any weekend night, and most weekdays during the school year, the small parking lot is packed and whether it’s a fancy bottle of wine night (Bruno’s is BYOB, by the way) or dinner with the family, it’s a toss-up between Bruno’s pasta dishes and great pizza. Go classic margherita or tomato pie at Bruno’s. They do old school best. The sauce is nice and acidic, not cooked to death, and tastes great hot or cold. Forno’s is the spot for when you can’t decide on dinner and want an entrée on your pie. They have amazing combos like Italian hoagie, cheesesteak, and the new onion marmalade with walnuts and Bleu cheese. Forno’s gladly twice bakes pizzas for those that like a little char on their crust. They love pizza so much they’ve been celebrating all month with a new specialty pie every day in October and half-price slices on Mondays!

Jennifer Malme, Cumberland County
Living in a county with an amazing number of pizza places, this is a difficult question to answer! Still, my vote goes to Mori’s Restaurant on Landis Avenue in Vineland. Although Mori’s is a fine restaurant, and not strictly a pizza place, their Margherita pizza is out of this world! Mori’s chefs make your pizza in a wood-fired stone oven that is visible to the dining room. You can see your pizza being made by hand! Served piping hot, the Margherita pizza is a plate-sized pie topped with fresh tomatoes, soft mozzarella cheese, and basil. The crust on this pizza is sheer perfection—chewy with a crisp finish. I dare you not to finish the whole pie!

Alison Heller, Cape May County
The Wildwood Boardwalk is famous for its down and dirty, by-the-slice pizza shops. Join the saucy local rivalry between Mack’s Pizza (two locations on the Boardwalk) and Sam’s Pizza Palace. My pick? Depends on the mood of the boardwalk on any given night, but I have a dream that someday the two warring parlors will come together in a cheesy romance combining Sam’s crispy crust, Mack’s not-too-sweet-but-just-acidic-enough sauce (from the famous sauce hose) and a generous combination of each establishment’s cheeses to form the greatest slice the world has ever known.

For mouthwatering gourmet brick oven pizzas, I frequent Lucky Bones just over the bridge into Cape May. Their spectacular thin crust pizzas satiate all kinds of cravings, but do not miss the Harvest Pie. Smothered with tender butternut squash, warm globs of goat cheese, caramelized onions and fresh herbs this pie is a table pleaser, but you won’t want to share. I often order it for myself and save half for lunch the next day!

Melissa Yurasits, Essex County (but formerly of Hudson County, where my favorite pizza place lives!)
Although I moved to Essex County a few months ago, I have yet to find a pizza place as good as John’s in Jersey City. If you google John’s, you’ll find some mixed reviews, but to me, this is as good as it gets—mostly because they serve gluten-free pizza! If you’ve ever tried gluten-free pizza in your life, you know how hard it is to get a flavorful, foldable crust that doesn’t taste like cardboard or crumble immediately upon touching it. John’s has mastered the art of gluten-free dough, which tastes strikingly similar to their regular wheat crust and is a perfect blend of crispy and doughy. My favorite pick is the gluten-free Bianca: a white pie with ricotta, mozzarella, garlic and fresh basil. The only downside? Since they don’t serve slices, you’ll have to go ahead and indulge in the whole pie! Oh well.

Kerry Brown, Burlington County
Riviera Pizza in Medford is home to my family’s favorite pizza. After all-day car rides, my sisters who no longer live here hit ‘Riv’, as all the locals call it, on their way into town when they visit – even before arriving at our Mom’s house. The crust is not really thick but not crunchy thin, either. The sauce is bright and tangy with just a hint of sweetness, oregano and thyme. The shredded mozzarella cheese is rich, gooey and plentiful. If snowstorms or hurricanes are predicted, when  residents of most towns are running to the grocery store to stock up on milk and bread, Riv is probably cranking out double the number of pies. Apparently nobody in the Medford area wants to suffer with cravings that can’t be satisfied if roads are unplowed or the power goes out. (Everyone knows the best  pizza still tastes good leftover—or even cold!)

Michelle Stavrou, Union County
One of my regrets is that I haven’t fully explored the pizza options in Union County since moving here from Hudson County. So if you have any favorite pizza places in the area, let me know!  Until then, my two favorite pizza places in NJ are Pete and Elda’s in Neptune City and Nellie’s in Waldwick. Both spots specialize in bar pies. You know what I’m talking about—a pizza where the crust is perfectly crisp, there’s just the right balance of sauce and cheese, and before you know you’ve managed to eat an entire pie (or two). Until I find a great pizza place closer to home I’m happy to travel to either of these spots to get my pizza fix.

Vikki Hurley-Schubert, Ocean & Middlesex county pizzerias are the best!
Sorry, Deb, my Luigi’s here in Jackson is the best one in the Garden State! Their Grandma’s Upside Down pie is the pizza I dream about. It’s similar to a Sicilian pie, yet nothing like it. The crust is thicker than a regular pie, but thinner than a traditional Sicilian, and lighter than air and crispy on the bottom. Shredded mozzarella cheese is sprinkled on the dough, then a sweet sauce is spread on top. Then, slices of fresh mozzarella are placed on top, which float like islands of deliciousness in a sea of tomato sweetness. Next, oregano and Parmesan are sprinkled on top and the whole thing is baked until the cheese melts. And the bake is perfect… no cheese bubbles or brown cheese, just gooey, melty, white cheesy goodness.

The veggie version is loaded with sweet red peppers, eggplant, zucchini and portobello mushrooms. And no onions, which always excites me to no end since I’m not an onion fan. It’s healthy pizza in my book since the vegetation outweighs the crust.

I always get extra sauce on the side to dip the crust.

Sciortino’s Harbor Lights in South Amboy is an all-time favorite of mine and my husband’s. The super-thin crust and sweet sauce are the best. In my old newsroom days in East Brunswick, the poor South Amboy reporter, who was covering their controversial move from Perth Amboy to South Amboy, would be required to haul pizzas back by the dozens or she was not allowed back into the building.

John Howard-Fusco, Ocean County and all other points Jersey
It’s so hard to pick just one… so I’m going to pick four! When we visit our foodie friends in Bergen County, a trip to Brooklyn’s Brick-Oven Pizzeria in Hackensack is usually in order. For a thin crust pizza with fresh mozzarella, their pizza is top notch. But don’t bring your plastic (cash only) and don’t expect delivery (they don’t). Then again, the best way to eat one of their pizzas is right there, just out of the oven.

DeLorenzo’s in Robbinsville… oh no, not them again… oh yes, them again! There’s nothing too fancy or highbrow about their Trenton pies: an amazing crust and a hand-crushed tomato sauce baked in a—gasp—regular pizza oven. So much for the myth that really good pizza can only be made in a coal fire or brick ovens. That’s ok; get over it and enjoy their pies.

Get off the Boardwalk in Atlantic City and venture to Tony Boloney’s on Oriental Avenue, close to the uber-schwanky Revel. Fresh roasted tomatoes and scarmoza cheese give their pizzas their wonderful flavor and texture. And for a taste of old-style Atlantic City, order one ‘street-style’: folded up into quarters.

And finally, a curious place for good pizza: Shady Rest Restaurant in Bayville. If you can’t get to the Trenton area for their pies, this place on Route 9 comes pretty close. Since 1966, their thin crust pies with a secret recipe of four cheeses have been a staple at their eatery.

Rachel Bozek, Essex County
It sounds backward, but there’s no way I’m alone in this: I often wrap up grocery shopping in no mood to cook dinner. Fortunately, the homemade pizza at Whole Foods in West Orange is phenomenal. It’s sold by weight, for smaller servings, or by the pie. In addition to a choice between whole wheat and regular crust, there are several toppings from which to choose. My husband and I usually get a half-plain, half-buffalo chicken pie. The chicken has a major kick, and I usually put just a bit of it on a plain slice. Excellent. And in the summer, when our family heads to LBI, however, not a drive down the Parkway goes by without a conversation about Panzone’s in Beach Haven. (They also have a location in Surf CIty.) It’s a great stop after a day at the beach or right before a visit to Fantasy Island.

Gina Glazier, Middlesex County
Esposito’s in Matawan-  They always have a huge range of “slice-ready” pies that all taste incredible. Their plain is my favorite, no frills- just great dough, sauce and bubbly cheese! Another winner- Sesame-crusted Margherita, the seeds coat the outer crust and bottom of pie for a unique texture and flavor. Both those choices are a home run! Whenever I’m in the mood for pizza, more often than not actually, I always say, “Man I would love some ‘Espo’s’ right now!” It’s a place not to be missed. In fact, I blogged about it late last year : . My other place that I crave fairly frequently is South Amboy Pizza Palace, Bordentown Ave. Their Grandma Pie is out-of-this-world! I feel like it’s my little secret pizza spot! Oh well, secret’s out! With that said, go there and get the Grandma!

Sheila Hill, Monmouth County
When I first moved to Monmouth County I was told by everyone that the best pizza could be found at Pete & Elda’s in Neptune. I had high expectations after the raves it received.  Sure enough, Pete & Elda’s lived up to those expectations, and dare I say, even exceeded them. The thin crust pizza has the perfect blend of tenderness and crispiness. It’s the ultimate thin-crust pizza in New Jersey. There’s a reason why there’s always a line out the door.

For brick-oven style pizza, The Coal House with locations in Sea Girt and Point Pleasant Beach serves up a variety of coal-fired pizza. With crusts baked to perfection, the pizza is on the thinner side and is also available in whole wheat and vegan versions. The toppings are boundless. For a change of pace, try the white pizza or the pesto pizza. They are both a tasty departure from typical pies.

Christine Van Arsdalen– Somerset County
Growing up in an area where good pizza is as abundant as nail salons, I have had my share of scrumptious slices.  Years and hundreds of pie’s later, I have narrowed it down to two go to spots when I’m feeling saucy.  The first place, Rodolfo’s Pizzeria located on Rt 206 in Montgomery, has a special place on my heart.  For years Rodolfo’s was my families friday night pizza spot and though my family has since stopped friday night family dinners, I still grab a sicilian slice from Rodolfo’s when i’m in the mood for a thick slice of heaven.  This is not your run of the mill soggy slice of Sicilian, instead it has a crispy crust with just a little bit of chew topped with a slightly doughy center, zesty sauce, and the perfect amount of freshly shredded cheese. Normally I am not a crust eater, but this is one slice I devour in it’s entirety; it’s that good.

My favorite thin crust place is more of a recent discovery, since it has only been open for a few years.  I stumbled across it while visiting one of my favorite lunch spots across the street and it was love at first bite. Osteria Procaccini in Kingston goes above and beyond typical Jersey pizza with fresh local ingredients and a terracotta brick oven. Not only do they have freshly made real deal buffalo mozzarella that melts in your mouth without even being cooked yet, but they get all of their ingredients from local businesses.  Even the pepperoni is made at a nearby farm. Top that off with homemade san marzano tomato sauce, a thin crust, and a slightly smoky flavor from the terracotta oven and you have one delicious pizza.

Deanna Quinones, Morris County
In Jersey, good basic pizza is not terribly hard to come by. But the trend toward “artisan” pizza has resulted in some over-the-top consequences. Personally, I like a minimal combination of toppings, maybe a perfect pairing of two. I don’t like them layered with scads of veggies or hunks of meat. I definitely don’t enjoy the appearance (or taste) of a hearty salad overturned onto a pizza crust and then wilted in the oven. I love fresh greens as a topping, preferably in abundance. I’m also partial to textured crusts, like those made with cornmeal, which are often incorporated into “gourmet” pizzas.

The Grandma Pie continues to be a hip trend but I think it’s getting overused and a little abused now. Many pizzerias are tossing crushed tomatoes and fresh basil on a standard Sicilian pie and called it a Grandma. But a truly masterful Grandma pie is a delicious step up from the regular square. It’s the same shape but has a thinner crust and is topped with high-quality crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano, say the connoisseurs), good mozzarella, olive oil, garlic and fresh basil. Done right, it’s simple and spectacular. For an excellent example in Morris County, try the house specialty Grandma at Tomato Pie of Morristown. Delicious!

So, those are some of our Favorite Pizza Picks for New Jersey. What are yours? Let’s hear about them in the comments below.