New Jersey is fortunate to be among the few states with an abundance of excellent Pizza restaurants. With a large Italian population and bordered by New York on the northeast and Philadelphia on the south west, both cities with large Italian populations, New Jersey lies in the heart of what is affectionately known as the “Pizza Belt”.
Contrary to popular opinion, pizza was not Italian in origin, but it was the Italians who gave it the name “pizza”, improved upon it, and introduced it in the United States. Pizza was invented by the Greeks around several hundred years B.C. who were the early pioneers and skilled bakers, settling in Southern Italy around the Naples Region.
Pizza was introduced in the United States towards the end of the nineteenth century, along with a wave of largely southern Italian immigrants who operated Italian bakeries and grocery stores. At this time, pizza was primarily found in the cities with large concentration of Italian immigrants like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.
It wasn’t until the end of WW II that pizza in the United States became popular as soldiers returned from assignments in the Naples region of Italy with an acquired taste for pizza.
The Crust is the Foundation of good Pizza
The crust is the foundation of a pizza and is largely where the care goes into. Good pizza has a crust that is soft, chewy and doughy on the inside and crusty on the outside with a bread-like tastiness to it. The type of crust is one of the main things that separate the different styles of pizza. The cheese should be fresh made and with either fresh crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce. No oil is to be added to a pizza as the yellow oil like drippings should come from the fresh cheese. The toppings complement the pizza and should contain fresh, quality ingredients as well.
Unfortunately the popularity of a pizza restaurant is usually not based on the quality or the authenticity of Italian pizza, but more on the taste and preferences of the patrons.
Types of Pizza Popular in New Jersey
Normally cooked in a wood-fired or brick oven, good Neapolitan pizza has a light, crisp, bubbly, chewy crust with a puffy lip or end crust that is slightly charred. Authentic Naples pizza is baked in an oven at 1,000 degrees for one minute to produce the perfect crust. Crushed tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil are used.
Tuscan pizza, while still considered a thin crusted pizza, has a thicker crust, more bread like, than Neapolitan pizza. The pizza is saucier, and usually has a combination of cheeses with a meat garnish, and fresh herbs like oregano, basil and parsley. New York Neapolitan
New York Neapolitan is basically an Americanized style of Neapolitan pizza and differs by being slightly larger and thinner, more crisp and charred, and served with more cheese and sauce. Baked with a lower oven temperature than the true Neapolitan Pizza to 600 degrees and cooked for 2-3 minutes to produce a more crispy charred crust that suits American taste.
New York Style
New York style pizza is thicker both in body and crust with a similar soft, crisp, chewy crust on the outside with a bread-like tastiness to it, generally with no more than two toppings to maintain the crusts crispiness. It can be found with an abundance of yellow oily trails from the fresh Grande mozzarella cheese. The regular or standard New York style pizza comes with no toppings, just cheese.
A rectangular pizza with a thick crust and its toppings baked directly into the crust, and usually has a strong presence of garlic.
The Best Pizza Restaurants in New Jersey
Northern New Jersey
Amano, Ridgewood, NJ -Serves thin crusted pizza with close to authentic Neapolitan style, with soft, chewy, crispy, and tasty crust.
La Casa Bianca, Whitehouse Station, NJ – While they serve up a menu of creative dishes of Italian and continental cuisine, all at a reasonable price, it is their brick oven Tuscan pizza that stands out.
Central New Jersey
De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies, Trenton, NJ – When in Trenton, pizzas are called “Tomato Pies” and whatever you call them, De Lorenzo’s in Trenton is an institution and is one of the best places in Central New Jersey for pizza and is as close to it comes to authentic Neapolitan pizza.
Conte’s Bar, Princeton, NJ – This tavern style restaurant is ideal if you are looking for a place to join a group of friends or family for some good pizza and a beer.
Southern New Jersey
Tacconelli’s Pizzeria, Maple Shade, NJ – They are a spin off of the original Tacconelli’s in Philadelphia, and serve thin crust pizza that is chewy, crunchy, and bread like tasty, with fresh cheese, sauces, and toppings.
Tony’s Baltimore Grille, Atlantic City, NJ – This Atlantic City long time favorite with the locals, is like going into a time warp. They are noted for their great pizza, traditional Italian dishes, at a very low price.