35 Must-Try Palaces of Pizza

Take a century of tradition, add local color, a new wave of artisanship and imagination, and what you get just might be Jersey's favorite food.

Photo by Erik Rank

AMA, Hillsborough

AMA is an acronym for Achille, Michael and Andre Confuorto, who bring forth pliant, perfectly charred, Neapolitan-style pizzas from this 6-month-old restaurant’s wood-burning oven. In 1968, when Achille was 14, he and his family left the outskirts of Naples and settled in New Jersey. Now Achille and his wife, Renita (who makes the gelato), have their own place, with Michael the manager and Andre the assistant manager. Ama also happens to be a verb meaning loves, as in, “Achille loves making pizza.” You will love eating it. Achille’s tre-colore is a wacky salute to the Italian flag—a three-stripe rectangle of tomato sauce, Parmesan/prosciutto/arugula and pesto.—JPC
236 South Branch Road, 908-369-7700; BYO

Bivio, Montclair

A Meyer lemon, basil and soppressata special.

A Meyer lemon, basil and soppressata special at Bivio. Photo by Erik Rank

Tomasso Colao plays three instruments: flute, alto sax and pizza oven. A veteran of bands and restaurants, the Paterson native set out in 2006 to master the pizza of his family’s roots. “Neapolitan pizza should be airy and chewy,” he says, “with a beautiful lightness, easy to digest.” His is. It took four years practicing at home, until “my wife finally said, ‘I think you’re there.’” So in 2011 he and Jackie opened the original Bivio, with a full menu, in Little Falls. It was a sensation. But, exhausted, they closed in 2015. In December, locals rejoiced when the Colaos reopened in Montclair, just making pizza and salads. “Cooking with wood is related to music,” says the 64-year-old. “There’s a rhythm to feeding the fire, and moving the pies around in the heat is like shaping a phrase.” A pie is composed like music: “You need harmony, contrast and balance, but don’t overdo it.” That’s why Bivio’s menu offers five composed pizzas and two specials. (“We take time developing these combinations,” he says. “But if garlic doesn’t agree with you, I’ll take it off. I may modify the pie to compensate for what I’m taking away.”) With just 24 seats and no reservations, you may stand in line, but once you’re in, you feel like family.—EL
107 Pine Street, 973-941-9602; BYO

Bricco, Westmont

Vincenzo Barone installed his coal-fired oven in the front window as eye candy for passersby and to ensure that the aroma of baking pizza lassos the curious as soon as they open the door. Barone’s pies fulfill their promise. He also owns Barone’s Tuscan Grill in Moorestown and is part of the family behind Villa Barone in Collingswood. But his feather-light pies, their dough fermented an extra-patient 36 hours and cooked in a coal-fired oven, are the best things served in any Barone establishment. Topped with traditional or more modern enhancements (fontina, fig glaze, pancetta), they’re crisp, chewy, slightly smoky from the 1,000-degree oven, and rimmed with crackly char.—AE
128 Haddon Avenue, 856-477-2233; BYO

Brooklyn Square, Jackson & Manalapan

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Pietro “Peter” Grippo inherited his love for pizza from his parents, immigrants from Salerno. “Growing up, everybody called me Peter Pizza,” he says. He lived up to the name, opening Pete’s Pizza in Brooklyn in 2001. But after buying a home in Jackson in 2005 and commuting for eight years, he closed Pete’s and opened Brooklyn Square in Jackson in 2013. The specialty, as the name suggests is square pies baked in pans. A standout among the 22 composed pies is the crisp-crust Honeymoon, with San Marzano tomato sauce, Calabrian pepperoni with fennel seed, fresh mozzarella and drizzled honey. The signature is the Brooklyn Square, its crust thick and fluffy, topped with fresh mozzarella under chunky San Marzano tomato sauce and grated Pecorino Romano.—SV
265 South New Prospect Road, Jackson, 732-961-7999; 73 Wilson Avenue, Manalapan, 732-851-7599; BYO

Bruno’s, Clifton

Photo by Erik Rank

For 49 years, this strip-mall storefront has drawn lovers of thick-crust Sicilian pizza, as great as it is simple. The dough is allowed to rest and rise for 12 hours before it’s shaped into square pies, topped and baked. Owners Rich Mastrianni and Mike D’Angelo blend three kinds of tomatoes to produce a full-flavored, unabashedly tart sauce—the perfect counterpoint to the rich, tender crust. Mozzarella is sprinkled on the dough, covered with sauce and given a benediction of dried oregano, sharp Pecorino Romano and nutty Parmesan before baking.—MRB
1006 Route 46, 973-443-3339; BYO

Bruno’s, Haddon Township

With its murals of Venetian gondoliers and brick ledges lined with panettone, Bruno’s looks like dozens of other Italian restaurants in Camden County. Salvatore Coppola, who comes from a family of deli owners outside Naples, and Onorino Fascelli, a former professional motocross racer, separate themselves with their Neapolitan-style pizzas. Listed under Authentic Wood Fired Personal Pizza and different from their regular pies, these 12-inch, oak-fired beauties have charry, leopard-spot bottoms and soft, slightly wet centers. (The point of each slice bows when lifted.) There are plenty of toppings, but the classic Margherita, made with tangy buffalo-milk mozzarella shipped in fresh from Campania, is South Jersey’s best.—AE
509 Hopkins Road, 856-428-9505; BYO

Conte’s, Princeton

Photos of local soccer teams and posters of Italy’s 2006 World Cup champion team set the tone, along with a long, glass-brick bar (happy hour, weekdays, noon to 5 pm). Owner Ciro Baldino’s distant relatives, Sebastiano and Anne Conte, opened Conte’s in 1950. Baldino still serves their style of crisp, thin-crust pies with silky, house-made sauce. Among many toppings, the pepperoni is particularly good. The small, thick discs curl in the oven, collecting tiny pools of flavorful oil.—SV
339 Witherspoon Street, 609-921-8041

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  1. Sanford Josephson

    Missing: Emilio’s in Manchester.

  2. Luch

    Where’s Vic’s in Bradley Beach?

  3. Rich OFlaherty

    Im sure there’s dozens of pizza joints in every town so I guess thats how you guys missed Denino’s South in…….believe it or not, Brick. I know, I know…..ocean friggin county???? Those clam diggers know nothing about good pizza, right? At least that’s been my experience ever since I hung up my BENNY cutoffs over 30 years ago and started diggin clams myself. And then I discovered a Staten Island family brought outstanding authentic thin crust pizza to my neighborhood that most certainly should have made the list, somewhere near the top.

  4. Rich Van Tassel

    I have only tried a few on the list, so I have a lot of homework to do. Reservoir Tavern is great. Please try Columbia Inn in Montville. I think for Thin Crust, it is one of the best!