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.

Medusa, Asbury Park

All the cooking at Medusa Stone Fired Kitchen is done in the 1,700-pound, Mugnaini wood-burning oven that owners Lauren Castellini and Aimay McElroy installed in the corner of what was once a garage. Castellini starts most days roasting tomatoes and slow cooking pork, while McElroy nurses into being the sumptuous dough for bread and pizza. The two met in the kitchen at nearby Porta. Castellini says they’ll be glad to make almost any combo you dream up, but the menu may obviate improv: the Brisket, with brown gravy, has a sweet tinge offset by smoked mozzarella and a slightly runny egg, while the Puttanesca, with its fat, white anchovies, capers and black olives, broadcasts bravado. Speaking of which, you can trust a pizza maker who’s also a motorcycle aficionado. That’s McElroy.—JPC
 711 4th Avenue, 732-361-3061

Nicoletta, Bernardsville

One might dismiss Nicoletta for being part of a corporate restaurant group, but that would be snobby, and you’d be passing up some of Somerset County’s tastiest pies. The Altamarea Group (whose 12 upscale restaurants include Due Mari in New Brunswick, Osteria Morini in Bernardsville, and Marea and Vaucluse in Manhattan), take great care with their ingredients. It shows in Nicoletta’s thin but deliciously satisfying crusts. Yet its toppings set this place apart. You can design your own, but we’d go for one of their composed pies, such as the Calabrese, lavishly covered in thick-cut pepperoni, fennel sausage from Pat LaFrieda, mozzarella and slivers of red onion. Choose from 16 wines, mostly Italian, by glass or bottle.—MRB
107 Morristown Road, 908-221-1177

Photo by Erik Rank

Nomad, Hopewell and Princeton

In 2007, Tom Grim and Stalin Bedon mounted a wood-fired oven on the back of a 1949 REO Speed Wagon truck and began catering pizza parties around Princeton. Today the partners have two trucks and four Nomad restaurants, two in Jersey. Nomad’s Neapolitan pies—the dough slow fermented for three to four days—have classic semi-soft interiors and puffy crusts. “There’s something more spiritual about wood-fired pizza,” says Grim. “It’s a return to the basics.” Nomad shows that basic can be beautiful. Beyond the soulful Margherita, highlights include the Hot Soppressata, with tomato sauce, Italian soppressata, mozzarella, red pepper flakes, oregano and a drizzle of honey to temper the assertive spice.—SV
10 East Broad Street, Hopewell, 609-466-6623; 301 North Harrison Street, Princeton, 609-285-5187

Osteria Procaccini
Crosswicks, Kingston, Ocean Grove, Pennington

Tino Procaccini and crew churn out delightful thin-crust pies—light, crunchy, with slightly charred crusts and adventurous toppings. Standouts among the composed pies include the Margherita, its fresh basil sliced to a chiffonade so you get basil in every bite, and the Vongole, a white pie with fresh baby clams. You can fool yourself into thinking you’re eating a salad with the lovely Ruchetta e Prosciutto, a white pie with mozzarella, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic and a glorious tangle of arugula.—SV
2 Crosswicks-Chesterfield Road, Crosswicks, 609-291-5525; 4428 Route 27, Kingston, 609-688-0007; 50 Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, 732-775-1639; 7 Tree Farm Road, Pennington, 609-303-0625

Papa’s Tomato Pies, Robbinsville

Thanks to Neapolitan immigrant Giuseppe “Joe” Papa, who hung up his shingle in Trenton in 1912, Papa’s rightfully claims to be the oldest, continually operating, family-owned pizza restaurant in America. Since 2013, Papa’s tomato pies have been made in Robbinsville, overseen by Joe’s grandson, Nick Azzaro, 70. Papa’s tomato pies have an especially satisfying crust and a generous amount of the defining feature of the Trenton tomato pie—plum tomatoes crowning the cheese and toppings, which lie underneath.—EL
19 Robbinsville-Allentown Road, 609-208-0006

Patsy’s, Paterson

The walls of the dark tavern are lined with family photos going back decades. Save for a few new Budweiser posters, a flat-screen and some curtains, not much seems to have changed since the Barbarulo family opened it in 1931. Third-generation owners, brothers Steve and Gary Barbarulo, still make the dough according to a secret family recipe. The 60-year-old brick oven is a source of pride for the brothers, and its steady heat is one reason the pizza has such a satisfyingly crunchy crust. It’s easy to see why this pizza, with its no-droop crust and comforting amounts of cheese, has been the go-to pie for generations of Patersonians.—MRB
72 7th Avenue, 973-742-9596

Pete & Elda’s, Neptune City

Pete & Elda's owner George Andretta (right) with son Chris and grandson Christopher.

Pete & Elda’s owner George Andretta (right) with son Chris and grandson Christopher. Photo by Erik Rank

There is thin crust, really thin crust, and then there is Pete & Elda’s crust, crisp as a cracker. Not for everyone, but that might be a blessing given the long waits for a table on weekends. Pete & Elda’s was a bar sans food until Carmen Andretta fused a pizzeria to it in 1961. Carmen’s son, George, grew up in the place and took over the unified shebang in 1977. The menu lists 35 toppings, and the kitchen makes sure every inch of your pie is thoroughly and evenly carpeted with whatever you choose, so no one need get grabby.—EL
93 Summit Avenue, 732-774-6010

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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!