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.

Pizza-Town USA, Elmwood Park

Siblings Bruce and Michelle Tomo have kept up the made-from-scratch tradition established by their father, Raymond.

Siblings Bruce and Michelle Tomo have kept up the made-from-scratch tradition established by their father, Raymond. Photo by Erik Rank

Lovers of kitsch will be drawn to the red, white and blue circus-tent stripes and logo of Uncle Sam holding a pizza. Seekers of the iconic slice will be rewarded with one of the best. Siblings Michelle and Bruce Tomo still make pizza the way their dad, Raymond, did when he opened Pizza-Town in 1958. They pride themselves on scratch preparation, from meatballs to sauce (San Marzano tomatoes and salt, and that’s it). The pies are notable for their perfect melding of cheese and sauce, the lightly blistered crusts thin, yet almost magically able to support substantial nubbins of hand-cut pepperoni or whatever suits your fancy.—MRB
89 Route 46, 201-797-6172

Poppi’s, Wildwood

The very best pizza in Cape May and Atlantic counties dwells in Wildwood, where Irish flags flutter from the decks of summer rentals. Poppi’s owner, Brendan Sciarra, is Wildwood royalty—his father, Brian, founded Kona Surf Co. in 1969. To open Poppi’s in 2014, Sciarra engaged New York-based Neapolitan pizza maestro Giulio Adriani to design the menu. While hewing to Neapolitan tradition, Sciarra has made the place his own. He turns out personal-sized pizzas with crisp, blistered rims and slightly soft, generously olive-oiled centers. The Diavolo, shingled with hot soppressata, is fantastic.—AE
4709 New Jersey Avenue, 609-600-3964

Ralph’s, Nutley

Pasquale “Pat” Custode was 17 when he went to work for Ralph Pellegrino’s new pizzeria in 1961. When Pellegrino died in 1985, Custode bought the business and has been laying down the law ever since. “I’m very picky,” he says. “I tell my guys, treat it like you’re making it for your wife or your mother. There’s no other way.” Thorough baking is the bedrock. Ralph’s crusts are intensely satisfying. Most of the pies are baked twice, first with the house-made sauce, then with cheese and toppings generously added. (The crunchy, delicious, whole-wheat thin crust needs just one bake.) Custode is equally strict with his popular gluten-free pies, which are isolated from the rest to avoid contamination.—EL
564 Franklin Avenue, 973-235-1130

Razza, Jersey City

A pepperoni pie and a Margherita.

A pepperoni pie and a Margherita at Razza. Photo by Erik Rank

Equal parts artist and scientist, Dan Richer has combined deep knowledge of fermentation, flour, fire and flavor with the soul of an artist to make his ripply, crunchy, wood-fired pizzas worth lining up for. And people do, since he takes no reservations. The pies are worth the wait. In September, 2017, the New York Times, in a rare foray across the Hudson, awarded Razza three stars, conceding that “the best pizza in New York is in New Jersey.” Jerseyans already knew that.—EL
275 Grove Street, 201-356-9348

Reservoir Tavern, Boonton

The tavern has been in the Bevacqua family since 1936, when owner Nicola Bevacqua’s grandfather, also named Nicola, bought the building, rumored to have been a Prohibition-era “tea parlor” (aka speakeasy). The faux-wood-paneled walls suggest a rec room, and the friendly staff reinforces the feeling you’ve come home for dinner. The thin-crust pies are terrific, especially the signature Gatto, a garlicky masterwork of creamy potatoes, mozzarella, slices of tomato, and salty, chewy curls of bacon. The clam-and-garlic pie is also justly popular.—MRB
92 Parsippany Boulevard, 973 334 5708

Reservoir Restaurant, South Orange

The namesake reservoir was across the street from the original location in Newark, opened by Vincenza Agnellino, a widow with six children, in 1935. Vincenza would be proud of her grandchildren, siblings Bill Agnellino and Barbara Camarata, who run the restaurant their family moved to South Orange in 1965. Excellent ingredients, their own sauce recipe and the black steel pans in which dough crisps make Reservoir pizza ravishing. Designing your own? Meatballs, made in house, and fresh fried eggplant make one of the simplest and best pies.—EL
106 South Orange Avenue, 973-762-9795

Santillo’s, Elizabeth

There are no seats at Santillo’s, just a counter. But strike up a conversation with Al Santillo, 61, and you are likely to be there all night eating his magnificent pies while listening to the story of his baking life. He grew up in the little house where he still tends the 16-by-10-foot oven (formerly coal, now gas) that his father taught him to play like a Wurlitzer. The place still looks like a house, and the entrance is on the side. Santillo is a genius of the deep bake. His crusts—round, thin, thick, whatever—are among the most satisfying anywhere. His signature is what he calls the Grandpa, basically a Sicilian topped with almost everything in a plentiful, unruly scatter that ensures that each bite is a little different.—EL
639 South Broad St, 908-354-1887; BYO

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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!