CHEAP EATS UPDATE
10 EAST BROAD STREET, HOPEWELL
In 2005, Tom Grim installed a wood-burning, Neapolitan oven in his home in Pennington. The 5,300-pound stone oven required him to shore up the house’s foundation and the heat required that he cut a vent in the roof. He spent about $10,000 before he even mixed a batch of dough. But at that point Grim had no plans for a restaurant. “I was just having pizza parties,” he explains.
Next he bought a 1949 REO Speedwagon truck and installed another wood-burning oven in it. The Nomad Pizza Truck became a fixture at swank Princeton-area parties. Grim and co-owner Stalin Bedon finally decided to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in August 2009. The pizza he serves in Hopewell is markedly better than even the very good pizza from the truck. Grim traveled to Naples to pick out the restaurant’s oven, and Nomad’s Neapolitan pie is, well, very Neapolitan. The crust—moist and chewy at the edges, the bubbles nicely scorched—is topped with just enough fresh mozzarella. The basil is from the garden outside, when the season allows. Grim wisely uses imported San Marzano tomatoes for their bright acidity. Every pizza comes with a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano. They’ll give you another dusting tableside if you ask, which you should—too much Parmigiano is hardly enough.
Nomad offers two varieties of pizza, and their more recent Roman style is my favorite. The cracker-like semolina crust is brittle-crisp, and perfectly charred when Grim, who mans the ovens, is on his game. I love the red-pepper accented marinara for its spicy, clean simplicity, and the margherita with pepperoni for the crispness of the meat. However, the thin crust has trouble standing up under the juicy shiitakes of the mushroom pizza. The Roman’s one drawback is a sometimes soggy center.
Salad is the only other thing on the menu. The arugula on a summer night was astonishingly fresh, grown in the restaurant’s own garden. The peppery lettuce was served with sheep’s milk ricotta, local strawberries, and a tart lemon vinaigrette. There’s no coffee or dessert at Nomad to conclude the meal. Despite the menu’s brevity, the wait can reach two hours on a Friday night. Prospective diners gather on the patio under the heat lamps to complain good-naturedly, discuss specials, share wine, and look forward to some of the best pizza in New Jersey. (609-466-6623, nomadpizzaco.com)Click here to leave a comment