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Trenton - DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies (not DeLorenzo's Pizza)

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I just read the post from last week on DeLorenzo's Pizza in Trenton - I thought I'd put an article I wrote for our school newspaper a while back on his brother's restaurant, DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies, just a five minute drive away. I personally like this restaurant more - much fresher and higher quality ingredients, especially the tomatoes used in their sauce. Make sure to go on Friday when the owner is working the ovens.

If you've got an opinion on which you like more, post it - I'm interested in hearing what everyone's got to say. Here's the article:

Super DeLorenzo Bros.

We wanted Pizza, America's favorite food, straight out of Italy, and we wanted to get the hell out of Princeton. But a mentally grueling choice confronted us: did we want pizza or tomato pies? You're probably thinking that we're asking an inconsequential question of semantics typical of Princetonians. But it's more than that.

Rumor has it that DeLorenzo's in Trenton is the best place in all of Jersey to get that pure, thin-crust, classic Neopolitan pie. Flipping through the phone book to get the restaurant's address, we found two DeLorenzos: DeLorenzo's Pizza and DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies. Misprint? Not to the Trenton DeLorenzos. But which place has the real Pizza? Even the overly informative Chowhound.com, every ethnic food buff's bedside companion, offered no definitive clues. Logically, we settled on a coin toss.

Heads. We set off south on Route 1 for DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies. Once we arrived at the packed 50-person restaurant, it seemed like we had picked the right place. But maybe Saturday night wasn't the best time to come--we found ourselves having to wait in a tiny entryway with eight other people. Maybe going to the other place wasn't a bad idea after all.

We had time (20-plus min) in the cozy entrance area to soak in the ambience: the fake pine paneling; vinyl blinds and counters; torn, red plastic seat-coverings; antique push-button cash register; off-the-hook
rotary telephone; kitschy Coca-Cola clock from the 70s; and fotos of celebrities, some who were pictured in the restaurant and others who clearly have never stepped inside (like Joe DiMaggio). But once we glimpsed and smelled the "tomato pies," we left the Jersey of Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen's high school days to be transported to someplace wonderful and Italian (not to belittle Jersey, but other places are sometimes more appealing). The divine aroma of the pies' freshly baked bread, warm melted cheese, and fresh tomatoes hit us with a full assault while our mouths remained sadly unsatisfied. We weren't leaving.

Finally, we sat down--no utensils, no menu. The waiter, Mario, appeared immediately to take our order, and he instantly realized we were tourists because we didn't know "the game". When we finally got the courage to ask about our options, he responded bitterly--small ($8-11) or large ($12-16) with a choice of toppings. Large it was.

Eventually everything came. Our "silverware," consisting of mini, sea green, plastic plates and beige-tinted plastic cups, seemed to have been robbed from a toy store. Our drinks arrived filled with ice bits oddly evocative of pellet-shaped deer shit, which were unexpectedly crunchy and tasty. The not-quite-round pie was inundated with tomato, cheese, roasted peppers, and mushrooms--no skimping by the chef. It was great. The crust was perfect--thin and crispy without being hard or burnt, the tomato sauce had just the right zest, and the cheese seemed rich but less stringy than mozzarella. When we asked Mario about the cheese, he shrugged: "it's, uhh, well you know, it's…it's cheese." After that was explained, we asked another waiter what the deal was with DeLorenzo's Pizza. Luigi, being somewhat more informative, told us that the two restaurants were owned by brothers who "still talk" to each other. Sounds like a pleasant relationship.

So we left, hoping to complete our night with pizza at the other DeLorenzo's, where we were welcomed by the infamous "Closed" sign. You might have wanted a nice, tidy comparison to complete the article, but we were perfectly happy this way. Being sensible, we went straight back for some more tomato pies. They had been true to form and were better than we knew Pizza to be. Maybe there really is a difference.

DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies. 530 Hudson St., Trenton. (609) 695-9534. Open Tues-Sun 3:30-10PM and Friday 11-1PM. Relieve yourself before you go--there's no bathroom.

DeLorenzo's Pizza. 1007 Hamilton Ave., Trenton. (609) 393-2952. Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch.

Link: http://www.princeton.edu/~flavor/

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  1. While DeLorenzo's on Hudson Street is the classic traditonal place since my youth, I have stopped going there. I prefer much more the Delorenzo's on Hamilton now a days. (It's just as great). Why? it is simple: DeLorenzo's on Hudson Steet has no bathroom for its patrons! And, while they say they are "grandfathered", on the requirement to have one, I cannot think of going to a place any longer where you cannot even wash you hands.

    1. Even though patrons can't wash their hands, I hope there is a sink for the employees. I say this because the one time I went, I had a view of some kid opening large cans of tomatos (or sauce), pouring them in a big bowl, and stirring the whole thing WITH HIS BARE ARM!

      After the looooong wait and the bare-arm cooking exhibition, my curiosity about Trenton pizza was more...than...satisfied.

      I really don't get the hype... I'd say it's good for locals, or ex-locals who want to relive the old neighborhood, but that's about it. Their pizza's not bad but living about halfway between NYC with all its pizza options and Trenton, I'll never go to Trenton for pizza again.

      1. Ha... a 4-year-old topic.

        Delorenzo's Pizza is sublime. Delorenzo's Tomato Pie is very good, but does not compare to the Hamilton Ave. location, IMO. The crust at Hamilton Ave. is extremely flavorful. I think they may use a touch of malt or something, and there is definitely a little cornmeal in there. The toppings are light, so you might end up eating a bit more than a "traditional" pizza.
        The Hudson St. location is more Neopolitan style, and the Hamilton Ave. style is completely unique. It is surely worth the drive for me.

        1. Definitely Hamilton Avenue De Lorenzo's. Slightly easier to get to, more seating, and like one of the previous posters said, A BATHROOM. I'm not a prissy person, but it's nice to be able to drink a large birch beer and linger over your dinner at the same time. They're also a little better at crowd control.
          I find the pizzas slightly different but equally good (though it has been ages since i've been to the Hudson Ave one). However, I've heard that the Hudson Ave restaurant will be moving to Hamilton. I might visit the new location more often as it will be closer to where I am.
          Frankly, I don't think any other pizza comes close. Locally, I also like JoJo's and, in Freehold, Federici's. I've been commuting to New York for some time, and haven't found anything that surpasses De Lorenzo's in Midtown. I hear there's a great place in the Village though that sounds like it might come close... I forget the name though.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Heatherb

            Just want to clarify things... De Lorenzo's Tomato Pies is NOT moving to Hamilton. They're opening a SECOND location. I know this for a fact since I'm designing the new logo and Web site. The second restaurant will be located in Robbinsville (Washington Township) in the new yet to be completed Washington Town Center. Their new site is www.delorenzostomatopies.com, more information will be made available there in the coming weeks. The new location will open in 2007. As for the pies, both current De Lorenzo's are extraordinary! If I have to pick a winner - I'll to go with Hudson Street (not because they're paying me for design work). I LOVE Hamilton Ave's Meatball Pie! The new location WILL HAVE RESTROOMS but, if you want the Hudson Street feeling, hold it in until you get home ;-)

            1. re: KramlDesign

              Sweet! I have to try the Hamilton Ave. Meatball Pie--I usually go with plain or sausage & garlic...

          2. Good grief. Trashing the best tomato pie in the universe because they have no bathroom for patrons.

            1. Not trashing it at all, just acknowledging the limits of my bladder. The two DeLorenzo's are equally good, in my opinion, and I prefer eating the pizza in the restaurant rather than getting takeout and having it go cold on the ride home. And there's no way I'm having my pizza without my birch beer, too.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Heatherb

                Can anyone tell me if the new location is open (the one in Robbinsville)? My 'rents moved from Lawrenceville to the OFF (Old F**** Farm) in Monroe Twp a few years ago. My husband, who is not from the U.S. and has never had truly great 'za, wants to go to DeLorenzo's (Hudson Street, of course). But Robbinsville is so much closer...if it is open, we may try it. We are heading to NJ on August 18.

                Anyway, I checked on the website given by KramlDesign and all it says is "late summer 2007."

                BTW, on donrockwell.com (a DC board), the most knowledgeable eater on the board, someone with exquisite taste who has traveled and dined all over the world, says that Hudson St. is the best 'za on earth and has even traveled all the way from the DC area to Hudson St. just to get a pie. It's been years since I tried Hamilton Ave and I do remember that it was good, but I still prefer Hudson St. by quite a bit.

                1. re: Just Visiting

                  Do either of these places compare to the original Totono's in Coney Island, or are their pies made more like the style at Pete & Elda's (Neptune) and Pizza Town (Garfield)?

                  1. re: soigne

                    I can only compare DeLorenzo's pizza to Pete & Elda's (haven't been to the others). DeLorenzo's crust is on the thin side, but nowhere near as thin as Pete & Elda's. As a "tomato pie", I find the pizza to be a bit heavy on the sauce and not quite as much cheese for my liking. I prefer Pete & Elda's over DeLorenzo's (***making pizza purists shudder, I'm sure***).

                  2. re: Just Visiting

                    New location not anywhere near to opening, construction delayed.
                    They are hoping for the end of the year.

                2. JoJo's in Hamilton is every bit as good as either DeLorenzo's. Have a cold antipasto first and ask for the pie well done. And since it's a bar, a cold one makes it all taste that much better.

                  1. I don't like the Delorenzo's on Hudson St....The crust is so thin,it's like biting into a cracker...I like Jo Jo's Tavern,and Joey Maruca's,on Whitehorse Mercerville Rd.in Hamilton..I tried the pie at Del Ponte's Coal Fired Oven Pizza,in Bradley Beach last week,and it was delicious..

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sweetteeth69

                      Okay folks here's the biggest secret you're ever going to learn. Like the thin crust pizza with the loose sausage(not slices)? When Marucas was going under on Olden Ave(Trentonians know that was the Original Marucas, before Seaside even) they told our family the secret to their greasy, wonderful, crisp pizza. They mix mozerella with cheddar cheese! I do it and make really great pizza ever since, say thank-you ~DEB!!!!!

                    2. Both are good but traditional is on Hamilton Ave. Old world is on Hudson and you've probably not had it like that. Marucas was the best but left. Anyone can make it I've got the recipe down pat from them back on Olden Ave for those who know..... mix equal parts mozzarella and cheddar, makes the crust much more crispy.....Deb

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Deb9962

                        Marucas on Olden Ave. did have great pies, but what I remember best about them was their steak sandwiches. If I recall correctly, they weren’t the usual shaved steak ala Philly style, but a single, 1/4” or so thick rib eye or other cut that was very tender and delicious. Rossi’s and JoJo’s both do a similar and excellent version of this sandwich.

                        Deb, do you remember another Italian place on Olden Ave. on the other side of the street a couple of blocks North of Marucas? I think it was called Joe’s but I could be wrong. It’s funny how memory works, but I recall that I had gnocchi’s there for the first time in my life and haven’t had them as good or as light anywhere else since.

                        1. re: TomDel

                          I don't remember that one but I was just telling my daughter about this little italian place that used to be near the parfait house in ewing and they had great pencil points.Also DelRios used to have their steaks the way you're talking about.Do you remember marty's on olden at prospect and down on hamilton as well, they had the best frozen custard, like khors on the boardwalk, all these flavors, mine was banana!!!

                          1. re: Deb9962

                            I didn’t get out to Ewing or N. Olden very often as I grew up on the other side of Hamilton near Independence Mall. I do remember that trampoline place on Olden that was a big deal in the early sixties.

                            You’re right about DelRios, they did have a good steak sandwich. I think it’s a sports bar now, First and Ten or something like that.

                            I don’t remember Marty’s. Gravatts was the frozen custard place near me. The custard was good, but I think they only had chocolate and vanilla. They had a charcoal grill take-out place on the other side of the building with really good hot dogs.

                          2. re: TomDel

                            The place you're thinking of was called Louis Tomato Pie Restaurant at 28 North Olden...and the food there was AMAZING!!!!

                            1. re: TomDel

                              I had my first tomato pie there (Louis')
                              with my family in the early 60's. 'Remember it still.
                              We lived in Ewing, but always got our tomato pies at Louis'.
                              Later, after I got my drivers license, I followed my friends to Maruca's a few blocks down (even worked at Maruca's in Seaside in the summers of '64 and'65).
                              Great memories.

                          3. Best pizza in the world, bar none. I've been to New Haven, I've been to New York City. I've been to Italy. (I could use to sample a little more pizza in Southern Italy, I admit.) Pepe's comes close, but DeLorenzo's is my favorite.

                            1. Went by the new Delorenzos in Robbinsville and still very uncompleted, I doubt they will open in December, but who knows, maybe Santa will come through for us!!! DEB

                              1. Was at Hudson St last night for take out (plain and clam pies). And noticed they had changed their hours to Thursday through Sunday only. Don't know if this is a permanent thing or not, but now you can only get the best pizza on Hudson street four nights a week.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cwdonald

                                  cwdonald, I think they changed their hours because they opened up a new location in that Washington Township Town Center on 33 near where 33 and 130 merge for a while. I'm pretty sure that's the new location - my mom drove by but said it was insanely crowded. I figure I'll head over in a couple weeks when things have settled down. After all, now there will be a bathroom, I'm assuming:-)

                                2. First time to DeLorenzo's on Hudson. Sausage garlic tomato pie was awsome! And I'm from NYC and been to New Haven many times. A top 10 contender if not top 5! I hope they're not closing the original location as i've heard rumor of. Worth the 2 hour wait.

                                  1. I got the wooleys for DeLorenzos this week REAL bad....and I don't even like pizza.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: RPMcMurphy

                                      Wasn't the one on Hamilton Street open for dinner too? I know we used to go there Saturday evenings. When did this change?

                                    2. I ate there last night, and I will say the tomato pie was excellent, however; I will not patronize this establishment again. The staff was unfriendly; they had an open table that could accommodate six people but refused to seat 4 people at it and made everyone wait 15 minutes until a four top opened up. There was not a single smile or thank you from any of the staff. It looked like a funeral in this place. I am not sure what the deal is with this place but one thing is for sure, money can’t buy you happiness. If you have to eat their pie, get it to go.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: DavidTheFoodGuy

                                        David...Your not the first to say this about their service.

                                        This is why for many many years & years we always go to Papas Tomato pies in Chambersburg (Trenton).....2nd oldest Pizzeria in the country 1912, killer pies, & super friendly service, nuff said!


                                        1. re: Tapas52

                                          I sencond the vote for Papas! Best pie anywhere!

                                      2. As a kid in the 50's & 60's I never knew anyone else made tomato pie except for Louis Tomato Pies on north Olden just past the intersection with State. I still remember the juke box. I think the building now is a little church.

                                        1. Chambersburg is a thing of the past. All the old tomato pie places have moved to Hamilton and Robbinsville. Anyone in Trenton after dark needs a flak vest sadly.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: time1865

                                            Too true but Trenton North of Rte 1 is a different thing entirely . The intersection of Olden and Brunswick is the center of a reasonable neighborhood of Polish restaurants and Delis .

                                          2. "With the closing of the original De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies on Hudson Street in Trenton last year, the move to the suburbs was complete for the 64-year Chambersburg tradition."

                                            The Hudson St. location is closed.