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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:
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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...

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