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What makes a good pizza, to YOU?

So having recently moved to a new part of NJ, by the shore (I'm originally from Northern NJ) I've been on the hunt for some good pizza because a friend who also recently moved into the area says he doesn't see the big deal about NJ/NY Pizza. He says he prefers Domino's, which broke my heart. I asked around the boards where to find nearby good pizza, and was given many recommendations, most of which disappointed.

I started wondering, is my taste in pizza completely skewed?? My preference is probably closest to a NY-style pizza, a crispy charred but softly pliable crust, not too much sauce .... more emphasis on cheese, cheese that drips off the sides of the slice, where it makes a stretchy mess as you pull your slice away from the pie, so much that you have to ravel it up. An outer crust that is crispy but still bread-like and bubbly, that I don't mind finishing off with them. (I hate being left with hard crackers at the end). It's the kind of pizza that I would get late night at college, or at the cool teenage hang out after school, usually a pizzeria that doesn't have much decor, but the charm of fluorescent lights, a TV with the game on, and Italian guys loudly busting on each other behind the counter. I've usually been able to get this type of pizza at any nearby pizzeria when I was living in Bergen County and by Rutgers, but it doesn't seem as common down here by the shore.

A lot of the recommendations I've gotten were places with super thin crusts, a restrained scattering of cheese, and skinny slices. Is this what's considered "good"? I saw a lot of reviews that complained about overly oily, overly cheesy pizza, which to me, is part of the nostalgia of eating pizza.

So out of curiosity, what is it that makes a good pizza to you? A clean simple sauce or super garlicky sauce? More sauce than cheese, or more cheese than sauce? Cracker-thin crusts or crusts with some air bubbles? Floppy fold-able slices or perky and straight?

And if you have a recommendation I'd like in the Jersey Shore/Monmouth County area please let me know =)

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  1. "...with super thin crusts, a restrained scattering of cheese, and skinny slices."

    Works for me. Add a traditional meat, (pepperoni, sausage, anchovy), or garlic and basil and we're done here.

    1. I made the best pizza - once. At my then mother in law's house in the Tuscan countryside, we decided to clean out the brick oven located at the back of the house. My then husband got a fire going for 24 hours. Meanwhile I went into the village and with sign language managed to buy fresh yeast, then all the other components and set about making pizza dough. I made a fresh sauce, cut all the toppings and made pizza bases and covered them with sauce. Everyone added their own toppings and cheese and the pizzas went into the brick oven. They were heavenly and were eaten under the grapevine trellis with local chianti.

      1 Reply
      1. re: smartie

        This sounds like something I'd truly enjoy! It must have been a wonderful time.

      2. To me, there is no one best pizza. It's like asking "what's the best meat?" or "what's teh best sandwich?" There are different answers at different times. In Chicago we have thick, stuffed, cracker-style thin, New York style thin, coal-fired, wood-fired, Neapolitan, bakery style.... There are excellent examples of each.

        What counts most is quality ingredients and somebody who cares overseeing the process. Domino's and the other chains lack both. So just like a good loaf of bread benefits from someone who understands dough and baking, a good pizza benefits from someone engaged in the process. The style of the finished product is often less important.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ferret

          Absolutely- I like them all. I can never understand how people can limit to just one kind.

          In St. Louis, the local style is thin almost cracker crust, slightly sweet tomato sauce and provel cheese. The best make everything from scratch.

          1. re: wekick

            I'm totally about being open-minded to different interpretations of a dish. But everyone has their preferences, what they grew up with, maybe due to their region, or their mother's cooking, which can define for them what they love about that dish. For instance, some people are very strict about what they call chili. At an Italian restaurant I worked at, some people would scoff at our cake-like tiramisu, or our version of marsala. Similar to pizza, hot dogs can be very regional. I think some people might like it steamed or boiled, but if I go out of my way for a dog, it better have some snap to it.

            Pizza I can enjoy in any form, I would never turn it down. And I can appreciate all the variations. There's a stuffed pizza I adore from another restaurant I worked at. But to really conjure the experience that I associate with pizza, it has to be "NY-style".

        2. The one that I'm eating. I've never had bad pizza.

          6 Replies
          1. re: beevod

            >>>
            I've never had bad pizza.
            <<<

            Boy I sure have!! When I was in navy school in Great Lakes, Ill (outside Chicago) in the early 70's. A Roach Coach from a local joint just outside the gate would come around to the barracks and you could buy "fresh made" pizzas off the truck. The box they came in would have tasted better. We thought it was because of the box, time on the truck, or something else, so we went to the joint. They were just as bad in person!

            By contrast, the place outside the gate at the next school, in Vallejo, CA, was great!

            1. re: al b. darned

              I may have already said it in this or another thread, but i had MOSTLY bad pizza IN ITALY.

              1. re: mariacarmen

                it has been a while, but IIRC, most of the pizza I had in Italy was pretty good. Augusta, Sicily and La Spezia come immediately to mind.

                1. re: al b. darned

                  i had a pizza in Torino - the best the whole 5 months in Italy, multiple times in various towns located south of and between Milano and Torino (Alessandria province, Piemonte region) - all simply bad, at least 3 in Venice - very blah, and one in Umbria - decent. I never made it to Napoli, didn't try pizza in Genoa, Cinque Terra, Roma, Tuscana or Firenze (too much else to eat!) Trust me, I was dying to have really great pizza in Italy!

                  1. re: mariacarmen

                    Mariacarmen, what specifically about Italian pizza did you not like? Is it a particular style of the pizza there, or did you just keep getting pizza with low quality ingredients? I've never been to Italy myself, so I'm just curious.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      hehehe, well that's your problem right there! Got to go south of Roma for good pizza! I bet if you made it to Napoli you wouldn't be saying any of this! LOL

            2. I also prefer NJ/NY style pizza. Thin, slightly charred crust, sauce that must be salty enough to stand up to the crust, but unlike the OP I don't like it too cheesy. I like thin cheese that's a little browned and bubbly. Cheese should be salty, too, and I like it oozing a little bit of grease.

              I have had bad pizza. My kid's birthday party at an unnamed place with a giant robotic singing mouse---worst pizza in the universe.