Pizza Crawl! Mancinni's, Porta, Nomad, Osteria Procaccini
This is what happens when you have way too much time, a full tank of gas and a yearning for some really good Neapolitan style pizza :) We wanted to sample as wide a variety as possible so we took the advice of many on this board and added some we have been to. The recent Munchmobile pizza crawl had me itching to try this.
The crawl took us to Essex, Monmouth, Mercer and Middlesex counties in the space of about 7 hours. It was hard work but someone had to do it :) The good news is that all the pizza we sampled were very good, you won’t go wrong at any of them.
At each place we ordered the same pizza, a sausage pie. Why sausage… cuz we like sausage pizza! Here is a quick summary of each place we visited and a final summary at the end. Please note that there is probably no food more “personal” than pizza. The comments that follow are from DW and me, YMMV. Here are our notes in the order we visited. The notes are for the pizza only.
MANCINNI’S COAL OVEN PIZZA, 438 Bloomfield Ave. Montclair. 973-744-4391. Our first stop for lunch. The sausage pizza here is a classic (margherita) with sausage. Crust was crispy with a nice chewy texture and nice flavor. Maybe a bit too much cheese and not enough sausage but pretty good overall. This large pizza was indeed “large” and a very good value. People were super nice.
PORTA PIZZA, 911 Kingsley St. Asbury Park. 732-776-7661. Our second stop, Porta is a nice addition to AP. We ordered the Italian Stallion which has San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, sausage and some long hots. The crust here had excellent flavor, very distinctive. Pie was a bit soggy and some pieces were missing sausage but the flavors from the ingredients were good. I have seen some reports about the help being uninterested but that was not our experience. The servers, especially Meg were great. Nice space and good vibe here.
NOMAD PIZZA, 10 East Broad St. Hopewell. 609-466-6623. Our third stop, we arrived when they opened at 5:00 pm. Ordered the Spicy Sausage which has Italian tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Simply Grazin spicy sausage, caramelized onions, organic olive oil, organic parmesan cheese, sea salt. Crust was crispy with excellent chewy texture. Very good ratio of sauce, cheese and sausage. Not many nits to pick here. The caramelized onions really brought out the flavors. Nomad has a cult following and it’s easy to see why. Nomad wins the “most original NJ Pizza”. They had a special of NJ Corn Pizza, Kerr’s sweet farmstand corn, wood fired and roasted with Sorrano peppers topped with Straciatella and parmesan cheese. We didn’t try it but maybe next time.
OSTERIA PROCACCINI, 4428 Rt 27 North. Kingston. 609-688-0007. Our last stop of the day. Their sausage pizza is Tartufo di Gianni which has San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella, local Martin’s sausage, mushrooms and white truffle oil. Crust was crispy, nice char and excellent flavor. Sauce, cheese, sausage was in good proportion, lots of sausage with excellent fennel topnote. Touch of truffle oil makes this outstanding. Got there just in time, by the time we left there was a long wait.
So, what pie was best. As I said earlier each pie was very good on its own. If we were forced to pick a rank order based on what we sampled today it would be.
For some reason I can't upload the photos, will try again later.
Maybe next time we hit the Trenton Tomato Pie area, Delorenzo's, Papa's etc etc. For now I need a gym workout :)
Nice crawl, Tom! I'll be the first to say that I didn't find Porta's pizza too soggy in the middle, but that they're also supposed to be that way if it's classic Neopolitan, and light on the toppings in terms of distribution. And I thought their crust was *stunning*!
Sadly, my last trip to Mancinni's (which had REALLY excited me for the first few months it was open) was truly disappointing. There was a different pizzaola there that night, though, so I'm willing to give it another shot. I agree that the people there are really nice--I just hope I hit it on an off night. You didn't happen to notice the guy working the dough and the oven, did you?
Before heading out to Cape May this past Sunday morning, a friend invited my wife and I to Daniel in Point. She was wrestling with an abscessed tooth and I asked him if he was still into it if he and I did something informally on the cheap (a relative term). I suggested Porta and come 6:30 it was jammed - an hour wait for a table (I didn't want one) so I ordered a Summer Shandy, he a coke and we talked for about 10 minutes till a foursome of ladies finished up their stay before we assumed our position as members of the NJBA. (lol)
Ordering the charred octopus salad continues to be the BEST thing there. Didn't have to share it with my son this time, and I would have been satisfied having a couple of beers and the octopii. It's so good - it's a shame that they took the plate away as I would have loved to have dragged something (even the crust of my pie) through that delicious lemony dressing that remained. Pure delight in every bite.
We both happen to order the margharita pie - folks, I'm still learning about Neapolitan pie and I enjoyed the 2 slices (all I could finish after the salad). And I took the rest home.
I will go back again, but I'm not jumping up and down over this stuff - it will be a journey of acquiring a taste for Neapolitan and I will undertake it. I presume that I will have to try other Neapolitan options (the one in Kingston isn't too far from the office and I still have clients in Mercer County - so that will give me another opp as well as trying another pie at Porta).
I just wish Trenton was closer - call me a traditionalist, call me nostalgic (without that abdication of memory) as there's nothing better in this world than a tomato pie that Trenton is so known for. Soon Jake, soon ye shall take that drive across 195 - now just to pair up the 'need' to visit by doing something else out there.
Curlz, the fellow working the dough and oven at Mancinni's was Italian, dark short hair. Very friendly and made you feel welcome. A very good sausage pie.
Soft in the middle I expect but yesterday our pie was past that but again the total experience was very good at Porta.
The all important "how does the pizza taste after 24 hours" is coming up at lunch today :)
As long as you're reheating in a low oven, not a microwave--then I'll be curious to hear your thoughts! My experiences w/Porta have been excellent in that department. :-)
The original pizzaola at Mancinni's was v tall and older...his pizza is what I loved over and over again. Sounds like you had someone else (as we did on our last visit).
congrats to you and your DW for the adventure! J and I have to check out Porta next time we get over there.
Also - have you gone to Osteria Procaccini's Pennington location? It seats 60 comfortably, serves vino and beer and there's usually no wait for the same pizza greatness. : )