#82 Star Tavern

March 18th, 2016 (and January 7, 2017)

West Orange, NJ

We were so excited to see one pizza place on the list that is next to our hometown! Star Tavern is located in West Orange, NJ, which is only 5 miles from our house (we could run there!) Our neighbors all rave about it. After going there a couple of times now, we can see why.

Our first trip to Star Tavern was last March, on a Friday night. It was packed with families. We figured out eventually that you had to go to the back of the restaurant to join the line to be seated. This is NOT clear when you walk in. We didn’t have too long of a wait for a seat though, and ordered the Red Spinach and the White Spinach pizzas to split between the two of us, because we couldn’t decide between them.

    

Our second trip back to Star Tavern was last weekend, in the snow. We almost didn’t go because the snow was coming down pretty hard, but we had such a pizza craving and had been looking forward to it all day. I started out driving, but Eric made me get out of the car halfway up the street so that he could drive in the snow. Apparently, I am a nervous snow driver in my Prius. It would have taken me over half an hour to go the five miles, so it was probably a good life choice to have Eric drive us there in half the time.

Obviously, the Red Spinach pizza is our favorite here so far because we ordered it twice. The second time we also ordered one of the Veggie pizzas. Although we tend to go for the veggie pizzas, it does look like they have a lot of great meat combinations, too. They also serve a good selection of regular entrées and starters. We also saw that they have a dessert Apple Pie pizza on the menu! We are always too full for dessert pizza, but maybe one day we will order it for take-out.

These pizzas are super thin crust. Almost like a bar pie, but without the cheesy crisp around the edge. The veggie pie almost reminded us of Pepe’s veggie special pie in New Haven, but normal pizza-shaped and without the char on the crust. These also had a little more cheese than a New Haven pie and so were maybe a little greasier.

 

We had no problem finishing two pies between the two of us either time we went (but to note: these are not very large pies). The spinach isn’t fresh spinach, which usually would put us off, but it didn’t seem to bother us on these. The veggie pie was very good and full of veggies, even though we got it without olives.

 

In our opinion, olives should be optional on all pizzas. We’d be interested to see how many people ACTUALLY like the olives on veggie pizzas. We usually feel bad asking for the pizzas with no olives because we hate being those picky people, so we end up picking them off instead. We need to find someone to come with us who will eat all of our olives.

Star Tavern is ranked higher on the 2016 list – at #51. We’d agree with that since it definitely deserves to be higher than #82. We can see ourselves going here many times over the next few years, especially because they do take-out as well. And if anyone wants to come visit us in NJ, we will be happy to take you here for dinner!

 

To visit:

Star Tavern
400 High Street
West Orange, NJ 07050

 

#67 Domenick & Pia

January 9th, 2016

Waterbury, CT

You’ve probably heard us talk a lot about New Haven pizza, but not so much about other pizzas in Connecticut. Other Connecticut pizzerias on the list by the Daily Meal include Colony Grill in Stamford, and a pizzeria in Waterbury, CT. Waterbury, for those who don’t know (we didn’t) is located north of New Haven, right off I-84. Domenick & Pia Pizzeria makes pizzas to sell by the slice, New York style, although they also make whole pies. You won’t find a menu, since they don’t have a website.

We got to the pizzeria around lunchtime on a weekend afternoon, and we were very hungry. This was in part because Eric took us off the wrong exit and we ended up driving around Connecticut for a good extra half hour. So, instead of just ordering slices, we decided to get an entire pie, topped with broccoli and onion. Gotta get those veggies in when we are eating so (much pizza!)

The pizza had a thick crust, did not skimp on the cheese and grease, and had a sweet sauce. It was one of the heavier pizzas that we’ve had. Domenick and Pia DeRosa have kept the same pizza recipe for over 50 years!

The couple still works in the restaurant making pizzas, even though they are into their 90’s now. #relationshipgoals

So while we didn’t love the pizza here and probably wouldn’t head up to Waterbury again for it (especially with New Haven only an hour or so south), we love the story of the DeRosas, who got married in Italy and then moved to the US and have been making pizza ever since. We did like the “mom and pop” feel of the pizzeria, and it definitely has the reputation of a neighborhood staple.

I’ll end this post with some classic “Eric eating pizza” pictures. We were so hungry that we couldn’t even wait for the slices to cool down before trying them!

To visit:

Domenick & Pia
3 Brook Street
Waterbury, CT 06702

#77 Pizza Moto

January 6th, 2016

Brooklyn, NY

Our first pizza of 2016 was at Pizza Moto, which is also tucked away in Brooklyn. Pizza Moto also serves Neapolitan-style pies in a back corner of Brooklyn, but they actually started serving pizzas from a food truck. After 8 years of serving from their mobile ovens, the owners and founders of Pizza Moto unearthed a hidden coal oven in this Brooklyn location where they are now based. The oven was originally for a bakery sometime in the mid-1800s, but had since been covered over and the storefront was previously operated by Papa John’s (among a few other owners).

The owners of Pizza Moto restored the oven to its original glory, but outfitted it as a wood burning oven instead of the traditional coal. We heard the story of the oven while attending a class on the NYC pizza scene (yes, we know we are super cool) that was hosted by the Brooklyn Brainery.

We also learned some other cool facts about Pizza Moto, including that they use mostly local and seasonal ingredients, and that their sourdough starter was started by yeast that was already naturally occurring in the restaurant (leftover from the original days as a bakery). The combination of the crust with its unique flavor and the fresh, seasonal toppings really made these pizzas stand out.

We tried two pies here. The first was a standard Margherita, as usual. The second was this mushroom and cheese white pie that you see in the picture above. We both agreed that the flavors of the cheeses on this pizza were some of the best we’ve tried. Actually, we still compare white mushroom pies to this one, even a year later. The pizzas are slightly larger than a traditional Neapolitan, which we appreciated.

      

If you try to get to Pizza Moto (and you should), don’t be worried that you are walking in the wrong direction. It really seems to be in the middle of nowhere. But the atmosphere inside is very farm-to-table (like the rest of Brooklyn) and we’d go back for these pizzas any day.

Pizza Moto was ranked in at #77 on the 2015 list from the Daily Meal, which we thought was probably because it was a newer establishment. We were surprised to find that it wasn’t listed at all in 2016, although we ranked it very high (#15 for Barb and #10 for Eric). You should definitely keep this one on your personal list (and Eric, we need to go back there!)

To visit:

Pizza Moto
338 Hamilton Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11231

#19 Motorino

December 30th, 2015

New York City, NY

One of the great things that came from telling everyone we knew about our pizza goals was that we ended up with a few gift cards for various restaurants for the holidays! One pizzeria that we kept hearing about in NYC was Motorino. We didn’t waste any time in heading to their East Village location one cold night last December.

      

Like most Neapolitan pies, Motorino’s pies are all about the crust. It was perfectly chewy, and so light to eat. The toppings weren’t bad either. We ended up with the famous brussels sprout pie with smoked pancetta and a traditional margherita pie. Yes, we know brussels sprouts are so trendy, but we really love them, and we had to see what all the fuss was about.

The original Motorino is still located in Williamsburg, but we were too tempted by the much closer location in the East Village. There’s also a shop on the Upper West Side, as well as in Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, and Malaysia, if you find yourself traveling to those locations and need a pizza fix. Also a plus – they deliver!

We didn’t have any problems getting a table here right after work, although it was pretty busy by the time we left. They also have a nice wine list, and the East Village location has a cozy, café feel. I hear the Williamsburg location is a bit bigger and has a more traditional pizzeria feel to it.

And if you are looking for dessert afterwards, we’d recommend walking a block south for ice cream, or a block west for a cake or cookie treat. You may not know this (because we figure that you are tired of hearing us talk about pizza and don’t want to bore you even more), but we also have a running list of ice cream places to hit in the city.

 

 

To visit:

Motorino
349 E 12th Street
New York, NY 10003

Joe & Pat’s Pizzeria

January 2, 2016

Staten Island, NY

Happy New Year!

We started out 2017 with a pizza place not on either Daily Meal list, but one that has been on our personal NYC pizza bucket list for a little while now, Joe & Pat’s. You may remember my previous post from Rubirosa where I mentioned a particular “family recipe originating in Staten Island”. Well, to be more specific, that recipe originated at Joe & Pat’s.

Monday was a recovery day from New Year’s, and we both had off from work. It was raining and pretty nasty outside, but we didn’t want to spend the whole day indoors.

Eric had the idea to head back to Staten Island and get some pizza. I actually never thought that we would have another excuse to drive back to Staten Island, but we did have Joe & Pat’s on our list. It is too bad there isn’t more to do on Staten Island because it is a nice, easy drive from our house. Much easier than driving into the city or into Brooklyn.

We got to the pizzeria and decided to just order a bunch of slices. The slices are thin crust, not like your traditional NY slice, but they were extremely similar to Rubirosa. We almost tried a vodka slice to compare to Rubirosa’s vodka slice, but we ended up going with one plain slice, two white ricotta slices, and one sicilian (for Eric).

Overall, the slices were good, but the cheese slice was a little floppy and greasy. The white slices could have been a little warmer, but we give the sauce and cheese decent marks. I bet if we had ordered a whole pie instead it would have held up a bit better.

We left still a little hungry. Our days of getting full on two thin slices are long gone. We considered getting a couple more slices, but we ended up going for ice cream instead. We stopped at Egger’s Ice Cream parlor, which made some good homemade ice cream, and was just over a mile away.

 

We ended our Staten Island outing with a movie. We’ve had a few Regal movie gift cards sitting around for a couple of years now, and there don’t seem to be any Regal theaters around us in NJ. So we were excited to see a theater in Staten Island that took them! It ended up being a great, rainy start to the New Year, although I’m not sure we’ll be back to Staten Island again any time soon

      

We’re looking forward to many more pizza adventures in 2017!! And be sure to keep reading to hear about the rest of our 2016 trips!

To visit:

Joe & Pat’s Pizzeria and Restaurant
1758 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island, NY 10314

#29 Speedy Romeo

December 28th, 2016

Brooklyn, NY

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!!

We ended our 2016 with one last pizza stop from the 2016 list, Speedy Romeo. The city was so quiet this week, so we took advantage of the easy commuting and made our way over to Brooklyn after work. It was such a nice walk over from the office in SoHo across the Manhattan Bridge, although it was kind of a long walk (about 1.5 hours). Eric didn’t feel like walking, so he took the subway and just met me there 🙂

Speedy Romeo is on most of the “Best NY Pizzas” lists that we see circulating (like this one) but it didn’t make the 2015 list for some reason. The Daily Meal made up for that by ranking it pretty high on this years’. What makes Speedy Romeo unique and not just “another Brooklyn pizza place” is that they cook EVERYTHING over a wood flame. Not just the pizzas, but also the rest of the menu, including ribs, steaks, and wings. We didn’t get to try any of those (we were obviously there for the pizza) but we have read some rave reviews.

The pizzas certainly did not disappoint. Most of the pies are made with Provel cheese, which is very traditional for St. Louis-style pizza. Eric (and the Daily Meal) kept calling it “provolone” and needed to be reminded that they are not the same. We ended up with a Margherita and a pizza called the Kind Brother, which was a white pie topped with wild mushrooms, an egg, smoked mozzarella, and finished with a good sized handful of fresh sage.

We really liked these pies, but the mushroom and sage are both very strong on the Kind Brother. We’d recommend that you only order this one if you really like those flavors. The margherita pie had the perfect sauce-to-cheese ratio and the crust held up really well and was light and doughy. We also liked the pickled peppers that they give you on the side.

By this time, we have to conclude that Brooklyn makes some pretty awesome Neapolitan-style pies. We’d rank Speedy Romeo slightly above Motorino but we didn’t think that it is as good as Roberta’s or Pizza Moto. The location is great, though. It’s not too far from Emily, and its a bit more spacious inside, so it would be a great second choice if there is too much of a wait for the Emmy Burger.

Eric was very happy that I didn’t make him walk back to Manhattan afterwards.

To visit:

Speedy Romeo
376 Classon Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

#87 Pizzetteria Brunetti

December 22, 2016

New York City, NY

When we were at our family holiday party last week, our family members who live out on Long Island asked if we had been to their favorite pizza place, Pizzetteria Brunetti. We hadn’t, since it wasn’t on the 2015 list, but we did recognize the name from the 2016 list. We originally thought that the only location was out in Westhampton Beach, but we were excited when we found out that there is also a location in the West Village!

We walked up to Brunetti after work for a quick dinner before a show last Thursday evening. We actually walked right by it, probably because we were too distracted by the holiday decorations up around Chelsea Market, but we found it quickly after turning around and consulting Google maps. The restaurant was festively decorated for the holidays, and we were grateful for the warmth inside. Even though it was a bit on the early side for dinner, there were a few other people eating or at the bar, which has a nice view of the pizza oven.

We had a hard time picking out what pies to try here. I really wanted to try the Margherita, but the specialty pies sounded too good. We ended up going with the Funghi e cippole (mushrooms, caramelized onions, cheese, and finished with honey truffle oil) and the Spezie (broccoli rabe, spicy Italian sausage, burrata cheese, hot peppers, and a pepper puree drizzled over top). The two were nice paired together because the mushroom pie had a sweet aftertaste due to the honey oil, and the Spezie had a really great spicy kick to it. While I’m not a huge fan of really spicy pizza (Eric is, though), the burrata is what really got us. We also really liked how the crust on these held up a little better than a traditional Neapolitan pie.

Brunetti has a lot of great looking pizzas on the menu, including a clam pie that they say is their “specialty”. However, we have yet to have a clam pie that lives up to New Haven clam pie, so we tend to stay away from those when they are on the menu. Also on our list for next time: one of the salads. The farro one looks awesome. And we’d come back for thanksgiving next year if they end up doing this again.

To visit:

Pizzetteria Brunetti
626 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014

#35 Denino’s

December 27th, 2015

Staten Island, NY

The 2015 list had two pizza places located out on Staten Island. We hit the first one early on in our journey, since it is much quicker to drive into Staten Island from NJ than driving out to Brooklyn or Queens. Denino’s is the second pizzeria on the list, and it is ranked slightly higher, at #35.

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Denino’s originally opened as a tavern on Staten Island in the late 1930’s, and started making pizzas in 1951. We heard the sausage here was worth trying, so we split a pie with half sausage, half plain.  The sauce is a bit sweeter than some of the other NYC pies, and the crust is a bit softer than your typical brick oven.

After trying out these two Staten Island pizzerias, we are definitely able to discriminate a Staten Island pie from a NY slice. We can understand why people like this pizza if they grow up with it, but something about it seemed to be lacking compared to your typical NY-style pie.

We thought maybe it was the crust, which is a different texture and slightly crispier, or the sauce, which was a tad too sweet for us, or possibly the cheese, which wasn’t actually very flavorful. We did think it had the edge over Lee’s Tavern, though. Neither one of us ranked it very high on our personal lists, but so far it is the best Staten Island pizza we’ve had.

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Anyone else know any other places on Staten Island that we should hit? We’d be interested in comparing a few more.

To visit:

Denino’s
524 Port Richmond Ave
Staten Island, NY 10302

 

 

 

 

 

#66 Osteria

December 21, 2015

Philadelphia, PA

We found ourselves back in Philly for another holiday party  last year, so of course we decided to stop for pizza dinner beforehand. This time, we went to Osteria. Osteria is another restaurant founded by the Vetri family (also of Pizzeria Vetri), although it is a bit more upscale than Pizzeria Vetri, and is also much more spacious.

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We got two pizzas here, as usual. The first was the Parma: mozzarella, fontina, arugula, and prosciutto, which was probably one of our favorite flavor combinations to date. We also had a regular margherita. The restaurant is a little more expensive than some of the others – each Neapolitan pie ran about 20$ and more, and appetizers were about the same. The restaurant also has a good looking non-pizza selection, although we don’t know why anyone would come here and not get at least one pizza.

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The pizza crust was perfectly chewy and light, which meant that Eric was still hungry when we finished eating them. So, we had to try one of the desserts. Since I didn’t photograph it, I can’t remember exactly which dessert we ended up getting, but the menu rotates anyways. Knowing us, it was probably something chocolate. Also knowing us, Eric probably ate most of it.

Osteria would be a great place for a date night, or even a nice event if you wanted to rent out one of the rooms. We loved the atmosphere inside the restaurant, too (although not so much the poor lighting for pizza pics!).

 

To visit:

Osteria
640 N Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130

#42 Emily

February 5th & December 14th, 2016

Brooklyn, NY

Last night, we had the chance to go back to Emily in Brooklyn. This was our second time there, if you don’t count our trip a couple of weeks ago to Margot’s. The first time was back in February of last year, and we brought two of our friends, Shelly and Mike, who live right around the corner from Emily (and somehow had never been there!)

Emily is a small restaurant in Clinton Hill, and you will likely always have at least a half hour wait, unless you show up at opening (5:30 pm). While we usually are the first ones to show up for pizza, these two dinners were on the later side, and so we had about 45 minutes to an hour of waiting before we were seated. Luckily, there is a bar right next door that we discovered called Hanson Dry. (Actually, we didn’t even know that was the name of the bar until recently, because we just noticed the big sign out front that says “BAR”.) In any case, it has a great happy hour.

**side note: If you want one of their burgers, not their pizza, you better show up at opening time, even on a weekday night! They were sold out by 7pm, when we got there.

On our first trip back in February, we were lucky enough to get to try a special Emily Burger pizza, as well as one of the Lady Pizza Girl with ricotta, havarti, mushrooms, and chili peppers, and also a Modern, which was topped with onion, basil, and Szechuan oil (it was hot and spicy – be prepared!). Since we didn’t get to try the equally famous Emmy Burger (only a limited number are made each night), the Burger pizza was the next best thing. We hope they bring that special back again.

 

On our second trip, we got to try four other pies. We brought Margaret and Scott, so there was plenty to go around. The Luca is like a margherita, but with burrata instead of mozzarella. Anything with burrata catches our eye, and it didn’t disappoint. We also ordered a William with onion and basil and garlic (sorry, we left off the olives!), a Colony, which is hot and spicy with pepperoni, pickled chili, and honey, and ended with one of the Camp Randall, which has cheddar curds, sausage, mushroom, and peppers. I don’t think that we had one complaint, and we all left very full. (Oh, and we also tried the special poutine appetizer, not to mention drinks.)

The crust on these is thinner than a regular Neapolitan pizza, which was fine with us. The pizzas this trip seemed a little thinner than we remembered them being in February. They also were a little more charred. What makes these pizzas stand out from the rest of the pizzas on the Daily Meal’s list is the variety of seasonal toppings. We probably would eat any and all of the pizzas on the menu, and we’ll have to come back a few times to actually do that. It is why Emily ranked so high on our own personal lists.

Even though it was a little cold last night on our walk over to Brooklyn from Manhattan, we ended up being glad that we worked up an appetite and were able to finish all of these pies. If anyone else in Brooklyn wants to go to Emily in the near future, let us know!

To visit:

Emily
919 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11238