Bruno, Bruno’s, and Mr. Bruno’s

September 5th and September 21st, 2017

Manhattan and New Jersey

Bruno’s is apparently a popular pizzeria name. This month, we’ve been to three pizzerias named Bruno’s (ok, one is actually named “Mr. Bruno’s”). So I’ve decided to post about all three together to find the Best Bruno’s Pizza in the NY/NJ area.

  1. Bruno, Manhattan

The first Bruno can be found in the East Village of Manhattan.  We first noticed the pizza here on Instagram because all of the pizzas posted by the chef look amazing. It has been on our list to visit ever since. While being based in Manhattan, Bruno has a “Brooklyn” feel to it. The chef grinds his own flour in the basement using wheat imported from farms in New York. The ingredients are all locally sourced, and the menu changes seasonally. The restaurant itself has interesting artwork and whitewashed walls, with farmhouse style tables. We loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ordered two pizzas here, the roasted corn seasonal pizza and the ‘nduja, although it was a really tough choice. We had a great talk with Demian, the owner, who told us the story of the pizzeria and how he comes to create such unique pies. We were the only ones in the restaurant (early dinner) and he recognized us from our Instagram! We finished this meal with some of the homemade gelato. We would never have thought that sourdough gelato would be good, but we highly recommend it!

2. Mr. Bruno’s, Lyndhurst, NJ

We’ve been meaning to try out some more pizza found in our home state of New Jersey, so we stopped at two pizza places not too far off of our commute home for dinner one evening.

We ended up testing out Mr. Bruno’s, which was in a strip mall in Lyndhurst, NJ as our first stop. We ordered two Sicilian slices and sat and ate them quickly at the bar.

The plain cheese slices didn’t look so appetizing, but these Sicilian slices were surprisingly good. The sauce was excellent and we liked the more tomato pie-like slice without the heavy dose of mozzarella. The grated cheese on top was just enough cheese for us. We were also pretty excited to see that they sell the sauce there in jars!

3. Bruno’s Pizza, Clifton, NJ

Our second stop after Mr. Bruno’s was Bruno’s Pizza, not too far away in Clifton, NJ. It was similar to Mr. Bruno’s in that it was also located in a strip mall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like at Mr. Bruno’s, we also ordered the Sicilian tomato slice here. It was also a pretty decent tomato slice. They only have two types of slices here, round and square, and that is all that they serve, so you expect that the slices are good.

When we come down to the comparison of the two, we have to give the slight edge to Mr. Bruno’s, because the sauce there was better. On a tomato pie, it is really the sauce that counts. The slice at Bruno’s had more oregano on the top, which did give it a little something extra though. If we had to pick, Mr. Bruno’s would also win out in the crust category, although that would be a close call.

Overall, our favorite Bruno’s was Bruno, in Manhattan. But we were very happy that our Bruno quest helped us find some solid tomato Sicilian slices on our way home in NJ!

#69 Caserta Pizzeria

September 23rd, 2017

Providence, RI

This weekend we went to another pizza place from the 101 list from 2016. I know, it has been a while since we’ve crossed another pizza off of the list! Now that the 2017 list is due out any day now, we thought that we should try to go to some of the remaining ones from 2016. We took the opportunity of a free weekend to drive out to Rhode Island and go to Caserta Pizzeria in Providence.

We parked in Federal Hill in Providence, and spent a little time walking around Little Italy. Caserta Pizzeria is tucked back from the main street, where it has been for the last 60+ years.

The pizza is Sicilian style, but you can’t get slices here. You can order a small pizza (which is what we did), which comes in a circular shape cut into 6 slices. Or, you can go for the large pizza, which has 12 traditional rectangular slices. We really wanted to order one of the large pizzas, but we knew that we wouldn’t have been able to eat it all, even with our big pizza appetites.

We ended up ordering the small pizza with cheese. They have some toppings here too, but we wanted to go with the traditional. The crust on the pizza is doughy, but sturdy. It holds up to the massive amount of cheese that was loaded on top of the pie. There was a decent amount of sauce, too, but the ratio was heavy on the cheese. The cheese also left a crispy crust around the outside of the pie, similar to the deep dish pizza at Pequod’s.

If you come here, don’t be expecting a lot from this pizza place. The pizza itself is good, but nothing spectacular. It does have a serious following of locals, though. In our opinion, it was heavy on the cheese and grease. They don’t serve many toppings and prefer to stick with the classics: pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, and anchovies.

Caserta’s is also famous for their “Wimpy Skippy”, which is a pie (more like a calzone) loaded with spinach, mozzarella, and pepperoni. We didn’t think that this qualified exactly  as pizza, so we went with the traditional pizza instead. “Wimpy” and “Skippy” were actually real people who used to make this in their free time at the restaurant, and one day the owner made it a special and it stuck.

There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Federal Hill, many that are newer looking and have fun happy hour menus. Some look like they also serve pizza. We think this one made it to the list because it is one of the originals. If we were to come back, we’d probably skip this one in favor of Providence Coal Fired Pizza. But if a good, thick, cheesy, Sicilian is your favorite slice, you should make a trip up to Providence.

To visit:

Caserta Pizzeria
121 Spruce Street
Providence, RI 02903

 

 

#9 Coalfire Pizza

May 27th, 2016

Chicago, IL

We weren’t expecting a non-deep dish pie from Chicago to make it into the Top 10 on the Daily Meal list, but Coalfire Pizza came in at #9. After a day of tourist-ing around town, we walked to the West Town location, where we grabbed a cozy seat right by the window.

We had a hard time choosing which pizza to try here because they all sounded so good. We went with the lasagna pie with Berkshire sausage, which came with these amazing clumps of ricotta on top. We also split a nice salad to start.

As we started to eat, we looked out the front window, and we saw the owner of the restaurant, Dave Bonomi, waving at us and holding up his phone, with our Instagram on his home screen. This was our second time being recognized, and since we only had about 50 followers at that point, we were really excited!

After he said a quick “hi”, Dave left us to finish our pizza, and then also waited while we had some dessert. When we were finally full, he grabbed us and asked if we wanted a quick tour of the restaurant. OF COURSE WE DID.

We felt so lucky to be able to listen to Dave talk about pizza because he was so passionate about it. His pizzas are slightly different than any style that we’ve had. As the name suggests, he uses a coal oven, so the pizza tastes slightly like a New Haven-style, with a good bottom char, but the crust is fluffier and more similar to a Neapolitan, although bigger. We got to check out the coal oven ourselves, and we also saw where Dave stacks the coal that he uses to fuel it. Not going to lie, but coal looks like a mess.

Dave also took us up to the roof of the restaurant, which gave us a great view of downtown Chicago. He told us a bit about the history of the area and the pizza scene in Chicago. He also mentioned a few Chicago classic pizzas that weren’t on our list (although we’ve noticed that a few of these have now made it on to the 2016 list, which means we need to take another trip back to Chicago ASAP).

This was probably our most memorable pizza visit of the whole road trip. Mainly because we got recognized, but also because we got to talk about different styles of pizza and different pizzerias with someone else who knew EVERYONE in the business. We learned so much about pizza and the value of really good ingredients. (Dave gets all of his ingredients locally, where possible, which makes his prices go up, but we agree with him that the taste is totally worth it!)

We loved this pizza so much that when we went back to Chicago last fall, we stopped in again!

In any case, the pizza is awesome here, and the owner is even more awesome. We definitely could see why it ranks higher than all those deep dish pizzas, and how it made it into the Daily Meal’s Top 10.

To visit:

Coalfire Pizza
1321 W Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642

 

#68 Pizzeria Uno

May 27th, 2016

Chicago, IL

If you are from the East Coast and have tried Deep Dish pizza, you probably tried it at Uno’s Pizzeria and Grill. We’ve all seen and eaten at the chain restaurant, I’m sure. I don’t think that I ever tried the Deep Dish there, but I’ve certainly tried their thin crust pizza and also that cookie deep dish dessert.

 You probably also know that the original Uno’s was started in Chicago, in 1943. It claims to have originated the “Deep Dish” pizza, and it also claims to have kept the same recipe for the last 75 years. The founders, once realizing the success of Pizzeria Uno, opened a second pizzeria right on the opposite street corner, Pizzeria Due. Today, they are the only two restaurants in the Uno’s Pizzeria chain that don’t have to adhere to the chain restaurant menu.

That means that you won’t find chicken entrées or burgers at the original Uno’s. You’ll only find pizza, and a small selection of pasta and salads (but really, who would come here for the salad?).

Additionally, while the chain may have options of thin crust pizza or “flatbreads”, at the original Uno’s you can only get deep dish. Most people will go for the “Numero Uno”, the most popular pizza, which has sausage and pepperoni, as well as mushrooms and peppers, but we were feeling like we should go a little bit lighter and just went with some veggie toppings. To be honest, though, I’m not sure that it is really possible to go “light” with a deep dish pizza. (And yes, I went on a 10 mile run the morning before I ate this.)

The crust on this was also very different from the crusts at Pequod’s and Gino’s East. It doesn’t have the crusted cheese on the outside, or the cornmeal taste. Instead, it is like a buttery, thick, piece of toast. It was actually a bit on the bland side, but you don’t notice anything missing when the pizza itself is laden with cheese and tomato sauce. This was probably our second favorite deep dish of the trip, but we can see why the locals avoid coming here. The place is PACKED with tourists.

Also, just for your information, they do serve the deep dish cookie at the original locations. If your stomach can handle it.

And to think – the original founders of Pizzeria Uno wanted to start up a Mexican restaurant instead…

 

To visit:

Pizzeria Uno
29 East Ohio
Chicago IL 60611

Lately around Brooklyn…

Earlier this month, I mentioned some pizzas that we’ve been enjoying around New York City. We’ve been hitting these on our lunch breaks and as after-work dinner dates. It gives us an excuse to get around the city and into areas that we haven’t otherwise been able to explore. Today, I’ll tell you about our most recent adventures around Brooklyn, which makes some of the best pizza in the city.

May 19th
Luigi’s Pizza

We went to a pizza panel at the Brooklyn Brainery last year, and Luigi (owner of Luigi’s Pizza) was one of the panelists. We knew that we had to check out his pizza, but we were deep in the middle of the Daily Meal list and so it took us until this past May to finally get around to going. We tried a variety of slices here and agreed that the fresh mozzarella slice is one of the best. These are classic slices, although we are more partial to some of the other slice joints around Brooklyn, and it wouldn’t be our first pick.

 

Also: you should note that there is ANOTHER Luigi’s Pizza on 5th Ave in Brooklyn. It is farther south than the *real* Luigi’s. Google brought us there first (thanks, Google!) and we quickly realized that we were in the wrong place. Although, that pizza didn’t look half bad either.

August 23rd
Fornino

If you are looking for a Neapolitan-style pizza, and you have already been to Roberta’s, Motorino, and Pizza Moto, you may want to check out Fornino. We went to the Williamsburg location, but they also have two other locations in Brooklyn. The feel of the restaurant is a lot like Kesté’s new Wall Street location – clean, open, and slightly rustic. The pizzas were similar also, with a nice doughy crust, interesting topping combinations, and really fresh ingredients.

We tried a Genovese pizza with pesto and fresh cherry tomatoes, and also one with sausage and artichoke. I liked these a tad more than the pizzas at Kesté, but Eric was more torn between the two.

August 16th
Best Pizza

Best Pizza has a big name to live up to. It is off the path in Williamsburg, and sells slices and whole pies. We took the opportunity to try every slice that they had available. Our favorite slices were the grandma slice (Eric LOVED the sauce on this one) and the white slice, but they make a solid cheese slice too. Smaller slices than some of the others around town, but it’s a contender for one of the best slices in Brooklyn.

 

 

August 30th
Krispy Pizza

If you find yourself all the way down in Dyker Heights, you’ve got a few options for pizza. One is J&V Pizza, as previously mentioned, but now we’ve also discovered a couple more for you. Krispy Pizza is just a little bit farther away, but serves pretty good slices. It also has a solid following of fans, and is a bit of a “hidden gem”. They have a Grandpa slice, which is like the more traditional Grandma, but in triangle form. We like it more than the Grandma because there is more of it! They also make a decent square slice. I want to go back to get their salad pizza, which had chicken and a drizzle of balsamic.

I know that salad pizza has a lot of haters, but sometimes you need a healthy(er) option.

 

DaVinci Pizzeria

We actually went to Krispy Pizza and DaVinci Pizzeria on the same day. We don’t take the N train too often, and we saw that these were within walking distance of each other.  

We got a marinara slice, another Sicilian, and a regular cheese slice here. We figured we do a real comparison for you. The Sicilian here was better than at Krispy, but the Grandpa slice at Krispy was better than the cheese slice here. So I guess it depends what you are in the mood for. The marinara slice was really good here, too. It is hard to find a good tomato pie-like slice outside of NJ/Philly, but just look at that amount of sauce! The owner here was really friendly, too, and next time we’ll have to stay longer to chat.

#99 Piece

May 26th, 2016

Chicago, IL

We spent our second day in Chicago riding rented bikes around the Lakefront Trail. We had to make sure to have room for our second pizza of the day, and we were pretty full from that deep dish at Gino’s East.

Luckily, our second pizza of the day was at Piece, which serves New Haven style pizzas!

We were so surprised to see a New Haven style pizza outside of Connecticut! Even better, the pizzas at Piece actually look like New Haven pizza. They are the same oblong shape and are served on metal trays. Their “Traditional” pizza comes with thin crust, red sauce, and no mozz, so it is pretty much the COMPLETE opposite of a deep dish. The restaurant itself reminds us a little bit of BAR in New Haven. It has the same open space and the same brewery-type feel. Both places have an excellent selection of beers, some of which are produced in-house.

As it turns out, the restaurant was started by a native New Haven-er (New Haven-ite?) back in 1999. They learned how to make pies from someone who worked at Sally’s. This place is legit.

The one difference between Piece and a real New Haven pie is how it is cooked. Piece uses a rotating gas oven instead of the coal ovens found around New Haven. This was done partly for environmental reasons, but also because the owner originally worked making bagels, and he had some high quality gas ovens already available. So, you don’t get the really awesome char at Piece that you do at the New Haven greats.

The pizza is good though, and so is the beer. We got a pie with banana peppers (as recommended) and spinach (no cheese). The banana peppers are unique – we’ve never seen them on a New Haven pie before. We liked the addition. The crust is a little more firm than the crust at Pepe’s or Sally’s, so it holds the toppings nicely. We polished off a medium size pie between the two of us easily.

They have mashed potatoes listed as a premium topping, but I wonder how many people order that here? Only someone who has tried it in New Haven, probably. I think they should advertise that more. Same with the clams. I can’t imagine their clam pie living up to the clam at Pepe’s, but they should add this to their main menu if they really wanted to be authentic.

The place was pretty empty when we showed up for dinner, but we had to make it an early night because we were heading to a comedy show. We can see this place being a giant pizza party on the weekend, with the extensive bar and the open atmosphere. We’re just so glad to see New Haven pizza spreading around the country!

To visit:

Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
1927 W. North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

#17 Gino’s East

May 26th, 2016

Chicago, IL

After a morning run to burn off some of that pizza from Pequod’s, we made our way downtown for our second pizza stop in Chicago, at Gino’s East. We were excited to try our second deep dish! We’d heard that the lines can get quite long here too, because it is one of the more tourist-y deep dish pizzerias, so we made sure to show up right before the doors opened. The restaurant itself is really unique because the bars, seats, and walls are all covered in graffiti from customers. It was really cool to look at, especially during the long wait for the pizza to come out (which took about an hour). We are really not used to having to wait so long for our pizza. We can see why so many people took to drawing on the walls.

Gino’s East was opened back in 1966, and they have been serving their signature deep dish pizzas the same way ever since.  The secret crust recipe is topped with mozzarella, toppings (we went with spinach and tomato), and then a tangy sauce, and is slowly baked in cast-iron pans. The sauce goes on top so that the cheese doesn’t burn! We didn’t think that the sauce OR the crust was as good as Pequod’s, but I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people in Chicago that disagree with us.

I mentioned the crust at Pequods in my last post, and I’m going to mention the crust of the deep dish here as well because I think that it is interesting to compare all of the different styles. This crust recipe was developed by the same woman who developed the crust at the original Pizzeria Uno (post to come!). The crust at Gino’s East is thick, and yellow-colored (probably food coloring…). Some people speculate that it is made of cornmeal, but that wouldn’t really make a crust that holds up to so many toppings.  More likely, it is a combination of cornmeal and corn oil. It actually tastes kind of like a thick biscuit instead of a dough.

If you want to know anything else about the recipe for the crust or the sauce, you are out of luck.The restaurant owners are notoriously secretive about what ingredients are used.

 

Instead, you’ll have to check out one of their locations around the US (in Texas, Arizona, and Wisconsin, as well as several locations around Chicago). OR you could get their pizza delivered to you! And while you are ordering yourself one, please send us one too.

 

To visit:
Gino’s East
162 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611

#15 Pequod’s

May 25th, 2016

Chicago, IL

The next stop on our Pizza Road Trip was Chicago. Since there were so many pizza places on the Daily Meal list that were in Chicago, we planned to stay in town for several days. We had a cute Airbnb in West Town, some friends to see, and lots to do and see in between eating ALL THE PIZZA. It was our first time in Chicago and we didn’t want to waste a minute!

We were a little surprised when we saw that all of the Chicago pizzas on the Daily Meal list weren’t deep dish! After hearing how filling a deep dish pizza could be, we strategically planned so that we only were eating one deep dish per day. On our first night in town, we decided to try our first deep dish while also meeting up with a friend from high school for dinner.

We chose our first deep dish to be at Pequod’s.  Knowing that we were in for a big meal, I talked Eric into walking to the restaurant from our Airbnb, which was only about 2.5 miles or so. Well, about 15 minutes into our walk it started downpouring.  We were going to be late for dinner if we stopped, so we just kept walking with our one, useless, umbrella.

We were soaked by the time we got to Pequod’s, but at least we weren’t late! We had about a 45 minute wait to dry off before we were even seated, but we did get to stand indoors. Eventually, the three of us got a booth and we ordered a deep dish pie with spinach and onions. It was clear why there was such a long wait to be seated – deep dish pizzas take FOREVER to cook. We were probably waiting another 45 minutes for this pizza to come out of the oven.

I’ll get more into some details of the differences between deep dish pizza styles in the next posts, but I have to mention the crust on this pizza. This is what really makes Pequod’s deep dish stand out from some of the others. You can see in the picture above that the crust looks almost burnt. It doesn’t taste burnt, though, it tastes delicious. That crisp comes from extra cheese that is placed between the back of the pizza and the well-seasoned cast iron pans, which “caramelizes”. The bottom crust is dense and thick, and it makes for a wonderful base to the heavy amount of sauce. We were a little hesitant about the onions being cut so thick, but they actually complemented the sauce really well.

You have to eat this pizza with a knife and fork, as much as it pained us to do so. We had no problem finishing the whole pizza between the three of us, though. Whoever said that you would be full for hours after eating just one slice was definitely lying. Or they just hadn’t met people like us, with bottomless pizza stomachs.

I’m not sure if it was because we had to wait so long for it, or because we were so wet and tired, but we knew when we left Pequod’s that the other pizzas in Chicago had a lot to live up to. I think the wait is part of the experience here. It ended up being our favorite of all of the deep dish pies that we tried.

To visit:

Pequod’s
2207 N. Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

#91 Zaffiro’s

May 25th, 2016

Milwaukee, WI

Our last pizza stop in Milwaukee was one of the classics – Zaffiro’s. Zaffiro’s has been making pizza since the 1950’s, and it has a solid following in the city. It was predominately a bar when it opened, but it was able to expand into the shop next door in the 70’s and it has stayed in the same location ever since, with the same family as owners.

Again, this is Milwaukee-style pizza, and had a super thin cracker crust. The crust holds up to the cheese and toppings here, and there was plenty of both. There was more cheese on this pizza than there had been at Pizza Man, and the cheese layer was definitely thicker than the crust itself.

We ended up choosing to order the “EBF” or “Everything but Fish” pizza. It came with both pepperoni and sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and onions. Also, black olives, which we picked off. I guess we could have ordered it without olives, but we really don’t like to be difficult, and we already had requested that the meat stay on one side of the pizza.

So, the big question is obviously: which pizza did we like better? We both gave the slight edge to Pizza Man. Mainly because it felt fresher and had more unique topping combinations. If you are looking for the traditional pizza (with the Milwaukee-style crust), then Zaffiro’s is where you should go.

There are now offshoots of Zaffiro’s pizza around Wisconsin and neighboring states. Similar to the abundance of Patsy’s around NYC, these seem to be related somehow to the original and they bake similarly-styled pizzas. However, they also have a different website from the original Zaffiro’s that we went to. We’d be interested to see how the other Zaffiro’s Pizzeria & Bar compares.

If anyone is really up for a challenge, those alternate Zaffiro’s have a good one: the “Big Z” challenge.  (Or at least this was going on last year – they may have discontinued it by now). I think that Eric and I could have finished 4 square feet of pizza, especially with that thin crust. But that would have had to be its own road trip.

Also, according to this article, the average person eats 46 pieces of pizza per year. Um, I think we are wayyy past that….

To visit:

Zaffiro’s
1724 North Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202

#90 Pizza Man

May 24th, 2016

Milwaukee, WI

After lunch in Minneapolis, we hopped in the car again for the 5 1/2 hour drive over to Wisconsin. We only had to make one stop on the way into Wisconsin – for cheese, of course! We pulled in to town just in time for dinner.

The first stop on our pizza list in Milwaukee was Pizza Man. We were still a little full from the great pizzas at Pizzeria Lola, so we were glad to see that these were thin crust pies. We ended up splitting the Avantgardener pizza, which was topped with eggplant, ricotta, and peppers, and also a brussels sprouts salad.

If we lived in Milwaukee, this would be on our most-visited restaurant list. The pizza is good, but we’d also go for the wine list and to sit outside on the second floor deck. We obviously didn’t go to the pre-2010 location that was destroyed in a fire, but we love what they’ve done with the new restaurant since they re-opened in 2013. Especially the giant wine bottle chandelier that we wish we could recreate in our house.

This thin crust-style pizza is called “Milwaukee-style”, unsurprisingly. Over here on the East coast, we rarely see pizzas cut into squares like this. In the Midwest, this is really a thing.

We are both history dorks (although me more so than Eric), so of course I needed to look up why and how this cracker-thin crust started. As it turns out, pizza first came to Milwaukee in 1945, at a restaurant called the Caradaro Club. The two owners decided to combine the round, Neapolitan style and the square, Sicilian style, and this is what they came up with. It is easier to eat while drinking beers than slices, and so this style of cutting is also known as a “tavern cut”. You can read more about this here, if you are interested.

Milwaukee-style pizza also typically has a sweet sauce that is spread just so that it covers the crust. It is usually, but not always, topped with shredded mozzarella cheese. It was a little surprising how many pizzas were cheese-less, considering Wisconsin is known as the Dairy State. The crust reminded us a little bit of Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis, or Tappo Thin Crust in NYC, although neither of those is cut “tavern style”. The thin crust was really appreciated by our waistlines, because this was pizza #5 in three days (and there was plenty more to come).

We followed up our pizza dinner with a quick tour of some of Milwaukee’s breweries. We really wanted to try this beer, but after a bit of Google searching, we realized that the brewery was closed. We went to Lakefront Brewery, though, and also found ourselves in the Sugar Maple bar, which had an excellent selection of beers on tap.

 

To visit:

Pizza Man
2597 N Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211