As a New Jersey native (unlike most of the cast of Jersey Shore), I’m a snob. A pizza snob, that is. Jersey pizza isn’t exactly the same as the legendary NYC pizza, but it’s pretty damn close. They say the secret in the pizza I grew up on is twofold – the Hudson River water and the ovens. There’s something in the chemical makeup of the water that results in the perfect dough that cooks up just right. As for the ovens, they’re in use for decades, if not longer, and contribute to the pizza baking to perfection.
Colorado water, which may brew good beer, just doesn’t make the same dough. And Colorado just doesn’t have the history if Italians who’ve been living here for generations. Those with successful pizzerias in the northeast find their pizza just isn’t the same here, even if made the exact same way. The pizza I want is thin crust, with a sauce that’s not too sweet or too chunky, the right proportion of mozzarella (this is gated by the amount of grease on the slice), a good sprinkling of oregano. The pizza bakes to a nice golden brown without burning the bottom. Perfection.
I’ve been on a mission to find good pizza. I’m not expecting the pizza I can get back east, but something close enough. Cozzolla’s isn’t bad. It’s not Jersey pizza, but it’s not bad. Same for Mama Roni’s. We eat it, we don’t complain too much. When we tried Positano’s, I had high hopes. Online reviews said things like “just like Jersey pizza!” And sadly, they were right. Unfortunately it was not what I’d call good Jersey pizza.
See, I went to college in central NJ. NJ has a bit of a split personality. The northern half of the state, from around New Brunswick up, is considered North Jersey. To us, “the city” means New York City. We know the difference between upstate NY and the southern part of the state. The Poconos is a reasonable drive away and Atlantic City is an overnight trip. We are Mets or Yankees, Giants or Jets fans. And we have good pizza. South Jersey is anything south of Cherry Hill or thereabouts. “The city” is Philly. They follow the Phillies and the Eagles. The shore is home to many of them. And they have crappy pizza. I’m guessing the difference there is the water, as there’s definitely no shortage of Italians in that part of the state. But they just must not be on the Hudson River water system.
The point of that little aside is that Positano’s pizza reminded me of what I ate in college. Inferior sauce, inadequate amounts of cheese, overcooked crust. It felt like home, but not how I want home to feel. So imagine my surprise when I tried Pulcinella, owned by the same people that own Positano’s. We went to the Drake & Shields location after a baseball game, picking the restaurant mainly because of its proximity to the ball field. The pizza was pretty good! Still not quite Jersey pizza – it’s that darn water – but still good. Good sauce, the right amount of cheese, a nice layer of grease. I was pleasantly surprised.
Now I’ll admit we had the pizza ordered in for a birthday party, and it wasn’t quite as good. After reading reviews I wonder if our delivery came from the other location, as it appears it has gone downhill since moving. It could also just be the consequence of delivery. My only complaint is the cost, it’s a bit pricey compared to other options.
There are other places in town I still need to try. I’ve been told Uncle’s and Pizza Casbah are both good. We’ll just have to see about that.