Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Massimo's, Hamilton (Trenton) NJ

According to me, America's very best pizza is found in Trenton NJ: DeLorenzo's, Hudson St (UPDATE: DeLorenzo's closed the Trenton location, but you can still get it in Robbinsville). Almost everything else in the region is pedestrian pie. But when I read that Massimo's was following strict pizza guidelines from Naples, I decided to try it.

They claim to be "the first pizzeria to have a wood burning brick oven in Mercer County, NJ. Massimo's is also the first pizzeria in Mercer County to be honored with the prestigious and distinct Certification of True Authentic Neopolitan Pizza from the highly coveted VPN Association in Naples." They have three locations, including Princeton and Robbinsville. 

A trusted local pizza enthusiast tells me that they used to be the entirely unremarkable. "I remember them as a kid when they called themselves 'Pizza Plaza’ – complete with formica booths and a back lit menu board." I went with FEEP (fellow enthusiast for eating pizza) Jr. to the Hamilton location on Father's Day. It was not crowded around 5pm. We were greeted and seated promptly and courteously. (Never take that for granted!)

Let me say that there are three kinds of pizza: 1) wonderful stuff with a thin and crisp crust, such as a true Trenton tomato pie like DeLorenzo's; 2) wonderful stuff with a puffy charred crust, more chewy than crispy but full of flavor (Neapolitan style); and 3) all the other soft and spongy Sysco stuff that really is not worth the calories. Well, I am happy to say that Massimo's is executing the Neapolitan style almost perfectly! This is destination pizza, and they can stand along side DeLorenzo's (review HERE) and Papa's (review HERE)as Trenton's Top Three (though they are clearly #3 in that group). 

We tried two pies -- the "extra" with red sauce and fresh mozzarella, and the "bianca al prosciutto" with fior di latte cheese, prosciutto, and fresh arugula. Both had wonderful flavor and texture, but the sauceless pie was more successful. The arugula and the prosciutto were both added after the pie was cooked, and that's smart. However, I do wish that both toppings had been chopped finer so that they might better adhere to the cheese. They were floating a tad too loosely on top. Still, this pie scores an 8.5.

The regular margherita comes with scant cheese, so we chose the "extra" pie which included bufalo mozzarella. I feel the cheese was a tad plastic-y, probably inadequately melted in. On this pie, the excellent sauce was too much and too wet and the crust quickly became soggy. They need to work on that. About 50% of the crust was as wet as if we had dunked it in our brewed ice tea. This pie has potential to be a 9, but the soggy crust and undercooked cheese take it down to a 7.

We had "Nonna's meatballs" as an appetizer and we loved the red sauce. Bright, fresh, snappy.

Bottom line, this is superb pizza that you could proudly serve in New York, New Haven, Rome, or Naples. They do need to work on the soggy crust issue, but we should be grateful indeed that somebody is working hard to make authentic pizza.

Recently, I suggested that pizza joints serving other foods fail at everything. Not Massino's. They are the exception that proves that rule.

Overall, Massimo's gets an 8. Fix the small problems, and you're in 9+ territory. Please open a branch in West Chester PA!

Massimo's Ristorante Caffe on Urbanspoon

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