Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: La Sicilia (Belleville NJ)

About a year ago, Slice (the pizza blog) writer Tim Kang raved about the “Palermo” pizza he had at La Sicilia in Belleville, NJ.  LINK: La Sicilia Insanely Great Pizza.html 

That was all the motivation I needed to give it a try on a recent journey to north Jersey.

La Sicilia is a narrow and deep restaurant on Washington Avenue. I had called ahead for my Palermo pie as a takeout order. It was ready on my arrival and the counter man was pleasant. I was facing a two hour drive home with this pie, and I placed it in the trunk. Even from that remote location, the glorious aroma of the tomato sauce filled the cabin, tormenting me for my drive home.
Click any pic to enlarge

Later that evening, when it was time to re-heat the pie, I took it from the box and discovered that it is NOT pizza, but tomato pie. Not Trenton-style pizza for which “tomato pie” is just another name, but Conshohocken-style tomato pie, which is crust and sauce with, at most, a sprinkling of aged cheese. Examples include Conshy Bakery and Tony Roni’s in the Philly area, and L&B in Brooklyn.

I left some slices unadulterated. On others, I added some diced soppressata. On others, I added sharp provolone and some Romano Locatelli cheese.

La Sicilia Pizza & Cafe on Urbanspoon

I found that the crust is very good, but not great. It had a very satisfying crispness to it, but it was not magical like a good Trenton style pie, a classic Neapolitan, or even a L&B tomato pie.
Prior to re-heating

Kang had reported that the Palermo pie “features a … square crust foundation topped with thin slices of fresh mozzarella” but I could not discern any  mozzarella under the sauce, and I'm glad. Cheese needs to be on top to get browned for maximum flavor and texture.
Re-heated with additions

The tomato sauce, which is mostly chunks, was as delicious as any I can remember. Such balance, such vibrant flavors! This is not a pizza or a granma pie; it is a tomato pie and a wonderful one. The crust was simply a palette, and a crisply durable one, to convey this awesome red tomato topping. I sat in a lot of crappy traffic to get this pie and I'm VERY glad I did. Usually, tomato pie is improved by the addition of some cheese, but this time I preferred the slices that had none.
Crispy but not much char

We did not finish the pie, and I had three glorious slices a few days later. The crust held up, and returned again to an ideal crisping upon reheating.  Kang reported that the Palermo was $13; it is now $16 and still a wonderful bargain. It’s hard to imagine a tastier tomato sauce. Let’s give the crust a 7 and the sauce a perfect 10.  Overall, this pie comes in at 8.75. Loved it a lot!


  1. Hey, I'm pretty sure you've been driving way too far for tomato pie. The Conshy style is available right here in West Chester. Now I steered you in the right direction with Iron Hill's pies, so you should check out Carlino's pies next.They're on Market St. in West Chester. You can even order a Margarita Tomato Pie. But it's the sauce that I love.Chunky and studded with garlic, so good. By the way, they have round Neapolitan pies too.All done in a brick oven. Round pies come in a wheat crust too. Stop sleeping on these and let's get a review. While I'm recommending tomato pies, check out Iannelli's in South Philly @ 1155 E. Passyunk Ave., near Pat's and Geno's steaks, and Cacia's Bakery, at 1526 West Ritner Street Philadelphia, PA 19145
    (215) 334-1340. Then compare to Corropolese Bakery in Norristown (the one everyone raves about) Or Conshohockrn Bakery's pies. I think you'll agree these are really, really good without driving 2+ hours away (although I understand the need to check 'em out)

  2. Lou,
    You are the first person to accuse me of not eating enough pizza! Carlino's is on my list. For the record, I did not go to Belleville just for the tomato pie -- I simply had an opportunity to swing by because I had a trip to Jersey City. I have had both Conshy Bakery and Corropolese (the latter is reviewed on this blog). Thanks for the notes and tips. Main Line magazine just gave a "Best of" to American Pie in WC. Have you had it?

  3. CCPG,
    Glad to hear Carlino's is on your list. It's basically an Italian Market... they have it all!, including a small sit down area and outdoor seating.Order your pies and walk around while you wait (call ahead for tomato pie)and check out all the goodness.I've had "American Pie" pizza. Not gonna recommend though. I had one within the year and it doesn't even rank in West Chester's best, which in no particular order goes:
    Benny's Pizza on Church St.
    Limoncello on Walnut St.
    Iron Hill
    Saucey (get it well done) on Market St / High St.
    Carlino's on Market St.

    I think America's Pie gets accolades because they have 'good looking, nice sounding' specialty pies. But I got a plain... not good tasting, probably what you'd call BAR Pizza. But see for your self, what do I know?