Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Tucci’s Fire N Coal Pizza, Boca Raton FL

(Spoiler) The brilliant pie at Tucci's. Click any pic to enlarge
It was probably 20 years ago, on vacation near Disney in Florida.  We were staying at a condo off site and we ordered a pizza “with everything.”  I didn’t know a lot about pizza then, but I knew that I loved DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies and Joe’s Tomato Pies (since closed) in Trenton NJ for their thin, crisp, crust. Well, this Orlando takeout pizza was everything that pizza should not be. The medium-thick crust was soft, floppy, and had the character of white bread (much like that of the big chains).

To compound the sin, the pizzamaker attempted to compensate for the lousy crust and cheap components by putting on a mountain of toppings. What we got was bad antipasto, piled onto a big round loaf of white bread, which was soon saturated with vegetable juice and sausage grease. It was 20 years ago, and it remains wretchedly vivid.
This "everything" slice at Costco is not too different from the Orlando disaster pie

I recount this because for most of the past 20 years, I held the bias that Florida pizza meant bad pizza. I mean, what could they know about real pizza that far from Trenton?

But now (with thanks to Al Gore), we have the interwebs and that permitted me to discover (and see) truly superb pizza, all across America. Granted, 95% of all pizza is just as bad as that Florida disaster, but destination pie can be had in Phoenix, California, Pennsylvania, Chicago, and probably all 50 states (Idaho, I wanna hear from you). Because MORR (my old Rutgers roommate) is now living in Boca Raton and graciously keeps inviting me and EPBAC (Eats Pizza But Avoids Cheese) to visit, I’ve had the chance to explore the coal-fired pizza revolution taking place there, and it has dispelled all of my rash conclusions about pizza in Florida.
PQ and EPBAC chillin' in Boca

On our visit one year ago, we went first to Nick’s New Haven Style Apizza (reviewed HERE) and it was fabulous. The next night, we spent a beautiful evening al fresco enjoying Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza (reviewed HERE) and it was almost as good. I was delighted to discover that it’s a small chain and the Wayne PA branch is booming. We had Tucci’s Fire N Coal Pizza on our list, but didn’t get there.  Hence, it became our primary destination for our January, 2013 visit to Boca.

The look and feel of Tucci’s is somewhere between the hipster trendiness of Nick’s and that of the standard neighborhood pizza joint. The inside was attractive but noisy and hot, so we opted for one of the few outside tables, and it was a good choice.

We ordered a big “Italian Salad” and a large pie with half sausage (my preferred topping) and half pepperoni (EPBAC’s choice). A lesson that started 20 years ago and which I mostly follow today is to avoid vegetable toppings – they frequently add too much weight and moisture to a pie, and threaten the crunch and integrity of the crust.

Service was pleasant, efficient, and attentive without interfering with our meal or conversation.

While we waited for the food, I enjoyed a marvelous craft Belgian-style  amber beer for six bucks by “Monk in the Trunk” of Jupiter, FL.  I’m partial to Belgian-style, but this was one of the best I’ve ever had.  Jammed with flavor, but smooth; not bitter and overhopped like too many boutique beers are.
No country for old men?  Bah!

The salad was not complex, but it was excellent. A nice mix of crisp greens, some Gorgonzola, chick peas, pepperoncini, purple onion, kalamata olives, and  tomato in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
A slice with the sausage

The pie was good sized and it appeared well done (I like that).

There was good char on the cornicione and underside of the crust, which was a good hybrid of the Trenton/New Haven thin-crisp style and Neapolitan with some give and some puffiness. The crust had great flavor and was a proper foundation for a great pie.
Pepperoni slice

EPBAC secures a shot of the underside
The toppings were mostly spot-on. The sauce was bright, tangy, and in harmony. Not too salty, sweet, herbal, or “cooked.” The cheese was fresh mozzarella and had more flavor than typical. The pepperoni was pretty conventional, but tasty enough. The sausage had good flavor, but I'm not fond of sliced sausage; the big fat chunks (such as you get at DeLorenzo's, now of Robbinsville NJ) set the standard.
Gorgeous char on the underside

The notable defect of this pie is that there was a lot of the excellent sauce and cheese. Too much, in fact, for the somewhat delicate crust to support.  Hence, the center 1/3 of each slice had not only tip sag, but it was wet. Soggy wet. Excellent flavor, but the texture was destroyed.
Beautiful except the wet center

That’s a major quibble, but the remaining 2/3 of each slice was close to perfect. Tucci’s is a place that puts high value on quality ingredients in the pie (and heck, throughout the entire menu) and they also emphasize a premium cooking technique. If they cut back on the volume of sauce and cheese in the pie center, this would be close to perfect pizza.
EPBAC approves

We’re going to award 8 points for ambiance, 8 for service, 7 for the crust (coulda been a 9+), 9 for the cheese, and 9 for the sauce.  Overall, an 8.5 rating.  This is great pizza and any town should be thrilled to have just one great pie joint. Boca has at least three, and probably four (will know for certain after we get to visit Scuola Vecchia in nearby Delray Beach).

Three wonderful, destination pizzas in Boca. They are very close in quality, but we’ll rank them (for now) Nicks, then Anthony’s, then Tucci’s. MORR and EPBAC concurred. If you go to Boca and don’t eat pizza, you are missing a treat.

Tucci's Fire N Coal Pizza on Urbanspoon


  1. The pizza in your photos looks amazing. There are only a handful of places that can make such a work of art up like that up here in NEPA. Of course, we are famous for a much different kind of "tray" up here! Great post, makes me wish I was in Florida.

  2. NEPA: Yes! Even though this pie came in 3rd place in Boca, it rocks and would be the best is most towns. Thanks