Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review: Delorenzo's Tomato Pies, Robbinsville NJ

It was in 1980 when I first discovered DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies in Trenton, NJ.  At the time, I had been without a decent piece of pizza for five years or more, ever since the closing of Rosa's in Riverside, NJ. Most of the pizza joints in South and Central Jersey were already using mass-sourced ingredients to make big, floppy, greasy, cheesy pizzas that were big on calories and short on flavor. Until the pizza renaissance that has taken shape in just the last few years, a good pie was hard to find.
My last pie from Hudson Street. Click any pic to enlarge

DeLorenzo's instantly became my favorite on that first 1980 visit, and remained there even as I sampled destination pizza in New Haven, Chicago, Rome, cities across America, and all five boroughs of New York. This little oasis on Hudson Street was my go-to pie for the years I lived in Trenton and then in nearby Yardley PA. Even after moving west to Chester County, I was able to visit DeLorenzo's on Hudson street during their last week of operation at that location - full review here.
DeLorenzo's, Robbinsville

Before closing down the original location, DeLorenzo's opened a branch in Robbinsville, an expanding Trenton suburb, and now the Robbinsville location is the only place to get the real pie. A few years back, I secured a pie there for takeout and I found it to be the equal of the Hudson Street version. The space is perhaps double (or more) the size of Hudson Street, but it is wildly popular. We arrived at 4:45pm on a Saturday and faced a 45 minute wait for a table.
Pie prep area

The interior at Robbinsville is a handsome and comfortable space, but they did nothing to capture the ambiance of the Hudson Street location. That's probably a good thing, to keep the focus on the tomato pies and not on any other comparison to Hudson Street. And the focus surely remains the pies; the only menu expansion at this BYOB includes some creative salads and antipasti.
My pie companions

For our group of three, we did select a seasonal salad that included arugula, roasted fennel, tangerines, oil-cured olives, and a ball of creamy burrata mozzarella. We were unanimous that we loved the salad (you had me at roasted fennel) even though we'd prefer bufalo to the burrata.
Our seasonal salad

The pies are a screaming bargain for this artisan level; $12 for a small, and $15 for a large, and toppings only $1 each. We chose one pepperoni pie and one with sausage and garlic, and they arrived quickly.

First to our table was the pepperoni pie. It featured a thin and rigid crust, crushed tomatoes, a modest amount of cheese, and a covering of narrow-diameter pepperoni in thick slices. The pepperoni had a wonderfully spicy flavored that you'd never find in Hormel or other mass-produced meats.
Pepperoni pie

The crust matched my high DeLorenzo's expectations in terms of the basic crispy texture, the lovely golden color, the thin construction, the flavor, and its capacity to support the toppings with negligible tip sag. On this first pie (and not on the sausage/garlic pie), I did feel the crust was more dry than ideal. I'm not sure if it was lacking in moisture or oil, but it did little to detract from the overall experience.

Sausage has always been my choice for pizza topping, and especially at DeLorenzo's, which is the first place I discovered using big uneven chunks of genuine Italian sweet sausage. On this sausage and garlic pie, the flavor matched my memories of Hudson Street, but the chunks seemed a little smaller and uniform in size. Perhaps this is because the volume of pies being cranked out requires some greater degree of standardization?
The sausage and garlic pie

The garlic added a nice rich flavor dimension, and I'm pretty certain it was applied as slices of fresh garlic, and not the stuff that comes in a jar. Overall, I preferred this pie as it most closely matched my favorite pie of the last three decades; my dining partners both liked the pepperoni pie better.
Zero tip sag here!

When I first ate at Hudson Street in the early 80's, Gary Amico was the young family member taking over for the previous generation. Gary turned out one superb pie after another. It was his retirement that prompted the closing of the Trenton location. For all those years I ate at Hudson Street or got a pie for takeout, I saw mostly the same faces.
Beautiful bottom side

Here in Robbinsville, I saw a lot of very young men crafting pies and waiting tables -- I'm sure they weren't even born when I ate my first DeLorenzo tomato pie. I did see one Hudson Street veteran, Sam Amico - and with that link to the royal lineage, the magic of DeLorenzo's endures.

I've eaten a lot of superb pizza and tomato pies; and it would be great fun to have a side-by-side comparison of pies from Pepe's in New Haven, Gennaro's Tomato Pies and Tacconelli's in Philly, Di Fara in Brooklyn, Papa's Tomato Pies (now also moved from Trenton to Robbinsville), and DeLorenzo's. I could never bump DeLorenzo's from #1 in my heart and in my stomach without such a direct comparison.

DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies remains the holy grail of any pizza quest. The crust, the tomatoes, the cheese, the sausage -- all rate a 10. I don't see any room for improvement, other than perhaps a bit more olive oil on the crust.

Note: Great news for residents of Bucks County, PA - there are reports that the DeLorenzo owners are moving toward a new Pennsylvania location (Newtown) that they hinted about when Hudson Street was closing. Some zoning hurdles remain, according to this report
De Lorenzo's Tomato Pies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

1 comment:

  1. Plain pizza with extra tomatoes and garlic is a must here.