DeLorenzo’s May Be De Best

It was high time we got there.

When it comes to pizza, tensions run high in this state- and the Southern section is no exception. We’ve heard it all: from New Yorkers who swear there’s none worth eating in all of Jersey, to “bennies” who visit every summer that claim the boardwalk’s got the best, to those who turn up their nose at anything that isn’t “brick oven”. But out of all the claims, recommendations, and general ballyhoo, one name would keep coming up for us, over and over: De Lorenzo’s. You gotta try De Lorenzo’s.

De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies has been in business  since 1947- that’s a continuous 64 years of one family making pizza. The original location on Hudson Street in Trenton that “Chick” and Sophie made into an institution is still there -so old it’s grandfathered and, therefore, immune to the requirement of having a bathroom; but it still does good business . The shiny new Robbinsville location (with bathrooms), however, is frequently mobbed, with claims that not only is it the best pizza in Jersey hands-down, but maybe in the country.  One of the reasons, I would venture to guess, is that they do nothing else. Nada. A meatball Parm? Zip. A side of wings? Zilch. OK, they do indulge you in a salad, if you’re interested, and a soft drink to go with it. But that’s it, kids. All of the energy gets focused on the pies.

But, oh, what pies. “Tomato pies”. One of the secrets is in the sauce-or rather, the lack of it. The “sauce” is made on the pie as it cooks: a specific, but unnamed California (canned) tomato is crushed by hand, and garlic, herbs, and olive oil are added. The crust is a what I consider absolute perfection: thin, not crackery, crisp, but also chewy. We ordered one plain and one with sausage and onions-and for the first time in my life, I preferred the plain. By far. The shocker was when I learned that these babies were made in a -gasp- plain old gas pizza oven. I was formerly one of those above-mentioned brick oven snobs; while there was decent pizza to be had around these parts, the best was always found in North Jersey, out of a coal-fired brick oven. But in talking with Sam Amico, the grandson of  “Chick” who runs the Robbinsville location, the method of fuel doesn’t seem to matter. It’s the exact timing and temperature that dictates the pizza’s outcome, a skill that comes about by years of practice. He shared how his grandfather originally started with coal ovens, then switched to the more convenient gas ovens with a stone inside back in the mid-1950’s-and they haven’t changed a thing since. “I don’t know how the flavor gets in,” he commented, “it must be the ingredients.”

We did have a salad that day. Normally, I wouldn’t bother to comment much on it, but we were impressed. It was wonderful, simple, and seasonal (at the time it was Fall) : fresh greens, shaved high-quality prosciutto, artisan mozzarella, and gorgeous figs, dressed with a homemade vinaigrette. Who needs more than that?

So keep on arguing people. As for me, until I get to good old Napoli someday, De Lorenzo’s will be my one and only true love. For pizza, that is, John.

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7 thoughts on “DeLorenzo’s May Be De Best

  1. The old DiLorenzo’s in downtown Trenton was great as long as you didn’t mind searching the neighborhood for a parking place and no restrooms. Waiting in line outside in the cold had its drawbacks too. But it was worth it for that slice of heaven you knew was coming out of that kitchen. The place in Robbinsville is more civilized. You can get a salad of all things and there are restrooms. The tomato pies are just as heavenly, hot, delicious crispy and wonderful as the old place. They make their own sausage, none of that rabbit pellet stuff that tastes like mothballs you get everywhere else. The tomatoes are crushed by hand and the pepperoni is thick and delicious. If you are a true lover of pies then you must get a clams and anchovie pie. Take a bottle of red wine or some beer and a group of friends and you will never want a tomato pie anywhere else. Whatever you do don’t say the word pizza in DiLorenso’s. Its a Tomato Pie and they will give you the old sicilian stink eye if you call it pizza.

  2. ok, i guess you can group me in with those “coal fired snobs”. i would love to try this attempt with a gas oven. someday i’ll make it out on 195 to try this.
    have you ever tried the original lombardi’s pizza in the village? PHENOMENAL!!! no wonder people wait hours outside at any given hour for that pizza.
    now that this new yorker is living at the jersey shore, you know i’ve been searching for the perfect pie. i think i finally found it down here. we had the brick oven pizza on mantoloking road in Brick and that was very good. but Nino’s coal fired on rte 9 and cox cro rd in toms river…. wow!!! splurge the extra $4 to get fresh mozz on their margherita pie and OMG! perfect! almost lombardis
    you’ve gotta review that place…. dont bother with their dishes, i had the veal saltimbocca and it tasted like the chef dropped the salt shaker on it.
    the coal fired chicken wings were excellent

    • We’ve been to Nino’s. I think we’ll have to try them again because the pizza we had was kinda burnt. Maybe it was an off night. My in-laws (aka Lisa’s parents) rave about their wings. Having sampled DeLorenzo’s and Tony Boloney’s in AC, they demonstrate that you can’t just focus on the type of oven being used as a gauge of how good the pizza is going to be.

  3. Absolutely the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. I’m a vegan, so i get my pies without cheese, and still they’re out of this world.
    Cooked to perfection. Just the crust by itself is worth the trip.

  4. Mack’s on the Wildwood boardwalk is THE best pizza to be had in South, South Jersey (DeLorenzo’s isn’t south, south). I remember a young woman asking for a salad there once. I remember the frozen moment… the waitress’ “we just serve pizza”… everyone unfreezing to continue scarfing their slices.

  5. Pingback: De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies – Robbinsville | EthnicNJ.com

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