There are times when a substitute just won’t do.
When it comes to that deep fried pocket of goodness known as a panzarotti, I go to Vincent’s in Merchantville. Sadly, though, I had not gone to Vincent’s in quite some time. Quite a long some time, truth be told. Well, there was this ‘living up in North Jersey’ thing I was doing for a while, so that was getting in the way. Then there was the having kids thing, too, so…hey – I don’t need to explain myself; I was busy, OK?
Where was I? Oh yeah…panzarottis!
Let me take you back a ways…way back to a time known as 1982. Asia was a band back then, not the continent that it is now. Pro wrestling was real back then, too. Seriously. Don’t look at me like that.
Back in 1982, a childhood friend of mine from the ‘hood in Willingboro had moved with his family to Merchantville and I would go and visit from time to time. One of those times, he took me over to a pizza place called Vincent’s and told me that I had to get a panzarotti. I didn’t know a panzarotti from a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, but I was willing to give it a whirl, expecially when I knew I could have one with pepperoni. I’d give away government secrets for pepperoni. I watched as they dipped that puppy in the fryer and it came out golden brown…and hot. I took my first crunchy bite, instantly burning the roof of my mouth, and fell madly in love.
Fast forward 30 years (holy schnikies…30 years???) to early 2012. Over the years, I have been building up the whole panzarotti story to Lisa. The opportunity finally presented itself when another old friend of mine came out to visit. He was just as much a fan of Vincent’s as I was, so when I suggested it, he was on board. And so, with kids in tow, we made our way to Merchantville.
And had a devil of a time finding the blessed place. I’m going to blame it on having an early senior moment. But find it we did, and panzarottis we did order.
So…what’s it like? First of all, a panzarotti is crispy on the outside, so you get that satisfying fried crunch as you first bite into it. But the dough is thick enough that as your teeth sink in, there’s a chewiness that is not in any way greasy – which is really key to the whole experience. So many so-called panzarottis are soggy, squishy and altogether unpleasant. Once you get through the outer shell, then comes The Gush – the molten hot mix of cheese and sauce that rushes to your mouth. You know it’s going to hurt, yet you don’t dare pull away. Like any gorgeous pizza served piping hot right out of the oven to your table, there is an acceptance of the fact that for the pleasure there will be some pain. Fried, cheesy and saucy pleasure. And if you order a pepperoni panzarotti, and you’ve played your cards right (to my thinking anyway), the pepperoni has gravitated to one end as you have worked your way from the other. This leaves you with a ridiculous wad of pepperoni slices to indulge in to finish. Oh my – oh my my my.
Did Lisa like her first panzarotti? Yes…yes she did. She now understood what I had been blathering on about for so long.
Yeah, they serve pizza there, too. It’s OK. But really – if you’re in Vincent’s, what are you doing ordering a pizza? Get the panzarotti and accept no substitutes!
Vincent’s Pizza – 17 West Park Avenue, Merchantville. 856.663.8879.