Isn’t it amazing how this whole internet thing has taken off? Dave Portnoy, The Barstool Sports founder, has eaten a slice of pizza every day for the more than two years. He travels along the east coast trying and rating pizza on his YouTube-based show. His “One Bite With Davey Pageviews” has developed an enormous following. He is crass, unfiltered and if you have seen reviews of pizza places that he didn’t like, he is downright rude. He does however know pizza. He actually knows it very, very well. You will be taken aback when you watch his review of Ralph’s in Nutley, New Jersey. The look on his face said it all. It was so good, Dave actually became polite! After making a few comments about the appearance of the pizza, he took a bite and a look of bliss came over his face, unable to stay in character he says to himself, “This is good, this is very good!” And with that, Pat Custode, owner and his staff at Ralph’s Pizzeria and Restaurant had another convert.
Barstool rates on a 1-10 scale where a perfect 10 is unattainable and a score in the nines is reserved for the best of the best on Boston’s North End. An 8 or above makes the pizza an award-winning pick. When it came time for the score, Dave got back into character and said, “I’m going high!” Ralph’s received an 8.9, realistically, the highest possible score for a pizza south of Brookline, Massachusetts.
Not only is the host of the YouTube program a harsh critic on mediocre pizza, he does not exude an extraordinary degree of patience. For Dave to mention to the audience that it took 45 minute to get to Ralph’s and it was worth every second of the trip was high praise indeed.
A favorite eatery for over 50 years, Ralph’s is truly a landmark in the Nutley community. It has been selected as one of the best pizzerias by NJ Monthly for seven consecutive years and now its pizza has been voted #1. This pizzeria-restaurant features traditional and outstanding Italian American cuisine served by a friendly staff in a warm atmosphere. The family-owned restaurant was established when Ralph Pellegrino opened his pizzeria in 1961 – the first one in Nutley. In 1976, he hired a 17-year-old kid named Pasquale “Pat” Custode to help him. At the time, Ralph’s whole menu could fit on his business card. In 1985, Ralph suddenly passed away. Custode purchased the business and with his wife, Lorraine, continued to build upon it. Pat’s deep respect for his first boss is so great that he still uses Pellegrino’s ovens and his old-fashioned mechanical scale. He also keeps two paintings on the wall that Pellegrino loved.
Pasquale Custode was born in the province of Salerno, Castelnuovo di Conza, Italy. In 1971, his family emigrated to the United States. With a determination to work hard and be successful, Pasquale started working at a young age, sometimes two jobs at a time. He had always been interested in food and had culinary aspirations. When Pat started working at Ralph’s, the menu consisted mainly of pizza and sandwiches. He loved the business and when he and Lorraine took over, they gradually expanded it by adding authentic Italian dishes such as veal Marsala, Osso Bucco, seafood oreganata, grilled steak Italiano and homemade pastas and desserts. They continued to grow and added a new dining room to the pizzeria and then a private party room holding up to 70 people.
People may first discover Ralph’s because of its pizza, but the regulars know that there is far more to the menu. For an excellent dinner, you’ll find the dining room casual and friendly. The appetizers that you can choose from are extensive. The pasta dishes that are prepared are traditional, yet creative. Main courses feature veal, chicken, seafood – all prepared with flair and creativity.
What has kept the restaurant going for over half a century is not just the food, but also the people. Much of the staff has been working there for decades, including his brothers, Frank and Joe Custode, manager Gus Stoupakis, who has been with him from the start and whom he regards as his third brother and Dino and Ray. Pat and Lorraine have been joined in the restaurant by their daughter, Jerri, a graduate of The Culinary institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and the Culinary Arts Institute in Jersey City, New Jersey. She has added her own creative and modern touches to the menu, including fresh, seasonal and daily specials and desserts.
Ralph’s is a ‘bring your own’ restaurant. On and off-premise catering and take out service is available. Order ahead and pick up a pizza, a dinner or an appetizer and savor the great food in the comfort of your own home.
Ralph’s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant is located at 564 Franklin Avenue, Nutley, New Jersey and is open seven days a week. Hours are Monday 3:00pm-11:00 pm (take-out only); Tuesday-Thursday 11:00 am-11:00 pm (dining room until 10:00 pm); Friday and Saturday 11:00 am-12:00 am (dining room until 11:00 pm) and Sunday 12:00 pm-11:00 pm. For more information, call 973-235-1130 or visit ralphspizzeria.com. So stop by and enjoy the best pizza in New Jersey!