A recent survey of pizza in Northern New Jersey has determined what many readers of the Italian Tribune have known for years. For the best in traditional pizza, go to Ralph’s Pizzeria and Restaurant in Nutley, New Jersey and for the best in a dessert pizza, head to Ah’Pizz in Montclair, New Jersey.
The pizza that many of grew up enjoying came over from Naples, Italy and began at the dawn of the 20th century in Italian American kitchens. In 1807, there were 54 pizzerias in Naples. It wasn’t until Italian immigrants in the late 19th century brought the concept of pizza to the United States. The first pizzeria established in America was in 1905 in New York; slices cost two cents. It may seem difficult to believe, but it was not until 1939 that pizza finally reached America’s west coast. Now, on any given day, about 13% of the U.S. population will enjoy a slice of pizza.
In the category “Best Old School Pizza,” Ralph’s pizza was ranked among the best in the entire survey. Perennially selected as serving one of the best pizzas in New Jersey, the 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 youngster named Pasquale “Pat” Custode to help him. When Ralph suddenly passed away in 1985, Pat and his wife Lorraine purchased the business. They gradually expanded the business by adding authentic Italian dishes such as veal Marsala, Osso bucco, seafood oreganata 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.
Ralph’s is famous for its individual thin-crust pizzas. Pat says that there really isn’t a secret to his pizza – use fresh ingredients and have a staff that knows exactly how to create these marvelous pies. “The pizza recipe is still the same,” says Pat. “Nothing at all has changed and it tastes the same as it did in 1961. The original brick ovens are still in use and going strong.” The pizzas are baked in a round pan twice – once at a high temperature (around 700 degrees) and then at a lower temperature to ensure that all of the toppings completely cover the dough. The results are amazing!
People may first discover Ralph’s because of its pizza, but the regulars know that there is far more to the menu. The appetizers that you can choose from are extensive. The pasta dishes prepared are traditional, yet creative. Main courses feature veal, chicken, seafood and are all prepared with flair and creativity.
After 50 years in business, Ralph’s is truly a landmark in the Nutley community. Much of the staff has been working there for decades. Pat and Lorraine’s 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, has added her own creative and modern touches to the menu.
Ralph’s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant is located at 564 Franklin Avenue, Nutley, New Jersey. It is open seven days a week; Monday: 3:00 pm – 10:00 pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm; Friday and Saturday: 11:00 am – 11:30 pm and Sunday: from 12:00 noon – 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!
The owners of Ah’Pizz, Michael and John LaMorte, have always taken pride in using the freshest and most authentic ingredients available. Now Ah’ Pizz has been recognized as having one of the best dessert pizzas in New Jersey. “Since we’ve opened, our dessert pizza has been a hit with our customers. We constantly offer up creative toppings to help ensure it is the perfect solution for those who wish to have a sweet ending to their meal,” said Michael LaMorte.
To recreate the experience of a pizza, just as one would find in Naples, their wood-fired ovens are brought to a temperature of 1,000 degrees. This allows their pizzas to be cooked in as little as 90 seconds! Dessert pizzas consist of dough that’s first baked, cooled and then slathered with Nutella, cannoli cream, vanilla caramel frosting or any one of a number of different bases. Before the pizzas are reheated, sweet toppings are added. The combinations are endless. You can find a Nutella pizza generously sprinkled with powdered sugar, strawberries and bananas. There is also a ‘s’mores pizza,’ which also uses with Nutella, topped with crushed graham crackers and roasted marshmallows. For an absolute treat that must be tasted to be believed, order the Nutella pizza with cannoli cream, chocolate chip cookies and whipped cream…sinful!
It has been almost a decade since Ah’Pizz opened its first restaurant at 7 North Willow Street in Montclair, New Jersey (973)783-9200. So successful was the flagship location that five years ago, a second location was opened in Denville and then a third Ah’Pizz restaurant opened at 615 Frank E. Rogers Boulevard in Harrison (973) 485-9200. Recently, after unsuccessful negotiations for its lease renewal, Ah’Pizz has decided to more to a location at 334 Route 46 East in Wayne, which will be opening soon. The hours are Monday through Thursday: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm; Friday and Saturday: 11:00 am to 11:00pm (in Harrison, the bar stays open until 2:00 am) and Sunday: noon until 9:00 pm. Visit their website at www.ahpizz.com to see the menu items and specials and enjoy the flavor of Italy without leaving New Jersey.