This Sunday, I put my lack of parenting skills on display by bringing two kids under the age of 10 on a one-day, 7+ hour car trip, for the sole purpose of gorging on pizza. At least with our earlier New Haven tour, the eating and driving were more spaced out making the experience seem less like child abuse. The kids were game for the trip and excited to go. I’m not sure if that is an argument for nature or nurture. Maybe both. I had heard of the Trenton Tomato Pie but never had one before heading to New Jersey this weekend. There’s a thread on the style over at pizzamaking.com. One of these days I’ll get around to reading it. It will probably be a much more interesting read now that I have tasted the subject matter. Let's begin.
Albany Jane picked us up around 8 in the morning and off we went. A little before noon we got to Daniel’s place in Princeton and hopped into his van. This daring group of pizza samplers included 3 "adults" - Daniel, Albany Jane and me, and 3 kids my daughters Allison and Casey along with Young Master Fussy. It was a short ride and by 12:15 we were at our first stop, Gennaro’s.
After we ordered, I went to go take a look at the kitchen and told someone behind the counter we had just driven down to try Tomato Pies and he clearly thought I was nuts. But this little kitchen visit revealed a few secrets. A door with an Employees Only sign was open and I could see into a storeroom. I saw the brand(s) of tomatoes they use and the type of flour. I’m not sure they liked that, because after we sat back down out our table (which was in a nice outdoor patio), a few blinds were abruptly lowered. I’m probably being paranoid, because you couldn’t really see the kitchen through the windows anyway. But trade secrets are trade secrets and pizza shops have them.
Here’s what we were served at Gennaro’s
The pizza had a crisp crust and the tomato was delicious. I’m glad I know what tomatoes they use, but I don’t think knowing that is enough to make what they put on this pizza. Allison and Casey also liked this pizza.
Conveniently located next door was a Halo ice cream bar. Daniel has mentioned Halo a few times on Twitter and Facebook and I was glad to be able to check it out. I should note that at this early and highly optimistic point in the day, we had delusions of buying several $2 pints of ice cream to share later in the day. Looking back at this moment with 20/20 hindsight makes that notion seem completely laughable. Allison went with a half scoop of cookie dough topped with a half scoop of cookies and cream. Casey selected a half scoop of M&M and a half scoop of mint chocolate chip. I went with a half scoop of Tahitian vanilla. With tax, title and licensing fees that ice cream order came in at the low, low price $5.50. Compared to a recent stop at Guptils after a softball game, that’s practically free and the ice cream was significantly better. Living near one of these places is would be fattening and is probably frowned upon by most doctors.
Finished with the first stop on our pizza tour and refreshed on this warm Sunday afternoon with ice cream, we headed off to Papa’s. I didn’t remember the name, but once I saw that they had a mustard pizza I remembered seeing this shop on the Cooking Channel show Pizza Cuz. A few photos of the television appearance on the wall confirmed my memory.
We ordered two pizzas – a tomato pie with half sausage and one of the mustard pies with half anchovy. There is a note on the menu saying the sausage goes on the pizza raw so the pizzas with sausage might look a little well done. Here’s what came to the table. The mustard pie
And the tomato pie with half sausage
Once again, the tomato pie was good. I really liked the crust but thought the tomatoes on the Gennaro pie were better. The sausage was also very good. A coarse grind of pork and pork fat mixed with salt, pepper, and fennel. As sweet sausage should be. I’m glad I tried the mustard pie, but I doubt I would do it again. At the very least, I wouldn’t order it again plain. I don’t know if anchovies are your thing, but it was a completely different pizza with the salt/flavor bomb that is an anchovy. Maybe the mustard flavor would go well with the sausage. Casey wanted no part of the mustard pizza and Allison took a bite of it before giving me the rest of her slice. Casey was just so-so on her slice of tomato pie and Allison enjoyed the sausage/tomato pie.
We were still feeling pretty good after two stops. Next up was Corleone’s.
Here, we ordered a cheese pizza, a tomato pie and a deep fried calzone. My only experience with a deep fried calzone was at Pizza Town, USA. There, they only deep fry the small calzone. That calzone will fit in your cupped hands. This calzone, also a small, was more football sized.
I only ate a small piece of it. The dough had a nice flavor but I thought the filling was over the top. There had to be a pound of ricotta in there. Here's the Corleone's cheese pizza
And the tomato pie
The crust was just so-so here. It looked like the center of the pizza had been stretched too thin. I thought the tomato pie was much better than the cheese pizza but neither was better than the earlier two stops.
Maybe it was the two pizzas or maybe it was the deep fried calzone but as we were leaving Corleone’s I could have happily gone to sleep for the rest of the afternoon. The plan was to visit two more pizza shops. There’s no way that was going to happen without a break. Daniel knew of an ice place not too far from the next stop across the bridge in Pennsylvania. Off we went to the Yardley Ice House.
The "water ice" (not sure how it got the name) was refreshing - I went with strawberry lemonade, Casey chose cookies & cream, Allison picked mint chocolate chip – and we took a little walk around the town. I’m not sure if it was Allison or Casey, but one of them spotted a little park so we headed in that direction. The three kids climbed around and when we got back to the van, eating more pizza was was suddenly feasible. We headed off to La Villa.
Earlier in the day I had joked that we were going to go to a Pizza Hut. I’m not sure if she has ever been, but Casey hates Pizza Hut. I let her know that I was just kidding and all was well. But it turns out that La Villa is in a building that clearly was once a Pizza Hut. The only outside shot has a woman I've never met with a weird expression on her face. I'll spare her the online picture. Think Pizza Hut building in the middle of a parking lot. We ordered a large tomato pie.
This was the only pie of the day that was square. The first thing you taste when you bite into the pizza is garlic. Not that garlic is bad, but a tomato pie is meant to showcase the tomato and there was a lot of garlic. I didn’t really care for the crust here. I thought it was a little tough. It was the kind of pizza that you had to bite into and then tear the crust with a little bit of pull. To me, the chew on the crust and garlic knocked this down to the bottom of the list of tomato pies although I would probably come back here before returning to Corleone’s. Allison gave it an “eh” but Casey really liked it. I think she ate two slices.
We didn’t make it to De Lorenzo’s, a well known Trenton Tomato Pie institution. Personally, I blame them for not making the list. If they had opened before 4 on Sundays it would have been much easier to get there and see what they had. From what we ate, I think the best pizza would be a Franken-pizza combining the crust from Papa’s and tomatoes from Gennaro’s. But that is probably outside the realm of possibility. One can dream. Here’s the day’s breakdown:
Time Spent on a Pizza Quest: 6 hours of pizza touring
Number of Pizzas Ordered: 6 pies
Side Dishes: ice cream, water ice, fried calzone
Favorite Pies of the Day
Casey - Villa Rosa
Allison - Gennaro’s
Jon in Albany - Gennaro’s
Albany Jane - Tie between Gennaro’s and Papa’s w/anchovy
Daniel - Papa’s Sausage
Young Master Fussy - Doesn’t like pizza and would prefer to go eat soup dumplings
Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Albany Jane and the Profussor (Daniel) for inviting us on this tour. We he had a lot of fun. The girls very excitedly recalled the trip to their mother tonight at dinner. I’d also like to thank the creators of the Nintendo DS and Mario Versus for making long car trips like this possible.