I don't care if the legend is true or not. All I care about is the pizza at Nellie's. Because it's really really tasty. And yeah it's pretty much just like Kinchley's (which, for your reference, is very similar to the Town Pub in Bloomfield, which, as legend has it, started making pizza based on the recipe brought over by an ex-employee of the Star Tavern in Orange. ahhh, the incestuous north Jersey pizza scene...someone should write a book).
Other than the pizza Nellie's is largely unremarkable food-wise. I think: I've never had anything but the pizza and maybe some wings at some point. I'm sure they have decent versions of whatever it is that you might order or have ordered, but the real draw here is the cracker-thin crust pizza. And tonight, I was drawn.
The story of how I ended up at Nellie's tonight is long and boring, and it goes like this:
A friend emailed me asking for some restaurant recs (it happens). Specifically, south Jersey recs (never been). But I'd heard of DeLorenzo's pizza, the famous Trenton "tomato pie" place, and suggested that. Which got me thinkin about pizza. Meanwhile, I stumble upon the Pizza Making Forum (do check this out) and spent a good 10 minutes poking around, which clearly got me thinkin about pizza. Then, while walking through midtown Manhattan, I saw a woman carrying a pizza box. Which got me thinkin about pizza some more. Two minutes later, walking past a hotel, I overheard the bellhop say to a group of tourists, "on 43rd between 5th and 6th...best pizza in NY". Which got me thinkin... that these poor bastards were about to go to some relatively horrible pizza place, but it got me thinkin about pizza. I submit: what would you have done at that point? It was a calling. Clearer signs could not have been posted. Now, the decisions: I could have made pizza at home, which is always an option, or I could go to Nellie's and have a coupla cold ones and their silly little bar pie. I opted for the beersh and bar pie.
Cutting to the cheese (as an ex-boss of my father's used to say, as he tried to say "cutting to the chase", and no, he wasn't trying to be funny or clever):
The pizza menu reads pretty much just like Kinchley's. Tonight I was all about the hot cherry peppers. Hot pickled peppers and pizza are a perfect combination. The acidity of the vinegar can brighten up even the dullest of pies. Not that Nellie's has a dull pie. It's all about the bright sauce, a bit of cheese, and that crispy crackery crust. We're not talking Neapolitan pizza here: we're talking pure, classic, New Jersey bar pie.
They offer two sizes: bar size (small) and regular size (not so small). I don't care who you are or who you're with, always get the regular size. Why? Because it's friggin bigger. And you can take the left-overs home.
The air at Nellie's is much more tolerable since the smoking ban. The restaurant is basically half restaurant, and half bar area with seats, which used to get very smoky. It's family-friendly, and immensely popular with all ages. Hence, there's almost always a wait for a table at prime-time hours. In the good old days, you could opt for the smoky bar room and almost always be sat immediately. Now, the playing field is level. If you can snag a seat at the bar, though, you'll be in good shape. And with Nellie's friendly bartenders, it's not a bad option at all. It's the kind of place that has a lot of regulars, and it doesn't take long to feel right at home.
Stick with beer at Nellie's, rather than wine. The beer selection is decent enough, and the guys can pull a pretty damned good Guinness. But, if you must abuse the grape, I think they've got that ubiquitous Ruffino Chianti. And there's also Yellowtail, which I find completely and utterly undrinkable. But hey, if that's your thing, [go for it].
In summary: super pizza, and a great local joint.
Nellie's Place : 9 Franklin Turnpike : Waldwick, NJ : 201.652.8626