Pizza Town USA. That place on the westbound side of Route 46 in East Paterson Elmwood Park that looks as if the circus rolled into town in 1952 and forgot to take the joint with it when it left. You know the place.
I knew the place, too. I tried a slice from Pizza Town a few years ago, to see if there was anything notable about this old-school Jersey landmark. That day, I had a slice from Pizza Town, a slice from John's Pizza in Glen Rock, and a slice from the now-defuct Aldo's in Glen Rock, all eaten in my car, for comparative purposes. My thoughts on Pizza Town (and the others) at that time: eh, good enough pizza, I suppose.
At that point, I should note, I was head-over-heals for Neapolitan style pizza (still am), and the standard Jersey slice was interesting me less and less. I very likely ate that slice just knowing it wasn't going to be special, and that no doubt colored my assessment.
But it's a new day, and Jimmyeats, t:e field researcher, told me that the place rocks, so I gave it another chance. This time, I got a whole pie to bring home. This time, with a new perspective.
The first things I noticed about the place got me thinking that this pizza might be better than the typical pizza joint's.
First, the ladies who work there bust your balls. I love that. OK, so that probably doesn't correlate directly to the pizza, but it adds to the experience.
Second, the toppings were applied sparingly. With pizza, less is more. Sorry, Chicago.
Third, which damned near floored me, was the cooking time: the pizza was out of the oven in under 3 minutes (contrasted with your average pizza joint, which cooks pizza for 10 minutes or more). And, and, they pull this off using just regular gas-fired deck ovens, not coal- or wood-burning ovens (which generally run much hotter than gas-fired ovens). Three minutes is incredibly fast for this type of oven. The advantage to this fast cooking is that the dough doesn't have time to dry out and turn into cardboard. Cardboard, I'm afraid, isn't very good, and it's what most pizza shops seem to use to hold their sauce and cheese.
Fourthly, on the subject of cardboard, cardboard, Pizza Town gets props not only for making exceptional pizza, but for also using a non-generic pizza box. You know, that generic box that says "From your favorite local pizza shop," or, "Hot and Tasty," or some such nonsense. They use the same box they've likely been using for years, and one that has a glowing review from 1958 from the Paterson Morning Call (now defunct). The reviewer said something that, amazingly, and sadly, holds true to this day. I say "sadly" because of the comments on the state of pizza in general:
I ate the whole pie that afternoon. Alone. Over the course of about 5 hours. I dubbed this process "lunch and dinner", so as to not feel like a pig. But there was no way to not finish every slice. It's really that good. Exceptional in its class. And not heavy and greasy.
From the first slice to the last, I realized that this pizza is indeed a fantastic version of that New Jersey boardwalk, or NYC style pizza, or whatever you want to call it. It's what people remember pizza tasting like. It is what people miss when they move away from the NJ/NY area. It's almost, and I hate to say it because this word shouldn't be thrown around lightly, it's almost perfect.
Pizza Town : 89 Route 46 Westbound (just west of, and I mean just west of, the Garden State Parkway) : Elmwood Park : NJ : 201.797.6172
- Picnic table seating in an enclosure that's hardly temperature controlled.
- Open until 2 am on weekends. How great is that.
- Order slices from the middle window when you walk in. Whole pies are ordered at the left window. I'd imagine that confusing the two might be unpleasant. And I'm not even sure what the third window is for, but I suspect zeppole.