Social Still: food and spirits in Bethlehem, PA

Wood Stack Pizza Kitchen: top-notch pizza and cocktails in Pine Brook, NJ

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A short ten years ago, the only thought of Neapolitan-style pizza in NJ was the memory of Una Pizza Napoletana in Point Pleasant Beach, owned and operated by the incredible pizzaiola Anthony Mangieri, which had a run of a few years, and probably caused much confusion for the locals and bennies--"What, no slices? I have to order a whole pie? Why is it so small? Why is it moist? It's burned." It closed, and Mangieri moved his place to NYC to great acclaim. Then he moved to San Francisco, for more great acclaim.

But now, in our current world of open-mindedness and tolerance to ideas that differ from our own and our ability to have our worldviews and deeply rooted biases challenged, Neapolitan-style pizza can be all over our state, and even in some other states, if you can believe that. Many of these places do a very good job. Few combine excellent Neapolitan-style pizza with a full bar. And even fewer have a full bar and actually care about the booze they're offering. Wood Stack Pizza, in Pine Brook, is, indeed, exceptional in this regard, and others.

Wood Stack Pizza Pine Brook
Here's a tip: if they offer you bread, take it. They're baking their own bread here, as good pizzaiolo do, and it's excellent stuff. Served with softened butter sprinkled with coarse sea salt (they do things right here, I'm tellin' ya that much).

Their liquor shelves are well-stocked, and even have some stuff that I've never come across. The cocktail list is expansive, and there's a separate section for margarita-type drinks (tequila, and mezcal), presumably because they knew I'd be coming.  The gin, rum, whiskey, and tequila cocktails far outnumber the vodka drinks, thankfully. Good management is in place, it's clear, because the bartenders are jiggering their cocktails. Cocktails are all about proportions, and unless you're a very exceptional bartender, not jiggering can lead to unbalanced drinks. I prefer to see jigger use at a bar. It's a sign of professionalism and an attention to detail. Even I, I, use jiggers when making cocktails at home. Of course, I can free-pour pretty well, but why bother.

Woodstack pizza pine brook
Woodstack pizza pine brook
Woodstack pizza pine brook

The tap beers are all local, and seem to rotate pretty regularly. All from NJ as far as I can remember. All sorts of great beer is being produced in NJ, and you should start drinking it and supporting your local brewers. Otherwise those kids who make the beer are going to have to do the other things they'd be doing, like making awful music. Please drink their beer so I don't have to hear their awful music. 

Wood Stack does have some mass-produced swill in bottles, for the savages among us.

Quite frankly even without the food Wood Stack would be a great place to go for drinks. The fact that the pizza is top notch, and not just the pizza, but the rest of it as well, makes Wood Stack a destination worthy of an Uber.

Woodstack pizza pine brook-6
Woodstack pizza pine brook-6

I haven't had any of the pastas, but they read very well on the menu. And from what I've seen in front of other customers, they look fantastic. Straight-forward preparations that remind me of any number of pastas I've had in Italy.  Bucatini all'amatriciana (with actual guanciale, rather than the typical stand-ins of pancetta or, gasp, American bacon). Pappardelle bolognese. Squid ink pasta with squid, shrimp, leeks, and lobster broth. All of it sounds fantastic to me.

I did have a few starters during my visits.

Are you tired of avocado toast yet? You shouldn't be. Especially when it's made with their bread. It wasn't on the menu last time I went, so perhaps you are S.O.L.

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Woodstack pizza pine brook-7

The charred broccoli salad could have benefited from some more char on the broccoli, but it was a nicely composed dish, with pickled shallot, cabbage, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Well-conceived and -executed.

And then there's the pizza.

It's some of the best I've had.

That guanciale that goes in that pasta can also be put on your pizza. And you can bet I did (pictured at the top), because smart people do things like that. I had some on a Margherita pie and was very pleased indeed.

Wood Stack Pizza Pine Brook-4

During another visit, we had a Margherita pie with soppresatta with Calabrian chilies. The chilies turned out to be more of a sauce of Calabrian chilies, but it packed that heat and fruitiness that we love about those things.

The toppings are deftly applied. The crust is tender and crispy. There's some great leoparding on the pies. Likely a sign of a slow, cool fermentation and hot, fast cook. They've got two beautiful wood-fired ovens, and those pies came out in less than 2 minutes if my stopwatch didn't lie.

I really can't say enough about this place. The restaurant is beautiful, roomy, and bright. The service has been very good. The food is just fantastic. The cocktails and beer alone would keep me coming back. Wood Stack operates the way all restaurants should operate: serving consistent, quality food, with a great staff, and well-managed overall.

Get over there.

Wood Stack Pizza Kitchen : 29 Route 46 East : Pine Brook, NJ : 973.227.3007

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