Posted by: Jeffsayyes | May 22, 2011

Jersey Pizza Tour no. II, A-Side – Paulus Hook Brick Oven, Pizza Town USA, La Sicilia

We knew Jersey would be tough. 2 flat tires, closed highways and a PATH train held us back, but couldn’t hold us down. Most of the group took the train over, but I drove in (the PATH stories will come later in a guest post). We met at Paulus Hook Brick Oven Pizza in Jersey City. Look at this pie…

Paulus Hook Brick Oven
84 1/2 Morris St
Jersey City, NJ 07302-4514

Paulus Hook, the neighborhood in Jersey City, is very pretty. Nice buildings, independent businesses, proximity to NYC, and not many for rent signs. I think we all dreamed about living there someday.

This shop was small, only about five two-seater tables. There’s not much ambiance, other than a massive brick oven with looks you can trust. Their prep area is bigger than the entire seating, so take-out is probably the way. On display, and waiting to be put in the oven were lots of the pies that seemed to be made with quality in mind.

The first few minutes of every pie happens like this.

The slice was great. Light cornmeal crust. Slightly sweet sauce, soothing cheese and gracious with the crust char. I could have this slice all day.

It was so good that even Jim Kim got a slice to go.

We split up and left for our cars. It would be 3 hours before we saw each other again. As is customary, I got lost. Highway driving here is muddy. I still have some learning to do. And as we were finding our way onward, I get a text from Annie in the other car: Call me
oh shit.

Their vehicle hit a curb and broke the tire. They would be delayed. About 10 minutes later, as we were getting back on track, aided by smart phones with batteries knocking on death’s door, a man pulls up next to us and signals his hands like an alligator mouth. Later, we suspect he means we have a flat tire. I pull over to verify. I text Annie our status and she replies NO FUCKING WAY

I spot a guy who looks like Lil Jon, and knew he’d be savvy of the neighborhood. After arguing with his friend if the tire shop is next to a McDonalds, they settle on it being around the corner on Kennedy Boulevard. We got a flat fix and were on the road even quicker than our Sears-bound counterparts.

jersey flat (3)jersey flat (4)
jersey flat (7)jersey flat (6)

Initially on the itinerary was Reservoir Tavern, but we decided it had to be cut. And the place which got us lost in the first place, La Sicilia, was blocked by road construction (and was closed when we went 2 weeks ago, despite calling ahead), so we decided to consider that not meant to be and forge on to Pizza Town USA.

Back on the road, I had even more determination. I knew what Pizza Town USA looked like and thought that it would be an amazing sight for the rest of our crew to see in the midst of our despair.

Pizza Town USA
89 US Highway 46, Elmwood Park, NJ 07407

The dough stood out as what made this pizza so good. It was better than the pizza of my childhood. Nice sauce, nice cheese, nothing standing out other than the satisfaction. This is the best birthday party pizza.

We knew we’d have time to meet up with the other group, and were behind on our eating, so we engaged in a Leave it to us sub (essentially a basic Italian hero with hot cherry peppers) and some zeppoles. We realized that source of magic here is their dough. It had a moist puffiness that made the world seem right. Pizza Town USA is located next to nothing, is a time warp from the 50s. It’s an oasis. Annie’s crew never made it here. We’ll probably be back on another tour so she gets a slice.


La Sicilia
155 Washington Avenue
Belleville, NJ 07109-2542

2 times they’ve eluded us already and I couldn’t feel complete until we got it done. I knew skipping it earlier in the day would eat at me. We resolved to meet Annie and her crew there on our way back to NYC.

At 4:30 on this Saturday, they were already busy. We got the Palermo pie, which was named the best specialty pie by the New Jersey Pizza Patrol. It’s basically a grandma pie, thin square with tart, tomatoey sauce over cheese and lots of garlic.

This pie was probably our most memorable of the day, but by the standards vested in me as the keeper of the iPhone application, all pies must be judged on a regular slice. The regular looked dreary, and the dough in the Palermo didn’t seem to have the potential to lift the Neopolitan to the heights of the Real PoNY app. Superb restaurant though, I wanted nearly every plate on the communal tables – is it possible there is anyone who doesn’t finish their plates here? I would come here weekly if I lived in the neighborhood. I’m actually smiling right now thinking about it.

And while my crew was reaching the end of our pizza capacity, suddenly Annie and her bunch appeared at the door to La Sicilia. We give each other a big hug of relief, then they finally sat down for a Palermo pie. Through the loop New Jersey put us through, it worked out after all. Anne, one of my car passengers was having a dinner party later, she said to me: “Hey, tonight everyone’s going to tell about going to museums and parks and things like that. Look what we did today.” It was fun and challenging, we explored new lands and ate great pizza. What else could you ask for?

Stay tuned for the other crew’s story from Rachel of Spam is Better Fried

Paulus Hook Wiki


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