Monthly Archives: May 2012

Carluccio’s Coal Fired Pizza

Carluccio’s

A deadly display of pizza

A star studded lineup

850 degrees of separation

Grandma’s pie

Southwestern Za’

Intimidation tactics

The face of a truly happy man

Reppin’ philly hard in the 08225

Excuse me, but I need to put my glasses on.

The Nutella Bella

Carluccio’s Coal Fired Pizza
1200 New Road Northfield, New Jersey

Castro:

“When are you gonna come down here and try Carluccio’s?” “Dude, you still gotta try Carluccio’s.” “Yo, Carluccio’s blows any other coal fired pizza out of the water.” Plichter has been ranting and raving about this place for the past couple of months, telling me that it may possibly be one of the best pizzas he’s ever eaten. I kind of dismissed it, just like everything else he tells me. Today I decided to take the 50 mile trip from Philly to Northfield to see what all the hype was about. I know what you’re going to say. “50 miles…for pizza?” You know when you’re going down the shore, and you make your way from the AC Expressway onto the Garden State Parkway? Well, may I suggest taking the first exit (exit 36 for Northfield, just before Ocean City) and stopping into this joint for some of the best coal fired pizza you will ever encounter.

Carluccio’s isn’t your typical pizzeria. Aside from having a tremendous selection of pizzas to shuffle through, they have some of the most authentic Italian Pasta I’ve seen offered on a pizza menu. The seating is very casual and informal. It reminds me of a classy diner atmosphere. Countertop seating. Friendly staff who actually talk to you about what kind of crappy and miserable day you’re having. It was a Wednesday night and it was packed with all the locals, looking to scarf down a slice or 2. Die hard Carluccio’s followers who will wait however long to put in work. Enough about that, let’s get to point. The pizza. What sets Carluccio’s apart from the every other pizza place you’ve been to, is the fact that all of their signature pizzas come in either the 12″ personal sized, a 16″ New York style or a traditional thick crust sicilian pie. I was watching them shell out the 12″ and 16″ pizzas from the their beastly, red tiled, 850 degree coal fired oven and they definitely looked legit. But the sicilian crust is where it’s at. A massive sheet of cheese and sauce that seems endless once it arrives before your eyes. We went with the Sicilian style crust. Their famous “Grandma’s pie” on one side (Chunky tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, basil and oregano) and the “Southwestern” (Coal fired chicken, chopped peppers, onions, tomatoes, mozzarella, a drizzling of ranch and spicy BBQ sauce) on the other. Let me start with the Southwestern. At first bite, the initial taste is reminiscent to a real authentic pico de gallo. Then you’re hit with the juicy, charred chicken that they’ve pre-blasted in the coal fired oven. Lastly, your tastebuds are overwhelmed by the combination of ranch and spicy BBQ sauces. This was pie was outstanding. I’ve seen it done countless times before. I’ve eaten it before. But I’ve never had it perfected before.

I’d like to give the Grandma’s pie it’s very own paragraph (cue a deep breath and a barrage of knuckle cracks). As soon as my teeth broke the plain of cheese and sauce I was overcome by a number of emotions. The sweetness from the chunky tomatoes, pain (from the gooey mozzarella scolding the roof of my mouth), satisfaction from not eating in 8 hours, but most importantly the feeling of accomplishment, knowing that i’ve found quite possibly the BEST pizza i’ve ever eaten in my life. That statement doesn’t come easy and I wouldn’t hand it out to just anyone. This pizza was absolutely perfect in every way. It’s was so simple and straightforward that I want to believe that the recipe is handwritten on a piece of paper that’s locked away in a safety deposit box in tuscany somewhere, and passed down from generation to generation of family members. I loved the crackle of the of crust, especially those crunchy corner slices. The extra virgin olive oil that’s mixed with the sweet, chunky san marzano tomatoes was a beautiful combination that made this pie. I scooped up the remaining chunks of tomato that fell onto my plate, placed them onto my last bite of crust and partied one last time before realizing that it was all over in a matter of minutes. I guess our waitress decided from the looks on our faces that we needed something extra to ensure I fall asleep on my drive back to Philly, so she brought us over their signature dessert. A pocket of baked pizza dough filled with piping hot nutella and sprinkled with powdered sugar dubbed the “Nutella Bella.” It’s a decadent, must-have to end such a delicious pizza experience.

Carluccio’s hands down puts Anthony’s, Pietros and any other coal oven pizza you wanna battle to shame and will have them scurrying to the door with their tails between their legs. This was such a pleasant addition to the blog, and after today, I can rest easy knowing that I’ve consumed the very best pizza I’ve ever had the opportunity to try. Thank you Carluccio’s, from the bottom of this doughboy’s heart.

Plichter:

As embarrassing as it may sound, I have no problem with professing my love for this pizzeria. I mean seriously, I talk about it all the time. I talk about it so much that during lunch with my cousin Becky, she had to stop me and say, “Wow John, she sounds great! I can’t wait to meet her!” And her reaction was totally understandable. Considering this pizza is the best I’ve ever had, I make sure to talk it up to anyone who I come into contact with. Yeah that’s right: CARLUCCIO’S IS THE BEST PIZZA I’VE EVER HAD.

Keep in mind that when you visit, they offer much more than your traditional pizzeria. An abundance of appetizers, pizza selections, entrees and sandwiches are all a part of what makes Carluccio’s so special. But the true star of the show and reason for going is the Sicilian pizza. Since we started this blog, I’ve had pizza all over Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. Nothing can compare to the Sicilian pizza at Carluccio’s. The slightly charred crust, remaining buttery and flaky, is incredible for whatever topping combination you may have on top. And where other pizzerias rely on crazy topping combinations and other gimmicks to drive business, this place backs up their tasty pizza with simplicity and freshness. The “Grandma’s Pie” is simply fresh mozzarella, chunky tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, and basil & oregano, and it will beat the hell out of any pizza you’ve ever had. Again, the crust is both charred and flaky, and you really taste the olive oil in every bite. Although the San Marzano tomatoes used for the sauce are chunky on the pie, they literally melt into your mouth with every bite. Ladies and gentlemen, if I had to be stranded on a desert island with only one pizza, this would probably be it. And although I feel a bit bad for cheating on Gino’s Pizzeria on Frankford Ave in the northeast, this place might become my new favorite pizzeria.

The second half of our pie was the “South Western” which consisted of coal fired chicken, fresh mozzarella, chopped peppers and onions, tomatoes, and topped off with ranch and spicy bbq sauce. For it being such a topping heavy pie, each one was proportionate to the next. For every chunk of chicken, there was a piece of green pepper (and so on and so forth). The fresh red onions and bbq sauce are what really give this pie its taste, which was very enjoyable to say the least. But for me, everything comes back to the “Grandma’s Pie.”

If you go to Carluccio’s, make sure you get multiple pies. Once you get there, you might as well experience a couple of their many pies to choose from. Take it from me: make sure to get the “Grandma’s Pie.” I’ve had a few different pizzas from the menu and cannot stress this enough. To have such a simple combination taste the way it does is truly amazing. I can already guarantee you that I’m going there later today after writing this review.

The Roosevelt Mall Rumble

If you fall into the same age bracket as the Doughboys, then you probably considered The Roosevelt Mall your “hang out” at some point during your life. Most notably during the summers of ’95 thru 98′. If that’s the case, then I’m willing to bet that you’ve eaten a slice on more than one occasion from either Gino’s Pizzarama, opposite Macy’s or Pizza Roma, next to Sears. Both of these pizza parlors have been around since we were kids. Both shops were the cheapest places to get food in the vicinity of the mall. We’re here to set the record straight on who serves up the tastiest slice this side of Cottman Ave. This is the Roosevelt Mall rumble.

Gino’s Pizzarama
2383 Cottman Ave.

Castro:

I probably have the worst memory out of anyone I know. My brain will literally pick and choose what to remember. Most of the time it’s useless information. However, one thing I will never forget was getting $20 from my mom to go to the Roosevelt Mall on a Friday night. It had to last me the entire night. After I acquired my Marilyn Manson blacklight poster, a nine inch nails patch, incense from way out and a CD single from Sam Goody, I was left with only a few bucks for food. How does a rather portly, overweight slob like myself spend it? On pizza. One of my fondest memories of Gino’s Pizzarama is sitting in one of the booths with the stereotypical red and white checkered tablecloth stretched out on top. When I reached for the crushed red peppers to dress up my slice, a giant mutant cockroach staggered out from behind it. This is the Gino’s that I came to know and love. When I would take trips up to the army recruiter, he would take me there and he’d buy me slices in hopes of getting my signature on that dotted line. I will forever hold a special place in my heart for Gino’s pizza. Who am I kidding, this pizza fucking sucks. Today I got a single plain slice to keep it simple and they still managed to butcher it. When I first walked in, the 5 pizzas that were behind the counter top glass had looked like they’ve been there since Easter. The cheese was a giant, single sheet that tasted like I had just bit into a leather wallet. The crust tasted like a stale, unbuttered kaiser roll. Back in the day, pizza was pizza. I didn’t know much about it except that it got eaten. After we started the blog, i’ve been blessed with the opportunity to experience what goes into a truly great pizza. This was borderline embarrassing for both parties involved. Gino’s sucked 15 years ago and it still sucks today. What bothers me even more is the extension they added to their place for additional seating used to be where Mr. Bulky was. I would much rather eat candy than this slop. Hats off to them for staying open as long as they have, but someone should’ve turned them into a laundromat or a nail salon a long time ago.

Plichter:

There were pros and cons that went along with our visit to Gino’s Pizzarama in the Roosevelt Mall. Pro: I deliberately ignored the “NO FREE REFILLS” sign and topped off my Mountain Dew. Con: I probably contracted Hepatitis from sitting in one of their booths. I used to work at the Art Palette in the Roosevelt Mall right after high school, where I made a measly $150 for every two weeks of work there. That barely left me with the proper funds necessary to provide adequate sustenance. So I ate where I could for as little as possible. My hardly well balanced diet consisted of Ramen Noodles, Wendy’s 99 Cent Menu, and Gino’s Pizzarama. The pizza was terrible back then, but I got it in exchange for free art supplies. This time around, I can’t believe I actually paid for it. Let me give these guys a few tips on how to run a pizzeria: 1) Keeping the lights on so people know you’re open is a good start. 2) Having more than three slice pies available certainly helps. 3) Making sure your pizza doesn’t taste like someone took a crap or a dump in an oven is of the utmost importance.  I think one of the twenty nail salons in the mall could’ve made a better pie.

Gino’s

No free refills?! Bogus…

Meat lovers n’ plain

Most unimpressed

Ughhh

Pizza Roma
7300 Bustleton Ave.

Castro:

Remember when seeing a movie meant dialing 222-3456 for showtimes from your home phone? After you listened to whatever audio trailer they played, you were prompted to punch in the first 3 letters of your movie selection. “You have selected The Mighty Ducks: D3, rated PG.” After you entered your zip code, your choice would almost always end up being The AMC Orleans 8. You would have your parents drop you off with just enough time to grab a bite to eat before the movie. The ONLY place I ever went to eat before a movie at The Orleans was Pizza Roma. Plain slices were $1 and toppings were $1.50. $5 got me 3 sausage slices and a cherry coke. As a fat little teenager, you couldn’t beat that. I spent a good part of my youth hanging out in here on weekends. I’ve got to admit, it’s probably been over 12 years since I’ve eaten here before today. I was kind of stoked to see if the sausage pizza was still as good as I remembered it being. Plichter got himself a meat lovers slice and I got my coveted sausage. It looked exactly how I recalled it looking from years prior. It was covered in little balls of seasoned sausage, and the slice stretched off the edge of my paper plate. It really did look promising. I kid you not, I bit into it and all the bad things in this world seemed like they were baked into this slice. It was horrendous. It was luke warm. The cheese wasn’t even really melted. The sauce was super acidic. The sausage had a very distinct taste to it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was definitely something unpleasant. I sat back in my booth and after a few minutes it hit me. The fucking sausage tasted like the incense the priest would burn in church when they would swing it from the chain into the audience. You know that saying “pizza is like sex…when it’s bad it’s still good”? Pizza Roma is the exception to that saying. I ate 3 bites of it before I threw in the towel. I’m pretty sure the 2 additional bites were just to confirm that the sausage tasted as atrocious as it did. This is hands down THE WORST PIZZA I’ve eaten since we started this blog. So who wins in a pizza battle against these two? Nobody wins. The person who actually lost was me. Do yourself a favor and walk across the street to Jim’s and grab a steak, because the the pizza by the mall just doesn’t cut it.

Plichter:

Have you ever had a slice of pizza that tasted like a combination of church incense and batteries? No? Well then head on down to Pizza Roma and try anything with their sausage, because that’s what it tastes like. Take a good look at the meat lovers slice I got. Does it not look amazing? I saw the generous amounts of sliced bacon on that thing and thought to myself, “I want that.” It was the most deceiving slice I’ve ever had in my entire life. It was so gross that I couldn’t even finish it, and I’ll almost always eat whatever food is put in front of me! Nothing brought me more pleasure than giving this disgrace the finger and dunking it into the trashcan. Although these two were pinned against each other, Castro and I ended up being the true losers of the day. We wasted our time and money on something I wouldn’t even feed to one of the homeless who inhabit the Roosevelt Mall. Next time, I’ll be sure to walk down to Steve’s and go with a pizza steak instead.

Pizza Roma

Sausage n’ many meats

Looks can be deceiving

Vomit face

The signature doughboys send off