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