Manco and Manco Pizza
(formally Mack and Manco)
8th, 9th & 12th streets on the boardwalk in OC, Ocean heights shopping center in Somers Point.
The summer is finally here. That means tank tops and ray bans are in full effect. If you live in Philly, it’s not really summertime unless you take a trip to the jersey shore. Whether you spend a few hours, a weekend, weeks or even the entire summer down at the beach, it’s by no means complete without eating boardwalk pizza. Johnson’s popcorn, surreys, fudge kitchen, Kohr Brothers ice cream, pork roll sandwiches from Stewart’s, the surf mall. Nothing is more of a staple in Ocean City than Manco and Manco’s pizza. The OC has always been my vacation destination for as long as I can remember. This was mostly due to my hatred for the scum that vacation in Wildwood and turn that boardwalk into the Broad and Cecil B. Moore of New Jersey. No tram cars. No fixed, unwinnable carnival style games. No having to walk a 1/2 mile to get to the ocean. Ocean city trumps wildwood in every way possible.
Every summer I stayed at 7th and Atlantic with my dad, just a stone throw away from the Manco’s spot on 8th street. TAFKAMM (The artist formally known as Mack and Manco’s.) I recall eating slices from here at least twice a day on my vacations. For a kid with $100 allowance to last the whole week, that was the cheapest means to combat hunger, and in my overweight eyes…it was the best. As you fight past the hungry crowd of tourists waiting at the front counter for their slices, you’ll most likely end up having to wait a few minutes for a table. As you impatiently wait, take a second to look at the faces of the people in there. Smiles. Laughter. Family. Togetherness. Memories that will last a lifetime are being made at that very moment. The white polos with matching sweatbands. The wood chairs and table tops. The green pizza trays that are without a doubt, older than I am. The iconic soda cups. This is the definition of pizza to vacationers. This is why people work 51 weeks a year at their shitty jobs in the city: to spend that 1 week in the summer with their loved ones and gorge themselves stupid with boardwalk pizza.
Watching the cooks toss the dough in the air like the Harlem globetrotters of pizza is somewhat hypnotizing and comforting. Once the dough is good and ready, they pile on 2 heaping fistfulls of mozzarella from oversized tupperware containers. The next step to a perfect boardwalk pie is applied from what I can only assume is a foot pedal operated hose that fires out generous squirts of that tangy pizza sauce. Finally, it’s tossed into a 500 degree, oscillating rotary oven. I imagine on any given Friday or Saturday in July, they must churn out no less than a thousand pizzas. In the 10 minutes I waited for a table, I watched 8 pies come out of that oven. Sliced into 8 proportionately slices with a small paring knife, they come to your table just as quick as you place your order. Some quick tips to remember:
1: Get it with a birch beer. You’ll enjoy it much more.
2: Always ask for extra ice.
3: Give it a minute to cool off or you’ll suffer 3rd degree burns on your face when the liquid cheese drips onto your chin.
4: Stick with plain. You’ll never go wrong.
5. No shirt. No shoes. No problem.
Look me in my eyes and tell me you don’t tear the crispy bubbles off like scabs and eat them, and I’ll call you a liar. I feel their crust is the best part. I’m that guy who eats everyone’s crust that doesn’t finish it, no matter how small a piece. I think the signature crunch is the trademark to a Manco’s pizza. I’m 100% positive that I could pick Manco’s out of a blind taste test. Not sure the name change was the smartest business decision. That’s like “Toys R’ Us” changing their name to “Toys R’ Ours.” People will still call it Mack and Manco’s until the end of time just out of memory. I know I will.
Since the blog started, I can name 10 places off the top of my head with better pizza than Manco’s. This is by no means the best pizza in the world but I was raised with it every summer, and I’ve been carrying on that tradition with my kids for the past few years now. It’s customary to grab a pie any time I’m even remotely close to the garden state parkway. The consistency and the nostalgia in every bite is the main reason Jonny Castro makes his annual return to MM and puts away 6 slices.
I’m going to be blunt about Manco & Manco. I think their pizza is overrated and inferior in comparison to other pizzerias in Ocean City. Before I moved to OC, so many people would ask me about Manco & Manco. “Oh, I bet you’re going to LOVE being so close to Manco & Manco.” This is by no means the way I feel. Watching the families wait in line to get a table at this mediocre pizzeria actually made me a little sad. I find absolutely nothing special about their pizza. I just don’t understand it! The only way I can justify their growth over the years is that 1) they’re on the boardwalk and 2) people are stupid. The only positive experience I’ve had with Manco & Manco was their buffalo chicken pizza from the Somers Point location. The pizzas at that one are made a little more delicately than the slop they throw together on the boardwalk.
So in conclusion, I’m not impressed with Manco & Manco. If you’re in Ocean City and need your pizza fix, hit up Piccini, Express, or Mario’s. They know how to get the job done. If you’re on the boardwalk, go with Three Brothers or Primo’s. If you must have Manco & Manco, do yourself a favor and head to the Somers Point one.