The Pizza of Affliction

March 26, 2010

Matzah Pizza of Affliction by you.

Ah yes. The Matzah Pizza.

Many gentiles know of Matzah, and that Jews eat it on Passover. However, even those that do know of Matzah and when it is consumed probably do not realize that Matzah is not just consumed during the Seder itself, but for seven days during the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread.

That means if you are an observant Jew, you are stuck with eating this stuff several days after the turkey and brisket leftovers have all been consumed.

While Matzo meal is used for a number of enjoyable culinary applications, such as the beloved Matzo Ball Soup, and Kugels, Matzot themselves don’t rate particularly high on the enjoyment scale on their own.

Oh, there’s Matzo Brei,  but at that point the physical properties of the shitty cracker in question have been completely transmuted into something resembling French Toast.

So Jews have been trying for an eternity to do something ELSE with Matzot. Sometime in the 20th century, American Jews got the idea of using  them  for half-assed salami sandwiches, PBJs and the like.

And then in the 50’s or the 60’s the Matzah Pizza came, which no sane pizza enthusiast would ever put in their mouth or even remotely call a Pizza. Especially since virtually all Matzah Pizzas were made with horrible processed jarred sauces which were Kosher for Passover knockoffs of stuff like RAGU or Pizza Quick.

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A January Jaunt on Arthur Avenue

January 10, 2010

My brother, Brandon, who lives in Los Angeles, decided to pay us a visit for a few days. One of his first requests was “I wanna go back to the Bronx and buy salamis and eat Italian food, because I can’t get that kind of stuff in California.” Yeah, twist my arm. Like THAT’s a tough request to accommodate. Any request to go to Arthur Avenue by ANYONE is immediately granted, because it’s one of my favorite places on earth.

The Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx late evening in January. Usually this shot would be impossible because of all the car and pedestrian traffic milling about on the street.

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NJ Dining: Arturo’s Osteria

October 25, 2009

Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria
188 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood NJ

Web Site:

Dan Richer, Chef/Owner of Arturo’s Osteria in Maplewood.

After meeting the young and food passionate Dan Richer at the recent New Jersey Les Marmitons beer dinner, I knew that this was a guy who’s restaurant I needed to go eat at.

Richer, who has no formal culinary training but who has a passion for cooking Italian cuisine, purchased Arturo’s from the original owners (which opened in 1991 as a wood fired pizzeria) in 2006. Richer has staged at many restaurants in Italy, frequently travels to Europe and has taken what he has learned and brought it back to his small Maplewood restaurant, which has a focus on pasta, pizza, and locally sourced ingredients. While Arturo’s retains a basic menu of pasta dishes, salads, small plates and artisan pizzas, Richer has gained quite a following from his regulars and has introduced tasting menus where everything is completely off-menu and seasonal.

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New Jersey Dining: Bevacqua’s Reservoir Tavern

August 16, 2009

Bevacqua’s Reservoir Tavern
90 Parsippany Blvd (US RT 202) Parsippany NJ

Web Site:

New York City gets the lion’s share of adoration from pizza fans, but those of us who live in the Garden State know that when it comes to pizza, we have some of the oldest continuing operating pizzerias serving traditional American pies anywhere in the country, particularly in areas like Trenton and Elizabeth, where we have legendary places like Delorenzo’s and Santillo’s that have been in operation for several decades. One of these top Jersey pizzerias is Reservoir Tavern in Parsippany, which opened its doors in 1936.

Reservoir Tavern isn’t just a pizzeria, it’s also a full service Italian restaurant and also has a full bar. While I would qualify their Italian offerings as solid Ital-Am red sauce fare, it’s the pizza that keeps me and many other locals coming back again and again. During prime dinner hours  it’s not unusual to see the Tavern’s huge parking lot filled with cars and no spaces to be found, and a 45 minute to one hour wait at the front door for seating. My best advice is to come early, if you can.

Reservoir Tavern, Boonton (Parsippany) NJ by you.

Main Dining Room

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Connecticut Dining: Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana

August 2, 2009

Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana
Locations: 157 Wooster Street / 164 Wooster Street (New Haven CT)

Web Site:

Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana, New Haven CT by you.

Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana in New Haven is “The Spot” for some of the best pizza in the entire country.

As I explained in my previous post about Caserta’s in Providence, New England has a unique pizza tradition that is entirely separate, but parallel to that of New York’s. Many pizza enthusiasts agree that New Haven, Connecticut has some of the best pizza in the entire country, as it boasts some of the oldest pizzeria with coal-fired ovens in the United States. Three of these happen to have started by the same extended family — Pepe’s, The “Spot” and Sally’s Apizza, all of which are part of the same Wooster Square old Italian-American neighborhood.

Whenever you mention Pizza to a New Haven native the question of which of these places comes up, and there is a bit of a rivalry between them, much like the issue of which cheesesteak is better in Philly, Pat’s or Geno’s. However, there is one particular specialty in which Pepe’s is known to excel, which is the Clam Pie.

You lookin’ for some A’Beets? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more. (note, all photos are from May 2008)

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Rhode Island Dining: Caserta Pizzeria

July 31, 2009

Caserta Pizzeria
121 Spruce Street, Providence RI

Web Site:

Caserta Pizzeria, Providence RI by you.

Caserta Pizzeria is OLD school pizza from an old New England Italian neighborhood. Don’t pass it up.

Some people want to live vicariously through my stomach, in order to re-live their childhood.

One of these people is Andy Patrizio, a friend of mine and fellow technology industry journalist who lives out in the San Francisco Bay area. As soon as he heard I was going to be traveling to Rhode Island and Providence, where he spent the first 25 years of his life, his face lit up. Well, I didn’t actually SEE his face lit up, but I could feel as much with his IM’s and Twitters coming my way.

Andy insisted that I could not leave the city of his youth without going to one of his favorite haunts, Caserta Pizza. I don’t do a lot of Pizza these days, but I do know that New England has legit pizza traditions, such as the style served in New Haven, CT. Like New Haven, Providence has its own version of Little Italy, complete with restaurants, groceries and delis,  and it also has its legendary pizzeria — Caserta’s, which has been in operation for over 50 years.

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NJ Dining: Trattoria Sorrentina (UPDATED)

October 7, 2007

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Trattoria Sorrentina
7831 Bergenline Ave, North Bergen, NJ
(201) 869-8100

Ethereal Pizza, particularly anything resembling the genuine Italian article, can be particularly hard to find in New Jersey, or even New York City for that matter. Sure, in Jersey, we have some really good Italian-American places like Lodi Pizza, Pizza Town USA in Clifton, Santillo’s in Elizabeth, Reservoir Tavern in Parsippany, Star Tavern in Orange, or the legendary DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies in Trenton that make great American-style pies. But the real, thin crust deal like they make in Naples? With a real savory and basil infused sauce that uses San Marzano tomatoes? That’s a very tall order.

So it happened about a week ago I was talking with Daniele, owner of DiPalma Brothers in North Bergen, and asked him where he liked to eat pizza. Daniele and his family are from Naples, and serve probably the best Italian cuisine in the entire area. So when he uttered the following statement, it was like as if an entire shipping crate of San Marzanos had just fallen on top of my head.

“I eat at my uncle’s restaurant — Trattoria Sorrentina, on Bergenline and 79th street. They make the real thing.”

Now you must understand, Rachel and I just ate a full dinner at DiPalma Brothers. But just on Daniele’s recommendation alone we made a bee-line for Sorrentina and got a plain Margherita pie to take home. It was — for lack of a better descriptor — the best pizza I have ever eaten in the entire North Jersey area.

Trattoria Sorrentina uses a gas fired brick oven to make its pizzas. A true Pizza Napoletana as it is made in Naples would actually use a wood fired brick oven and reach 1000 degree temperatures. Sorrentina compromises with the gas oven and cooks its pies in excess of 600 degrees, and they use domestic flour as opposed to Italian “00” flour, so it is still technically American style Pizza, which combines elements of true Italian-style pizza by using high-quality ingredients. However, I actually happen to prefer this pseudo-authentic hybrid Nouveau Italian-American style to what is served at A Mano in Ridgewood, which for all intents and purposes is actual Pizza Napoletana.

Near-Neapolitan Pizza in North Jersey. Bravissimo! Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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NJ Dining: Teaneck Kebab House

June 24, 2006

Teaneck Kebab House
253 DeGraw Ave, Teaneck, NJ
(201) 836-8571

One of the cool things about going out to dine at other restaurants, and well, getting out of the house, is noticing the other restaurants near where you’re going. Such a thing happened the other day when we went to Bistro En and noticed the Teaneck Kebab House on the other side of the street.

The native cuisine of Afghanistan is rather unknown to Northern New Jersey and not a lot of people know much about it. Like many cultures that are historically crossroads for trade routes, its flavors and foods are highly influenced by its neighbors, Persia (Iran/Iraq), Pakistan (and India), Mongolia and many of the former republics of the USSR.

Teaneck Kebab house has a beautiful dining room, but because its main entrance is closed to the street and the windows are draped, you’d have no idea. They also own the pizza place next door, which you need to enter in order to gain access to the Kebab House.

The room is filled with genuine Afghan carpets, giving it a very warm and cozy feel. Live entertainment is provided on weekends.

These are Sambosas, a type of fried meat turnover. They are puffy on the inside so you can take a small bite and fill them with chutney.

Teaneck Kabab House, Teaneck NJ by you.

A spicy vegetable soup with noodles.

This is the complimentary salad, which has a nice mint/yogurt dressing.

Teaneck Kabab House, Teaneck NJ by you.

Mantoo, fresh meat dumplings with a tomato/meat sauce and yogurt. The black “dust” is dried mint, which imparts an interesting flavor to the dish. The spices used in the restaurant are sourced strictly from Afghani merchants.

This is a hot eggplant appetizer. The eggplant has a really strong and bold flavor, and resembles Turkish eggplant salad somewhat, but with a different spicing. It’s eaten with traditional Afghan bread:

Afghan Bread

This is pasta with red beans, in a tangy yogurt sauce.

Kofta Kebab (spiced ground lamb) with brown Afghan Basmati rice pilaf/pilow. The rice is washed for 24 hours before cooking. Naturally all the meat served in the restaurant is Halal.

Teaneck Kabab House, Teaneck NJ by you.

Chapli Kebab, another spicy meat Kebab. Wonderful.

Teaneck Kabab House, Teaneck NJ by you.

Chicken Curry, Afghan Style.

Teaneck Kabab House, Teaneck NJ by you.

Rice for the curry.

The Pizzeria they own next door shouldn’t be overlooked — they do both deep dish and thin NY-style pizza (with Halal mozzarella cheese).

The pizza place also uses Halal meat for its Gyro sandwiches, and has a great oregano/cumin flavor to it.