Article by Michael Mizov @mikemizov
Somerville is known for its restaurants, plain and simple. People come here from all over New Jersey to indulge in some of the best and most unique restaurants in the state. Even so, like any other town in New Jersey, we have pizza. A lot of pizza. In this gastronomic adventure, I’m going to be taking a pizza tour to discover the most delectable slices in Somerville. At each I’ll be trying a random plain slice, if available, and a specialty pie. This article required exhaustive research and eating a whole lot of pizza, so let it be known I’m committed to the task of eating as much pizza as possible.
Instead of doing them in order of rating, I’ll be presenting them from West to East. A tour requires traveling so I thought it best to start at the westernmost pizza place and work my way east.
Central Pizzeria is the first stop. Going in it has the classic NJ pizza place look, a counter, drinks, and some tables. It’s also connected to The Venetian Grille and if you walk past the tables, then through the next room of tables, you’ll end up at a small bar and occasionally has comedy shows. The plain slice is a classic New York-style pizza. It has a thin, crispy crust serves as the perfect foundation what I’d call a good amount of sauce – you can taste it, but the cheese isn’t sliding off. For the specialty pizza I went with a classic margherita. The start of this pie is truly the sauce, it has a hint of oregano and a little bit of spice to it and is delicious.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking but hear me out, this is technically in Somerville. But seriously… it’s 11PM, everything else is closed, and you want something pizza-ish… why not a Mexican Pizza? It’s the ultimate thin crust with tomatoes, sauce (of the fire variety), and beef. If you’re looking for an actual pizza Mexican pizza, I recommend giving the ones from Central, Calabria Mia, or Acapulco (in Raritan) a try. Okay, back to actual pizzerias.
After the unfortunate pipe burst in July Alfonso's was closed until late September, sorely missed after wandering around a Friday Cruise Night. Back and more crowded than ever I was happy to stop in and see how things are shaping up in this Main Street mainstay. The plain slice is New York-style, with a crispy crust and an ample amount of sauce. The cheese holds on well and it’s easy, a little too easy, to gobble it down one-handed. The specialty pies are where Alfonso’s really has a chance to shine. Over the years I’ve tried several of them, and my personal favorite is the BBQ chicken – a white pie with a drizzling of hickory BBQ sauce across it. For the sake of this article, I instead decided to try something new on the menu, something I hadn’t seen before, the Spicy Grandpa – a thin, rectangle shaped pizza with crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, pepperoni, and drizzled with a homemade sriracha infused honey. In a word? Wet. It was good but between the sauce and the honey it was almost sloppy. It was fantastic. The honey gave it a unique edge I’d not had on a pizza before, and the pepperoni gave it that little extra to put it over the top.
So, the tables outside of Calabria Mia belong to Café Picasso, don’t sit in them. That’s what I learned when I first went there. Other than that, this is by and far the narrowest pizzeria in town. The single slice is a thicker than the other places I’ve tried so far, a bit chewier but holds together well and has a strong flavor. If you’re looking for something with a bit more heft Calabria will deliver in spades. For their specialty pizza I went with the Mona Lisa Pizza since I haven’t seen it anywhere else, a bit outside of my norm with zucchini, eggplant, roasted peppers, mushrooms, onions, ricotta, and mozzarella. Whew. It’s tasty but altogether too heavy, after a slice I was completely full and couldn’t even attempt a second. A unique mix of flavors with the zucchini and eggplant together with ricotta. If you need to feed a bunch of people, this might be the one to get.
Two restaurants with one review since they have the exact same menu these days. This pizza has more in common with Taco Bell’s style of pizza than the rest of this list since it’s made on a flour tortilla, but the comparisons end there. I gave the bar pie a try and it was incredibly thin, crispy, but held its shape. The marinara on it was quality and perfectly seasoned. A nice add-on if you’re going to be sharing food at dinner. I gave their truffle pork specialty pizza a try. I can see how people would like it but the truffle oil was so overwhelming it’s all I could taste on the pizza. So, if you’re even mildly interested in truffles I say give it a shot. If not, their bar pie is a great choice.
If you’re in the mode for a dive bar and a no frills bar pie you could do worse. Attached to the very much haunted Hotel Somerset (https://www.somervillecover.com/halloween-events-in-somerville-new-jersey) this bar has a gruff exterior and a gruff interior. The bartenders are no-nonsense, preferring regulars over some bozo that walked in off the street looking for a pizza but will eventually take your order just the same. I would honestly say that the more beers you have the more you’re going to like this pizza, but if your mission is just pizza, maybe weigh your options a bit.
Prima is on the corner of N Gaston and 28, kind of tucked away but it is well worth the jaunt off of Main Street. Their slice is thin, has a crisp to it and a good flavor. It has the right cheese/sauce to crust ratio so no floppiness at all. Barstool Sports stopped in and reviewed them last year and had a similar assessment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gly9ZZropc . Prima changed owners back in 2019 but I couldn’t tell any difference and only found out when I was looking up the address. The specialty pizza is something else though, called The Champlain Pizza. It has a base of Grande mozzarella cheese, topped with marinara, basil, and parmesan. It’s a unique taste that I can’t really compare to anything else, but I absolutely loved it. So much so that it made up my pizza night three weeks in a row after I first had it. It says award winning on the menu and I believe it.
Vinnie's Pizzaria II, N Gaston Ave:
Vinnie’s II unfortunately closed before I got around to writing this article. Nestled in a small building where Gaston meets Cliff, I had eaten there a few times in the past but aside from the first time I ate there it was always a bit too salty. The real charm of it was the ambiance, it was like stepping into a time capsule to have a slide. If he had a Pacman arcade machine in the corner, it would have been every 70s/80s pizza place. The owner was the sole employee anytime I went there so I guess he decided to pack it in.
Whew, that was a lot of pizza, but suffice to say, Somerville has a very vibrant and varied pizza scene. From the classic New York-style simplicity of Central Pizzeria to the gourmet creations of Alfonso's Trattoria to a dive bar pizza at McCormick’s, you’ve got options for the mood you’re in. You can go fancy, you can go simple, you can go just about anywhere. So, dear reader, which pizzeria your favorite? What toppings make it all worthwhile? And more importantly… are you brave enough to switch it up occasionally? Happy eating.