Best Pizza in NJ Throwdown, Entry #1: Rezza Trattoria

Pizza is one of the great loves of my life. I feel #blessed to have grown up in NJ where we have the best pizza on earth (New York, be quiet. Chicago, I love you endlessly, but no. Just no.) so pizza and I have been able to cultivate our relationship for the entirety of my life. It even lasted through 4 years of long distance while I went to school in PA. Yes, while I was in PA I did a little cheating with PA pizza but nothing we all didn’t do in college and certainly nothing I’m proud of. If anything, my infidelity made my true love stronger in the end. After 4 years in PA, I came back to NJ groveling on my knees for “real pizza.” (Also bagels but that’s another discussion entirely.)

One of my lifelong dreams is to order like 50 pizzas from all of my favorite pizza places in NJ and invite people over to taste test and vote for their favorites. A lofty, admirable goal, I know. Some dream of curing cancer, vaccines for all, clean drinking water… I, pizza parties. That idea has been in the works for a while though and I have consistently failed to execute so instead I hope to accomplish that here, in this blog, by myself, as a one person pizza party. Which is cool because given the choice between being at the head of a dictatorship/having the supreme opinion, or a democracy/having to listen to other people’s opinions, I choose dictatorship.

I have it narrowed down to 4 contenders right now and thoughts about which one is my ultimate favorite keep me up nights. Up until last week, after years of competitive vetting, I had my contenders narrowed down to three.

Then last week out of nowhere, Rezza Trattoria in Roseland unknowingly injected itself into the competition for my heart.

I’m actually embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of Rezza before last week and probably never would have were it not for the kitchen renovation that has us in Livingston instead of Summit right now. So I’m calling it fate. Luckily my friend and one of the few people I trust for food and restaurant recommendations (looking at you, JK) came through in my hour of need when I frantically texted her for a pizza delivery recommendation in Livingston. I started salivating as soon as I started looking at Rezza’s pictures on Yelp.

And then that beautiful rectangle of dough, sauce, and cheese arrived. And I nearly died of love. And then I heated it up for lunch the next day. And my pizza world has been forever turned upside-down.

In my opinion, well-made pizza doesn’t travel well when it’s freshly made so delivery isn’t the fairest way to judge it. I absolutely loved the pizza from Rezza that I had delivered, but I liked it even better the next day, fresh out of my oven. So I knew I had to go to the actual restaurant to get a better read on it. After thinking about it literally nonstop for over a week, we went there last Friday. It should be noted here that I was nearly dead of exhaustion that day and we couldn’t get a babysitter to come until after 8:30pm and I almost fell asleep on the 10-minute drive there and I still insisted on going there. That’s how committed I was to this endeavor.

 

Fair warning: You’re about to see a bunch of pictures of non-pizza food and here is where I shall confess that I am a chronic over-orderer at restaurants. I have absolutely no shame about this and no intention of ever reforming. I need to sample something from as many sections of the menu as possible and, at Italian restaurants specifically, I absolutely have to get the pizza, the meatballs, and a pasta dish to be able to form a well-rounded opinion.

 

For appetizers, we had fried calamari, meatballs, and (OK it’s starting to sink in now just how much self-control I lack) a full dinner-sized order of rigatoni with vodka sauce. Everything was good. The meatballs were good, not the best I’ve ever had, but well seasoned and moist.  If I had to say anything bad about the entire meal, I would say the calamari was a bit salty. I would get it again, though. A little sodium overload never hurt anybody. Or maybe it has. Either way, I don’t care. The rigatoni with vodka sauce was really good. It came out scorching hot which I love, and had the perfect amount (read: tons) of creamy vodka sauce. When I got the pizza delivered I also got the cavatelli with broccoli and that was even better in my opinion. The buttery sauce had the perfect amount of salt and garlic and the cavatelli is home-fucking-made. HOMEMADE CAVATELLI. Mic drop.

Just kidding. I’m picking the mic back up to introduce the real star of the show…

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I mean, come on. This thing is just an absolute beauty and I’m not even mildly good at taking food pictures. This rectangular shape is their “traditional” pie. We got half fried eggplant/ricotta and half pepperoni/pineapple. That pepperoni/pineapple combo is the brainchild of one of E’s friends (4 years old) and all I have to say is don’t knock it til you try it. I order it everywhere now.

This pizza has the perfect texture. It’s chewy and doughy but still crunchy around the edges, complete with bits of burnt cheese on the outer crust. And the texture is maintained throughout the entire pizza, including the middle which is where a lot of places drop the ball. No soggy middles here! The sauce is perfectly sweet and they put just the right amount on. They’re generous with the toppings and both sides of the pizza were cooked perfectly despite having different toppings (and one of them was fried which can be tricky!).

After our disgusting dinner display, of course we still looked at a dessert menu and decided on these little donut things. I have no idea what they were called (not zeppoles) and I refuse to look it up but they were little deep fried bites of deliciousness with a citrusy tang (orange zest, I’m fairly certain) in the middle. I’m an absolute psycho about all fried food and also desserts in general so this dish had a high potential for failure for me but the execution was spot on. They came out hot, not soggy at all, and perfectly crispy. I could eat 500 of them.

We’ve been in Livingston now for about 3 weeks and I spend a portion of every day thinking about when is the next time I can have Rezza pizza. My self-imposed limit is once a week. I even went out to pizza with the boys last week (not at Rezza) and didn’t eat any of their pizza because well 1) R would’ve clawed my eyes out if I touched his plate, and 2) I was holding out to order Rezza. I don’t think the pizza love gets more real than that.

What do you look for in a pizza? What pizzeria has your heart?

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