It’s no secret that New York knows pizza, however, New Jersey holds a secret truth that many have been ignoring for far too long: New Jersey knows pizza better.
For those who live in Jersey, we know the truth. We know it because we not only debate with other states that we have the best pizza, but we also debate with each other on just which pizza parlor is serving up the best pie in the state. I’m always willing to bring my favorite pie from Kate and Al’s Pizza up against anyone else’s favorite because two things are almost always certain:
1. They’ve never had anything like it
2. They don’t have a negative statement to make about it.
I am, however, often amazed by just how many New Jersey residents have not known the magic that is Kate and Al’s Pizza. This becomes counter balanced with the awe of people who know of it and travel major distances for a pie.
I say, “Yipee!” to the Great Pizza Debate because it means this: I get to try more and more delicious pizza. After all, we couldn’t be the state with the best pizza if we only had one decent pizza joint.
While I could delve into the differences in pizzas across the state of New Jersey, we’ll have to save that for a future post. Today’s post is specifically geared towards comparing my favorite pie with a competitor in that place that’s been trying to take the spotlight from New Jersey: New York.
Lance’s friend, Jason, took us to L&B Spumoni Gardens Pizzeria and Restaurant two winters ago. He swore up and down it was the best pizza on the planet. We told him about our favorite pie in Jersey and in description alone, both sounded mighty similar. You cannot judge a pie simply on one visit. I’m strict about that. This is why I have yet to post about this trip. However, a few weeks ago we revisited L&B Spumoni Gardens and now I am ready to put on record my feelings.
I’ve heard, but not seen, that there is an episode on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives featuring L&B Spumoni Gardens. Naturally, L&B Spumoni Gardens lovers use that as proof that their pie is better. I have two answers to such a notion:
1. Guy Fieri simply has not yet discovered the wonder that is Kate and Al’s pizza
2. I’ve already written in to inform him of it. You’re welcome, America.
I think you already know that I favor Kate and Al’s so, let’s begin our debate by taking a look at L&B Spumoni Gardens, the Brooklyn, NY competitor:
L&B Spumoni Gardens has been around since 1939, however, it didn’t start as a pizzeria. It started, you guessed it, selling spumoni. If you haven’t had spumoni, it is incredible and L&B is one of the few places I have been to that serves it. Spumoni is a layered Italian ice cream. One of the most classic layers to be found in spumoni is pistachio ice cream. I am convinced, pistachio is pretty much one of the best flavors that can be added to make any dessert better. If you haven’t had pistachio muffins or cake, please seek it out and try it today!
It wasn’t until the mid 1950’s that Spumoni Gardens added two more buildings on and began selling their famous thick Sicilian pies. This expansion is one positive that grants visitors a place to sit, however, it makes their focus not only pizza and spumoni but also traditional Italian fare of sandwiches, pastas, salads, etc. The Sicilian pie is the showstopper, and what we’re here to discuss. The sauce is super sweet, which I love, but it leaves an overly peppery aftertaste (which I do not love). The crust is the true area for comparison here. It is a perfectly thick, Sicilian crust that is never soggy, with an excellent crunch to it. The cheese is distributed not quite as light as Kate and Al’s, but not as heavy as a traditional Sicilian either. It comes out quite nice.
But here is the problem…I can cut myself off. When I’ve reached three slices, I don’t find myself fighting over should I or shouldn’t I go for another slice. I recognize how full I am and I say arrivederci to the slices trying to taunt me from inside the box.
Kate and Al’s Pizza in Columbus, NJ was a once-a-week lunch spot for me and my brother, Joel. I don’t mean lunch as in we stopped by and ordered a few slices. No. I mean, we would get a whole pie (10 slices) and split it. Whoever didn’t eat all five of their slices was named the wimp of the day and had to bare that shame for the rest of the night. The sauce is a subtly sweet tomato puree given some depth by Parmesan sprinkled throughout and an even consistency of spices. It is essentially the beautiful love child of a tomato pie and a Sicilian pie. Rather than a thin crust, it has a thicker, Sicilian styled crust. Rather that small rectangular slices, the slices are almost double the size of an average Sicilian pie.
They serve pizza and only pizza. Sure, toppings are available, but why mess with something that is already a masterpiece? The only complaint I’ve heard that some people have with Kate and Al’s is that the crust is not crisp (Note: It isn’t soggier either, and, you didn’t hear it from me, but their competition only feet away in the same marketplace offers a twin pie with a crispier crust). Regardless of the complaints, they aren’t hurting for business. The wait is always at least 30 minutes, and on a Sunday afternoon–fuhgettaboutit! Personally, I prefer their crust. Something about the gentle, barely there crunch of their pie pairs beautifully with the sea of sauce and light sprinkling of mozzarella.
The crowd is really how you know that either of these places offers amazing pizza. I’ve been to L&B Spumoni Gardens in the winter and the summer, and I’ve been to Kate and Al’s at pretty much every possible point in time, both locations are always hopping, with a long line waiting for pizza.
So while I know my New York friends are going to stay true to their favorite pie, I’m going to settle on the fact (oh yes, fact!) that Kate and Al’s is the best lovechild pie anyone on earth ever created.
Think you know a similar pie that could compete with Kate and Al’s? Tell me about it in the comments below! Bonus points if it is in New Jersey!