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DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pie (“DTP”) in Robbinsville is operated by the third generation of the same family as DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pie on Hudson Street, which closed in 2012 (when the second generation retired). It traces a common family lineage with DeLorenzo’s Pizza, until 2013 on Hamilton Avenue and now on Sloane Avenue in Hamilton*.
The Robbinsville restaurant is important because Hudson Street established a national reputation for excellence. While Papa’s fans might disagree, DeLorenzo’s of Hudson Street was the restaurant that kept Trenton Tomato Pie in the national consciousness.
Make no mistake, the pies in Robbinsville are really good. On the original date of this review, we are are engaged in a comprehensive Tomato Pie competition at Hidden Trenton. DTP is too far out of town for this competition, but it’s safe to say that it would be among the best we’ve sampled (and frankly, better than the DeLorenzo’s on Sloane Ave) were it part of the competition.
At the core of DeLorenzo’s excellence is its crust, and on our rating scale, it’s as good as any we’ve sampled. Check out the header photo: the crust is relatively thin, yet the undercarriage is crisp and stays crisp throughout the entire meal. It’s one of the few crusts which provides some serious char: to my taste buds, enough to add real interest and flavor texture. The balance of tomato and cheese on top is just about perfect: light on both, but enough to be satisfying. It’s a superb pie!
Do we have criticisms? Yes. The crust, particularly the rim, is slightly drier and blander than a select few competitors. As I mentioned, overall, we rate DeLorenzo’s crust as good as any we’ve sampled to date in our competition, but these faults are why, in our opinion, we rate a couple of others as equally good. In addition, DLT’s cheese is good, but not remarkable. And frankly, we were disappointed in the tomato. It’s barely seasoned, and lacks the intensity of the best tomato toppings we’ve sampled. We found ourselves heavily salting and peppering the pie to gain full enjoyment.**
Also, we ordered our sample pie with mushrooms. These were good quality fresh mushrooms, sprinkled raw on top and cooked during the baking. That’s OK, though we felt our pie should have come with more (it was a truly light sprinkle), and not nearly as good as some other restaurants that season and pre-cook their mushrooms before putting them on the pie.
Criticisms aside, it’s worth visiting Robbinsville because it’s an iconic restaurant that gives you a solid basis to judge other tomato pies you’ll find closer to town. The restaurant is actually quite a pleasant place to eat a meal, with a beautiful, upscale interior (though part of a retail strip for a condo development that is kind of depressing). And yes, unlike the Hudson Street store, it does have a bathroom.
It is pricey for pizza. A plain pie is $12.50 for a small and $15.50 for a large. Salads, which are big for side salads, but a bit small for two to share, are $8 – 12 each. So, let’s say 3 people split a large pie with 2 toppings, share two salads, and order a soft drink each. That’s a pretty economical meal, and with state tax, the check would be about $46, right at our $$ rating, which is $15/head. Of course, if your party is hungry and orders an additional salad or a second pie, you’re well into the $$ range ($15-30).
It is, however, a delicious meal, and most people will view it as “worth it”. You can BYOB.
*Chick Delorenzo founded the Hudson St business in 1947, shortly after returning from service in WWII, striking out on his own from the family pizza business founded by his parents in 1938. The founder of Delorenzo’s Tomato Pie in Robbinsville is Chick’s grandson, Sam Amico. The DeLorenzo’s Pizza on Sloan Ave descends from the original family business. Chick’s younger brothers, Rick, Pat, and Ray, ran it during the war, and continued to run it during the post-war years. The Sloane Ave DeLorenzo’s Pizza was founded by Rick’s son (Rick, Jr). So, if I get my relationships correct, Sam (Robbinsville) is Rick (Sloane Ave), Jr’s first cousin once removed. While there are some common themes, the two restaurants produce very different pies.
**Interestingly, the menu calls out the fact that, “We do not serve grated cheese”. When I asked my server why, he responded, “It upstages the flavor of the cheese on the pie”. Now, that may be true, and certainly I felt no need for grated cheese as I enjoyed my pie. But if a customer wants grated cheese, why wouldn’t you provide it? It smacks of an arrogant, “we know better than our customers” attitude that sits uneasily with me.