Since we moved to Long Island a couple years ago, we really haven't taken very good advantage of what we've got around us. We still venture back west into the city whenever we want some culture or some decent food. I mean, you do what you know, right? But finally, we're putting a little more effort into making some local connections.
Tonight I discovered that we've got probably one of the best pizzerias in the country pretty close by.
I took the photo from the wrong side, but hopefully you can read the name Blue Moon. (Ignore the fact that they specialize in "Neopolitan" cuisine... that would be some sort of "post-modern politan," I guess.)
There is actually this little street in Rockville Centre, two towns or about two miles over from us, that's literally just restaurant after restaurant, and all of them either trendy as any Soho bistro or authentic as any pre-war tavern (and I mean pre-War of 1812). It's called Park Avenue, and it's like a little mini-Manhattan, Village-style sidewalk cafes and all. On this street you'll find Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, and American cuisines at least, plus several bars, a full-on beer garden, and possibly one or two spots that are vaguely French-looking.
We've tried the Thai on this street (very good, totally real), and tonight we hit Blue Moon because their signage says they have a coal oven. If you've read any of my previous pizza posts, then you know I consider this a pre-requisite for good pizza. And coal ovens can be pretty hard to find - they are illegal for new restaurants, after all.
Blue Moon's been around since 1937, according to the box:
So I guess their oven was grandfathered in under the current law. That would also put their pizza among the earliest in the country. Lombardi's, the nation's first pizzeria, opened in 1905... and not much happened for a lot of years after that. It wasn't until post-WWII that many people even really started eating the stuff in New York, much less anywhere else. (Chicago style pizza wasn't even invented until 1943.) Before that, it was mostly just Italian immigrants. This is a pretty heavy Italian area that we live in, though maybe not as much now as it used to be.
Here's the pizza, and apologies for the half-pie - I didn't know it would be so good so I wasn't prepared for a photo op before we ate.
We got their special pizza, which is sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms. We actually got half without the mushrooms, which you can tell in the photo. Anyway, their pizza is just like it should be. The crust is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside - it's like eating a really good quality bread from a bakery. The sauce was just exploding with fresh tomato flavor. The cheese is sliced, not grated. The peppers and onions were perfectly cooked - not rock hard but not wilted and watery either (even the great Lombardi's is guilty of this sometimes). And the sausage, while mild, has exactly the taste you want and expect - this is Italian comfort food.
I gotta say it again - a coal oven is what makes crust like this possible. I know people that regularly pick the cheese and toppings off their pizza, eat it, then throw away the crust. They think the crust is disposable, just a platform to hold the toppings. That's because they're eating crappy pizza, and most pizza is. You need to cook pizza at 850 degrees. The crust shouldn't be chewy, or have the consistency of cardboard. It shouldn't be tasteless, either - it should have a nice, smoky flavor. At a good pizzeria, having that wedge of empty crust at the end of a slice is like a little treat. And Blue Moon pizza is like that.
I took a random photo of their menu so you can see the toppings they have, all traditional stuff, nothing fancy:
By the way, they also have Brooklyn Lager on draft. That almost by itself is worth the price of admission - as good as this beer is in a bottle, it's about the best thing you'll ever taste when it comes out of a tap. (One of these days I'll go to the brewery in Brooklyn itself, and I'll write about it here when I do.)
Oh, and they make a mean tiramisu.
The funny thing is Grimaldi's in Brooklyn has people lined up around the block pretty much every minute they're open for business. Blue Moon has better pizza - no question about it - and the place was almost empty when we went. (We did go early, I'm sure they're busier later. Can't stay open 71 years with no customers.)
Who needs the city?