Santillo’s – Elizabeth, NJ

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We rode to Santillo’s a pizzeria founded in 1918 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, after reading that it was awarded Best Pizza by The Star-Ledger with De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pie getting only the Central Jersey Best Of Award. So sniffing in skepticism, we rode there after an event in New York. It was a 15-minute ride from the Lincoln Tunnel, we parked right in front at about 4:30. As advertised, the pizzeria is behind the house, just down their driveway, and it’s take out only. Two people came to pick up pizza as we walked in and each told us, this was special.


The people inside, a deliver man and a lady pizzaola, were extremely friendly. The lady suggested the Sicilian “It’s different than what you would get in Princeton…” and we chose also their 1957 style Extra Thin around. We were told we’d wait fifteen minutes, and that’s just what it took. Meanwhile the delivery man came back from a local Italian Ice place and gave us each a cup to enjoy.

When the 1957 style was done, the lady showed us the pizza and asked us if it was done enough for us, a personal touch we have not seen at any other famous pizzeria, even the ones at which we are known locals. She put each in a box and handed us a paper with directions to a local bar where, if we bought drinks, they would let us sit and eat our pizzas, and so we rode two minutes to this bar, at which everyone at the counter was speaking Portuguese.

The 1957 thin crust pizza was delicious with a very hearty tomato sauce and a superb crust unlike any we’ve had before. The Sicilian was a little gooey, heavily cheesy, but also delicious. This is a destination pizza place for sure, but the lack of a sit down facility inside and the need to go through a rough looking neighborhood to get to a bar probably means this may be our first and only trip. It’s also our belief that the Newark Star Ledger was perhaps boosting a local favorite, since in our opinion they are not quite the distinctive destination that is Trenton’s De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies. But make no mistake, they are far superior to any pizzeria we’ve tried in Manhattan (blowing Motorino’s away) and surpassed in New York only by Di Fara in Brooklyn. Manhattanites should take note.

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Oddly, even though Princeton is just 20 miles from where I grew up, I don’t know it at all. We never went that way except—in fact, I’ve only been twice to Trenton. Once for a class field trip to the State Capitol (and Drumthwacket, speaking of Princeton) and once for the championship football game against Trenton Central.

The only other time I went to Trenton was for a school field trip. De Lorenzo’s is way better than the state capitol.

Championship football game? Who won, and what’d you eat to celebrate?

Great, I just salivated all over my shirt. I *love* Santillo’s. My dad used to drive up to Elizabeth just to get the pizza.

Dave, your memories are my pizza dreams. Funny, it wasn’t until years after I left New Jersey that I tried any of the state’s heavyweight pizza joints. De Lorenzo’s is pretty amazing, if you haven’t been. Conte’s is also good in Princeton, and totally different.

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