Obituary: DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies
All pies go to heaven.
(Trenton, NJ) - DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies on Hudson Street in Trenton, NJ has announced its imminent closing on Jan 15, 2012. This is a sad moment for New Jersey pizza lovers who take pride in the small handful of “tomato pie” spots in the Trenton enclave of Chambersburg.
The DeLorenzo family opened a tomato pie* restaurant in 1936, when NJ was experiencing somewhat of a pizza boom (lots of “tavern” pizzerias like Reservoir Tavern, Star Tavern, Kinchley’s Tavern). Chick DeLorenzo struck out on his own in 1947 when he opened his restaurant on Hudson St. This move marked a switch from coal- to natural gas fired oven, as was the style at the time. The restaurant’s heyday spanned the decades following WWII, when famous baseball players, film stars, opera singers, etc made stops at DeLorenzo’s for some comfort food. But the neighborhood began to change as Italians moved to greener pastures and families in need of newly vacated housing moved in. Things even got so rough that DeLo’s had to hire a bouncer to keep the peace outside. Yet DeLorenzo’s continued to serve its simple, honest, no-nonsense pizza to whoever could find it in the backstreets of Trenton.
Owners Gary and Eileen Amico (Eileen is Chick’s daughter) simply decided it’s time to call it a day, and as upsetting as it may be, you really have to respect them for being able to make what was most certainly a difficult decision. At the end of the day, DeLorenzo’s never went downhill because of changed management, cut corners or any of the usual assassins of great fooderies, its closing simply marks yet another victim of time.
DeLorenzo’s in Robbinsville is every bit as good as the Hudson St location.
A few years ago, Gary and Eileen’s son Sam opened his own location in a newly constructed space in nearby Robbinsville. The space is completely different than the original, almost a shrine to it (old photos on the wall, bakers’ peels, identical ovens) with two major exceptions: it has a bathroom (Hudson St does not) and it’s a lot bigger (Hudson St is so small there is always a line outside).
Papa’s Tomato Pies, which opened in 1912, also struggles with the decision to stay open. They serve excellent tomato pie / pizza but also feel the squeeze of an altered neighborhood. Trenton’s other DeLorenzo’s, on Hamilton Ave, remains open. It’s run by the other half of the Delorenzo family (Eileen’s brothers, I believe) and puts their cheese on after the tomato, which is reflected in their name, DeLorenzo’s Pizza.
*Tomato pie is essentially the same thing as pizza, although some say the inversion of sauce over cheese elicits a name change. Many New York pizza institutions also do sauce over cheese, including John’s Pizzeria, Sam’s Restaurant, Arturo’s and Grimaldi’s.
Central New York and some parts of South Jersey/Philly use “tomato pie” to describe thick, square room temp bakery pizza.
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