The Pizza and Sandwich Barn (affectionately called "The Barn" by it's fans) has always been favorite of folks in The Caldwells and is arguably one of the current longest-standing businesses in the area. It's roots go back to the late '60s, when it was just a "sandwich barn." Pizza was added in 1978, when current owner Jerry Di Taranto took over.
Back to The Barnyard
The indoor decor plays up the establishment's name; Hung on the wooden-slatted walls are various objects de farming: boots, baskets, saddles, cowboy hats and a wagon wheel with even more stuff that creates a very "yee haw!" atmosphere. It recalls sub shops of yesteryear, before customers had to stand on assembly lines.
It even looks cooler than it sounds, and in spite of its old-west theme, it feels very 1970s, when places like this had individual character. There are five or six booth-style tables (stalls?) along a wall that usually fill up fast—movie crowds (the Caldwell Cinema is just about touching distance) add to the steady flow of customers throughout the day.
If there's no parking on Bloomfield Avenue, one can hitch their wagon in the back where there's a huge municipal lot and a convenient pathway just two doors away.
Then, there are the subs. The Barn's sandwich creations are popular for good reason. They are large, old-school, big and soggy, meat filled, wax-wrapped creations.
Some are just identified by a number, while others have quirky and now famous names: "The Ferncliff," "The Grove," "The Montclair" and more. The use of "Virginia" ham is specified and the beef for the sandwiches (corned and otherwise) is made fresh on the premises.
There are dinners, such as the "hidden" gem, shrimp scampi. Soft-serve ice cream is available at the sub counter and was introduced sometime in the '90s.
The overall personality of The Barn has served well to endear it to the public. There's even a sign in the window that advertises in fun ways—"why cook tonight?" or "Some say our subs taste the best—we agree."
Incidentally, we're not the only ones recently making hay about The Barn—there's a banner hanging outside proclaiming it's pizza as the best tasting around, as decided by students at Caldwell College. Is it true? Is The Barn the best?
The Caldwells Patch recently stopped by to taste for themselves. The judges this time were limited to just Editor Mike Pignataro and Contributor Ron Albanese following a last-minute cancellation by a special guest.
Mike: It was my first time inside The Barn and it immediately reminded me of a similar place near where I went to college in Connecticut.
In addition to having a wide-array of sandwich concoctions, The Barn offers a variety of pizzas. Among them include a new gluten-free version, deep dish pan style, "Old World" thin crust as well as pasta vodka pizza and even a chicken finger pizza that features honey mustard sauce.
It's an interesting and certainly vast variety of pizzas, but The Barn's plain cheese pizza was just that—kind of basic. While sprinkled with black pepper and layered with cheese, it needed more sauce and a touch more flavor. The crust was medium-thick, crispy in most areas while wet and a bit oily in others.
With its long history, The Barn remains a staple of downtown Caldwell. While simple, the pizza is a quick and convenient option for anyone heading to or from the movie theater or kids who want to grab a snack on their way home from school.
Ron: First, I have to give special props for the presentation. When Mike Di Girolomo, who's been at The Barn since the Carter administration, brought the pizza to our table, also on the tray was a little triangular spatula, which proved to be quite handy.
As for the pizza itself, it's your basic garden (farm) variety stuff. The medium-thick dough was well-cooked and crunchy. It had a "floury" taste—flour was in fact visible on it.
The cheese may be a part skim and whole milk mix since the pie was more yellow here and white there. The cheese was salty and tasted good overall.
I would have liked to have had a little more sauce; there was so little of it that the pie tasted dry. Just another half ladle would have created a nice contrast to the dry crust.
I'm not sure I'd want it to change, though—going to The Barn is like seeing an old friend—it's familiar, cool and consistent.
An irony is that although it gets older, much of its following stays young. The Pizza and Sandwich Barn is a longtime haunt of high school and college kids.
It jibes with the style of their pizza—it's a decent enough "entry level" type of pie, especially if grabbing one along with a couple of subs. A more discriminating pizza palette would probably graduate to something else, eventually.
Pizza and Sandwich Barn
Address: 323 Bloomfield Ave.
Cheese pizza price: $12.25
Taste tested on: March 25, 2010
If you would like to be a guest judge, please let us know or post your experiences at each pizzeria below. After visiting Forte, Calandra's, Nicco's, Cedar Grill and Pizza and the Pizza and Sandwich Barn, The Caldwells Patch continues with a stop off of Bloomfield Avenue next week at Tony D's on Hanford Place.