"What would you like to eat for dinner tonight?"
"Let's try one of those $5 pizzas."
"Did Genc's open up? Let's try it!"
Up until now, folks in the Caldwells couldn't have had the above exchange without the use of a time machine.
The just-opened Genc's Pizza (408 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell) is offering their large plain pizza for just that, dialing back the average current local price for such an item by almost two-thirds, to an amount not seen in these parts since the early years of the Reagan administration.
It's certainly gotten the fledgling operation some attention, especially in light of the current economic climate: A whole pizza for $5? That's less than a fast-food value meal that serves one, let alone two or three people.
For Genc's, it's not so much a newly hatched master plan, but business as usual; The Caldwell location is actually their second, the first being Gencarelli's Bar and Grill in North Newark, where large plain pies also sell for a fiver.
Still, if not perplexing, the price point is thought provoking. How do they plan on making a profit?
"Volume," smiles co-owner Pina Pagliuca.
I'm in Genc's in the 4 o'clock hour on a Friday, and although it's not too busy yet, the daughter of Salvatore (the "original" Gencarelli) is in constant movement from station to station behind the counter as she talks to me. From the register area to the ovens, to putting pizzas in the boxes, she does it all, and with aplomb. "This is how we operate," she says, "I know how to do everything in the business."
Her tone is friendly, but also sounds as though she answers the price question a lot. The Belleville native is excited to have a store in Caldwell. She knows the area well from visiting family and friends here, and had looked around for a location for awhile that "had the right square footage."
Looking around, it's clear that Genc's is "built for speed"; the decor is spartan, with equipment taking up most of it–the ovens are fired up, the boxes are stacked at the ready, and customers are tended to quickly. High output is the goal and style here.
It had better be, as inflation hasn't excluded the pizza business as of late, and in fact has flat-out haunted it from time to time. Pizza ingredients are subject to volatility. Flour shot up something like 200% a few years ago, and the per-pound price for cheese is on the up and up.
Ultimately, if the product is good, we the pizza public can simply leave the economics to the budget (and dough) cookers at Genc's, and enjoy the savings.
So how is it?
In the spirit of our Best Pizza of The Caldwells contest earlier this year, I paid Genc's a visit and ordered up a large plain to put through the paces.
Since there's no way to eat-in, I ate it over at Rockn' Joe ... here are the results:
Out of the box impressions: Genc's pizza looks pretty good–it has a classic blend of "pizza colors," making it look like a nice, old-school bar/restaurant pizza. It's perhaps a half-inch smaller than the advertised 16", but pies can vary.
Cheese: There was a light amount of cheese on this pie, but not lacking. Coverage is pretty close to the edge of the crust. A couple of slices had more cheese than others. Some seasoning was effectively used on top it–the oil is produced from baking made for a great unique taste–are we using 100% mozzarella here? It has more flavor than that. Interestingly, it was applied in spots in circles–I wasn't sure if it was for style or portion control.
Sauce: Judging by the pizza I had, Genc's has a great sauce. It's spicy and rich, and for a thinner pie, there was a lot on the pizza. Good stuff.
Crust: The overall "body" of the pie is again in the "thin" category, but there's a decent enough "handle" along the edges. I think this pizza could have been cooked a little more to take it to an even higher level–the style of the whole pie is just asking for it. Part of my pie was cooked a little more than the rest (see photo), and it was near-perfect.
Overall: For five bucks (including tax!), you can't lose. It's not just a cheap way to feed the kids, it's a good meal. Ask for it well done. I now have another place to add to my pizzeria rotation list.
408 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell
Additional notes: Delivery available with a $1.00 extra charge and two plain pizza minimum. Pizza toppings are on offer, along with other menu items such as hot subs and pepperoni and sausage stuffed breads. Other specials include an after-school slice and drink combo ($3) and a pizza/wings/soda package ($20). Catering available.