While we get ready to announce a winner next week (the plaque engraver is at work right now), we thought it would be a good time to summarize and share some of our personal experiences.
This taste journey started way back in February, and from there to here it's been a cheesy, saucy trip.
We have officially sampled the plain pizza offerings of each of the 13 pizzerias in The Caldwells and emerged wiser ... and perhaps, fatter.
General Pizza Taste Chart
In The Caldwells, who has more of a cheesy, saucy and somewhere in between pizza?
Based on our tests, and in no particular order:
More of a "Cheesy" Pie: Pizza and Sandwich Barn, Frank's Trattoria and Domino's
More of a Sauce Pie: Nicco's and Calandra's
Somewhere In Between: Forte, Russillo, Papa John's, Vitella's, Franco's, Tony D's, Michael's and Cedar Grill
It's amazing how many pizzerias—each with their own unique speciality—there are in The Caldwells.
As many followers of this contest know, we got off on a bit of a wrong foot when we received an overcooked pizza at Forte way back in February. But I must say, my wife and I have returned every week since!
We love their speciality pies, in particular the Chicken Savoy one that features mozzarella cheese, pieces of chicken and peppers atop a balsamic vinegar sauce—it's absolutely mouth-watering! We've also enjoyed the Penne Vodka and Chicken Caesar pies, and of course, the famous Grandma's square version.
A few colleagues from other departments of Patch were in Caldwell on Thursday and asked where they should go for pizza. I told them, it depends on what you're in the mood for.
With so many to choose from, there's a pie for everyone in The Caldwells. Whether it's the bar-style pizza for eat-in at Calandra's, the pie bursting with flavor from Nicco's, the new hot spot Tony D's, the brick-oven style of Vitella's or even the chains of Domino's and Papa John's—there's something for everyone, and that's pretty cool to have in a short trip up or down Bloomfield Avenue.
All of the businesses were great to us during our journey and I'd like to thank them for all of their accommodations and insight into their inner-workings.
I'd also like to thank our special guests: West Caldwell resident Akiko Axe, Caldwell Councilman Joseph Norton, West Caldwell resident Gerald D'Anton, West Caldwell resident Doug and Bailey Rouse, Photographer Joseph Stellato, West Essex interns Geordy Boveroux and Jesse Feldman, Caldwell residents Jeff and Carolyne Curley, former Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education President Joseph McCann and former Caldwell Administrator Maureen Ruane.
The contest was a great education about the business of pizza in The Caldwells. It was a blast to flex my tomato pie knowledge, and add to it. I think Mike's idea of doing the visits in "top to bottom" fashion (basically east to west) worked well in organizing things.
I looked forward to each week. Earlier on, I thought I would eventually have my fill of baked cheese, sauce and dough, but it wasn't to be. In fact, I only like pizza more now!
Business notes: Something emcouraging was that during our stops every single place had a steady amount of clientele coming and going. If the question is "Are there too many pizza places?" The answer is "no, we love pizza and eat it all the time."
It was sort of funny to see that with a few exceptions, every plain pie basically costs the same—12 bucks and change. I'm glad price wasn't a criterion—we would have been really nickel and diming it.
Many have asked if the restaurants knew of our visits beforehand. They generally didn't, but some figured it out. If owners were available, we usually revealed ourselves after the test.
As for reaction, on site and otherwise, it was positive across the board, except for one business. After our first visit, we were warned in the comments section to "play nice, boys."
Finally, I'd like to thank our special guests; each and every one offered great insight and just cool company.
At first, it was proving tough to pick a winner, but after coming back to the basics of cheese, sauce and crust, a champion has emerged.
We'll announce the winner next week.
The Caldwells Patch visited Forte, Calandra's, Nicco's, Cedar Grill and Pizza, Pizza and Sandwich Barn, Tony D's, Domino's and Papa John's , Michael's, Russillo, Vitella's Cucina, Frank's Trattoria and Franco's.