Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vic's Pizza - Bradley Beach, NJ

A Thin Crust Must

My grandfather always ordered a cup of pasta fagioli with his pizza, so of course I had to do the same. Patiently waiting with the Shore’s summer swarms or seated immediately during the secluded winters, Vic’s was always our family meeting place. And that never changed. Even with my grandfather gone, Vic’s was always my first stop whenever I was back in Jersey.

Serving Superheroes: First order up, a carafe of $8 wine – that’s always a good idea, right? The all-female, serving staff are the Harlem Globe Trotters of the waitress-ing world, including our W-cubed (Wonder Woman Waitress), who read back our order and prevented a miscommunication (our fault) from going to the kitchen.

Blast from the (Anti)Past(i): This antipasti had been a staple of my childhood and the roughage flew as I dove into my favorite chopped salad of provolone, salami, olives, pepperocinis and house vinaigrette. Word of advice: Always get the house dressing when visiting Italian moop (= mom + pop) restaurants around Jersey…magical elixirs of the vinaigrette world.

Shellfish Promises: It’s so hard to trust a shellfish (a thin line between fresh and foul), especially mussels, but these were worth making yourself vulnerable. Mussels marinara were plump Pop-Rocks of the sea, exploding in briny bursts under the cover of a simple, red sauce.

Food Feud: Now this was Jersey thin crust pizza. Sure, there’s always the on-going battle with Pete & Elda’s (actually Carmen’s Pizza, but everyone calls it by this adjoining bar’s name) for ultimate paper-thin pizza, but P&E is just too cracker-y for my liking. My loyalty stuck with the sturdy, yet delicate dough of Vic’s swirled with a rich tomato base whose subtle notes of garlic and oregano sang with the eloquence of Ella Fitzgerald. Plus I loved their pepperoni - the size quarters and thick as poker chips.

All in the Family: This was old school. Not much has changed, a little updating here and there, patio dining added. But its core remained the same. The only noticeable loss was the absence of the old man that ran the place, a permanent fixture since my childhood. Somehow his presence had become synonymous with good times, good eats and family.

It’s funny the things you notice when they’re gone, what they represented. How a stranger’s presence or a bowl of pasta fagioli can bring you back to a certain place in time. And at Vic’s, every bite will bring you back.

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