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What The Heck Am I Doing In New Jersey?


Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

acfp.com

2101 Promenade Boulevard Fair Lawn, NJ 07410

(and a whole lot of other locations)

I screwed up. I'll admit it, dear reader. Mr. Bites made the most unholy of errors this past weekend. I am unsure of what the long-term consequences are, but in the short-term I feel shame, discomfort and that I've let Boogs down. I'm sure in due time the wounds from this grave error will heal for her, and I only hope that in that same period, I can forgive myself for what I've done. With extreme disappointment and self-inflicted utter humiliation, I will admit, publicly, that...*hard swallow*...

I took my daughter to a chain pizza restaurant...


...In New Jersey...


In Northern New Jersey to be exact...


...Within the shadow of the skyscrapers of Manhattan...

*takes knee*


Yes, I know, we've discussed this before, the territoriality of things like pizza and bagels etc. And while my stance on chain restaurants is fairly well documented, I do not hate all chain restaurants. Some of them can be quite good or trigger some terrific memories. At some point, I'll list the chain restaurants that I find acceptable, but other than Pizzeria Uno (which is a very different thing than Pizza), there are no pizza chains that are worthwhile, especially in the Tri-State area.


How did this happen? Well, Boogs and I jetted off to central New Jersey for a quick weekend with Cuckoo Grandma (heretofore shall be known as "Cuckoo; based upon what I share on this site, did you actually think I had NORMAL lineage?) and to see some snow. I understand that New Jersey isn't exactly a ski resort mecca, but Boogs wanted snow and I didn't want Boogs to miss any school, so Jersey it was.


That morning's plan was to wake up, tell Cuckoo that we were leaving an hour earlier than we were (at 83 she doesn't move nearly as quickly as she did when her hip wasn't having her spinning around in circles like a compass, and she wasn't exactly the most on-time human prior to that), go tubing at the nearest mountain I could find, visit my father, Dixie Bites' final resting place (forgive the political incorrectness of the nickname, but when a Jew from Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan ends up with the nickname Dixie, you call the guy Dixie) and have some delicious local suburban Jersey pizza.


Well, we tubed, we paid our respects, but do you know what I forgot to do? I forgot to actually look up a good local spot in our current North Jersey location.

This is a jug handle. I do not understand it's purpose

By the way, for those who have experienced the hell of the North Jersey roadway system, I'm convinced that the entire urban planning was handled by the Gambino crime family in order to generate more work orders for their concrete business. There's literally no rhyme or reason to any of it..and what the hell is a jug handle?


Anyway, as we were driving I told Boogs to look out for anything resembling a pizza place. When she cried out "Anthony's Pizza" I was sold. I mean what's more suburban tastiness than Anthony's PIzza? As we pulled into the shopping center (with a name like Fair Lawn Promenade or something prefab like that), I should have realized the mistake I was about to make when the neighboring stores were Starbuck's, Qdoba and Massage Envy, but we soldiered on.


As soon as we walked inside I knew this wasn't what I wanted. Instead of a plastic lettered sign above a counter with windows full of delicious sausage rolls, 4-5 kinds of pre-made pizza and a soda fountain, I was met with a long bar, lots of ironic uniforms, and signage like that classic photo of Sophia Loren looking at Jayne Mansfield's ample bosom.

Don't get me wrong, it's a classic photo but the joint I was looking for is more likely to have a photo of Vinny Pazienza and Frank Stallone.

This place was more like TGI Friday's with ....well it was like a TGI Friday's.


Too late to turn back now, we sat down and waited for Cuckoo's agonizing turn about how she couldn't eat anything with cheese because she once got the trots from a piece of Camembert in 1968. Luckily, there was something called a Grandma's pie that they had that was cheeseless, with sauce and whatever toppings you want. So she added a bunch of veggies and meat. Boogs and I went with a half traditional, half sausage and pepperoni, with a Caesar salad and garlic knots..a NY pizza joint staple.

It's basically garlic and parm on top of an oil knot of bread with fresh garlic. Usually the knots have the parm sprinkled on, but with Cuckoo's deathly fear of lactose, we had them put it on the side.

The salad was decent. Good tang, lots of croutons, although they were weirdly soft. Never had a flaccid crouton before. Then came the knots, at first they brought it with cheese, so we waived that away to make sure that Cuckoo could have some breadly goodness. They next batch came out rather quickly. They were ok, as well, but they came out so quickly, they were a TINY bit underdone and yet not quite warm. But again, it's a garlic knot. It's soft bread and cheese and garlic. Kinda hard to mess up.


I had noticed one of the other clientele's pizza come out looking like it had crispy ends, but a mess of gooey cheese in the middle that was a little too white for my liking. I don't like my cheese well done, but it should be sort of that middle brown thing that delicious pizzas have going for them. I believe we call that "cooked." So I ordered ours slightly more cooked than what I was seeing. One side note, the waitress, Tiffany, was on her own and busting tail. I know there's staff shortages, but this was an excelsior serving performance. If I could ever find her, she would definitely warrant Server of the Week.


The pizzas arrived. Cuckoo seemed pretty happy with hers, though as a native New Yorker, she opted to use a knife and fork.

I've always thought her to be an alien, so this may have solidified that point. I didn't try hers though, to be fair, as this woman eats so little pizza and loves leftovers so much it didn't seem right to take even the smallest piece from her.

Our pie arrived next and I instantly was concerned that their advertised temperature of 900 degrees was a bit much. The top was cooked properly but the bottom and sides had a bit too much char for my liking, but more importantly, I was afraid Boogs would reject it outright.

She did not, thankfully, and we set to eating. The sauce was good and tangy, not the cardinal mistake of being too sweet. The sausage was crumbled instead of sliced, also a good thing. The crust was crispy and held up nicely despite the excessive char, but something was off..It was..fine, but it wasn't necessarily good. Then Boogs, after taking what would be her third and final bite said..."Too much cheese." WHAT? Was there such a thing? Apparently yes. It made the whole thing a little TOO thick, and it eliminated that amazing local pizza spot pull that Pizza Hut and Domino's try to showcase in their commercials (Fun Fact: that pull in in commercials is created by nailing down the pizza and then mixing glue with the cheese).


I was still trying to process how this could have too much cheese. That's like too much money, or...too much cheese. Cheese, after all, makes everything taste better ("Underwear Parmesan") but for whatever reason, it just kinda made it too dense, like it was a Chicago style pie that had gone in a crash diet. Boogs is gonna make a fine food blogger some day.


So we eat, we pay the check and Cuckoo, who has to know the corporate genealogy of everywhere she's every been ("Did you know that the owner of Dell Computer's mother went to high school with me...") asked Tiffany, our overburdened server, if this was a chain. Tiffany replied "Yes, our first location was in Fort Lauderdale."


Yup, that's right, we flew 1200 miles, drove another twenty minutes, only to end up with Florida pizza. And thus, the Great Chain Mistake of 2022 was born...


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