In case you didn't know, it's not just Manhattan that has witnessed the growth of the artisan/Neapolitan pizza scene, portions of the good ol' Garden State have fully subscribed to the craze as well. This past mother's day, the fam headed to Ah Pizz on 7 North Willow Street in Montclair, NJ - a sharply appointed old auto dealership turned restaurant complete with exposed brick, beamed ceilings, and an oven made from stone and volcanic soil from Mt. Vesuvius. And it's BYO - so the hostess does not even bat an eye upon me bringing in a "Coors Light" cooler bag full of crisp, cold refreshment. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!
Although we were here for Pizza, that doesn't mean we can't sample some other goodies. For appetizers, the group orders riceballs, eggplant parmigiana, and some goat cheese and ham fritters. The riceballs have a noticeably snapping, tasty crust. It is not soggy, soft, or overwhelmed by an abundance of cheese. A crisp sphere of satisfaction. Ditto for the fritters, which have a golden brown outside covering a zinging, tart inside. This is nicely contrasted by a balsamic glaze of goodness drizzled throughout the dish. The eggplant parm has nice texture and is well cooked (no uncooked, crunchy portions) but is a touch bland despite it's inviting appearance.
On to the pizza. Elana orders the appropriate named "Ah Pizz" which has fresh Bufala mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil. This is a very good pie. The high quality bufala has that oozing, milky quality to it, with a faint salty/sour tang. The sauce is soupy, and the oil levels are just right. And the bread has a nice charred/chewy coexistence. Well done here.
I opt for the Pizza di Montclair, which has a light but noticeable truffle oil spread, porcini mushrooms in a mixture of pecorino sardo and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheeses, and topped with cherry tomatoes, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. While not quite as pleasing as the Ah Pizz, the Montclair is a well made pie. As stated, the truffle oil could have been equipped with a bit more punch, but it's there. The crust has that same impressive, charred/chewy personality to it.
The service left us nothing to complain about. Our waiter was well familiar with the menu, and had the guts to suggest a different cheesecake for dessert which he was right on the money about (the New York Cheesecake). Well done, sir.
Elana's report on the bathrooms were as follows: "The bathroom was clean with large Tuscan tiles and white trim. The art was a little intense (for me) but I appreciated the effort to stay within the "Italian Farmhouse" style. I was slightly confused by the olive oil can accessory. Unless, of course, they were inviting me to make some of my bathroom bread."
Overall, I'd have to say I was quite pleased with my experience at Ah Pizz. Hot pies, sharp place, great price. I would not be surprised at all if I found myself back here, and I'd recommend it to others looking for a high quality, NJ based artisan/Neapolitan pie.
Overall experience - Top Gun