In revisiting the pizza of his home town, The Pizza Snob was uncertain about the current status of the Venice Restaurant. I grew up down the street from The Venice, so you could say The Snob’s standards were set by this place. Quite often, my Dad and I would shoot a game of pool in their bar before bringing a pie home. When I got older, it became a place where I would go for a “bar pie” and a beer. The Venice was quite famous around town for their excellent extra-thin crust pizza. I knew that it had changed hands a few times since I left town, and I simply lost touch with the place.
Several readers of this blog suggested that I give the Venice a try. And, in prepping for my last trip home, I came across a 2010 article in New Jersey Monthly listing Venice among the state’s “25 Perfect Pizzas.” I was excited to learn that the current owner is the granddaughter of the original 1939 founder of the place. So, on my first night back home, I gathered the family for our first trip to the Venice in who knows how many years.
The Venice is in its original location, and looks pretty much like it always has. It sits in the middle of a downtown residential neighborhood which presents a serious parking challenge. There are two doors into the place: the bar entrance on the left and the family entrance on the right. The latter one takes you around to the back where you will find a large, nicely refurbished dining room. The front room sports a large rectangular bar where you can sit and chase down a bar pie with a cold one while watching the game or listening to live music. A recently-added outdoor patio is accessible from the bar.
Although the Venice is a full-scale Italian restaurant offering many fine looking dishes, our group stuck with pizza. We ordered two large cheese pies at $12 each. (The legendary bar pie, generally meant to be consumed solo at the bar, sets you back $7 these days.) I had a delish chicken Caesar salad while we waited.
The pies arrived shortly, and looking at them made me feel like I had journeyed back in a time machine. They looked just like the trademark Venice pies I was once so fond of–light cheese on a super-thin and crisp crust with a thin, blackened and cracked end crust. Diving right in, I was taken back for a moment when my slice drooped while I aimed it for my mouth. Although the bottom crust was darkened and well-cooked, the slices were not at all firm. In fact, they required assistance from your other hand to get them into your mouth.
My taste buds started jumping for joy due to the custom blend of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and olive oil was unbelievably delicious. This just had to be one of the tastiest pies I have ever eaten. The crust, although limp, was both tasty and chewy. Wasting no time, I estimate that I devoured my four slices in less than three minutes. I still think back and wonder what magic they use to get their pizza to taste that good—especially the savory tomato sauce. My parents thought the pie was too oily, but I found the oil smooth and delicious.
I agree with the magazine that this is one of Jersey’s best pizzas. Had it not been for the limp crust, we’d be talking about a perfect pizza rating. My memory did not recall it being that way back in the day, and I’m not sure whether or not this blemish was simply a mishap or a standard. I promise I will be back to find out.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ****1/2 Nearer Perfection
31 Cottage Street
Bayonne, NJ 07002