The highlight of my late winter trip back to the Pizza State was the annual Light of Day benefit concert in Asbury Park. While Jersey’s most famous musician, Bruce Springsteen, would be missing this year, Jersey’s world famous thin-crust pizza would not. This Saturday adventure down to the Jersey Shore would include a long overdue visit to the legendary Vic’s Italian Restaurant for some pre-show pizza.
Bradley Beach is just a short hop from Asbury Park, so I commenced my evening just a few miles south of the Boardwalk with an early dinner. Amidst a small downtown commercial area, the landmark Vic’s stood shining in its neon glow—just a big old bar on the corner of Main Street.
The sign on the window said “Tomato Pies,” which puzzled me a bit. I had heard talk of this kind of pie being popular in Trenton. But my advance knowledge of Vic’s gave me no suspicion that their pie would in any way be unusual. And after tasting Vic’s pizza, I don’t see the relevance of this label.
Two full parking lots foretold that things would be busy even at an early 5:15pm. Nonetheless, while a table would require a long wait, the Snob found an immediate space at the long wooden bar that offered him all the comforts he needed to enjoy the splendors of a Jersey bar pie.
Vic’s has two big rooms of tables, chairs and booths. The décor of wood paneling on the walls and green-cushioned booths made it feel like I went through a time machine back into the Fifties.
Needing plenty of fuel for a marathon evening of New Jersey rock & roll, a large 14-inch cheese pizza ($11.70), the biggest of the three sizes they offer, seemed in order. The friendly barkeep asked if I was a newcomer to Vic’s and kindly gave me advance notice of thin-crust expectation.
I was soon shocked about how quickly my pizza came—it could not have taken more than seven minutes. Served atop a silver platform tray, the thin pie was cut into eight slices. Right off, I noticed that the end crust had crumbled bread crumb cooked into it.
While the crust was indeed thin, Vic’s pie was much thicker with cheese than most I have dabbled with in the thin crust category. This cheese heaviness even caused a few of my slice to collapse when I picked them up. The thin crust was simply not enough to carry the weight.
Most shocking however, was that right from my first bite, I did not care for the taste. Wow—there was just way too much garlic on Vic’s pie. It was so strong that it overruled everything else about this pizza. In case I was perhaps imaging something, when asked what I thought about the pizza, I confirmed through my waitress that this indeed was a garlic-centric pizza. Sorry, but this abuse of flavor distracted from what would have otherwise been a great thin-crust pie. I just didn’t enjoy it.
Additionally, while the crust was good and crisp, after a while, those embedded bread crumbs in the crust gets rather annoying. A minor, but unnecessary distraction.
One the good side, the cheese and tomato sauce were blended together well. With such good ingredients and solid construction, the garlic overkill created a huge let down for me.
Worried about who would have to sit next to me at tonight’s concert, I even stopped to buy a pack of gum to help kill my severe case of garlic breath.
Like Nancy’s Towne House in Rahway, Vic’s also appears in the article on nj.com about six Jersey thin-crust pizza legends, placing it in some good company. But sorry, folks, while a good pizza by most standards, in my opinion, it’s just not that special. The bar for Vic’s was set high, and they just didn’t hit it for me. I don’t really care to come back.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ****Near Perfection
Vic’s Italian Restaurant
60 Main Street Bradley Beach, NJ 07720