Sixteen of New Jersey’s favorite pizzerias will vie on Saturday in New Brunswick for bragging rights as maker of the Garden State’s best pizza.
They were picked from a master list of 600 pizzerias, which is roughly a fourth of all the pizza parlors in the state, and the hope is to settle once and for all who has the best pizza in New Jersey.
The final 16 are:
North Jersey: Calabria in Livingston, Turano’s in Livingston, The Pizza Terminal in Verona and Patsy’s in Paterson.
Central Jersey: Prima Pizza Kitchen in Somerville, Santillo’s in Elizabeth, Papa’s Tomato Pies in Robbinsville and Maria’s in Milltown.
Jersey Shore: Zoni’s in Red Bank, Maruca’s in Seaside Heights, Vic’s in Bradley Beach and The Galley in Asbury Park.
South Jersey Riccardo’s in Browns Mills, Kate & Al’s in Columbus, Tacconelli’s in Maple Shade and Marcello’s in Bordentown.
“At least until next year,” said Clifton’s Guy Madsen, aka The Big Guy, who founded the popular Facebook group Jersey Pizza Joints and organized what he calls the Pizza Bowl.
The legendary Patsy’s Tavern in Paterson will be there, one of four representing North Jersey. Owner Steve Barbarulo said if it was Madsen’s intent to support pizzerias with the Facebook group, it worked: Jersey Pizza Joints has brought customers to him.
“I get people from all over,” Barbarulo said, adding that some who moved away from the state will drop by because they can’t find a good pie by their new homes.
“They say, ‘You won’t believe what they call pizza,’ ” Barbarulo said.
It was Madsen’s hope to support pizzerias when he founded the Facebook group last summer during the coronavirus pandemic. The group began with 25 friends, and then its popularity exploded.
Now 18,000-strong, the site is loaded with pizza-philes who spend an inordinate amount of time talking pizza, pizza places, pizza memes and, above all, which joint serves up the best pie.
Madsen decided that the last was such a weighty question, it deserved an answer, especially since Jersey Pizza Joints members — he calls them his “crew” — will traverse the state in search of the ultimate pie.
Another favorite topic is appropriate toppings. The commentary can be tough: Those who suggest pineapple might want to consider forming their own site, perhaps California Pizza Joints.
“If your pizza isn’t from Jersey, it probably SUCKS!” declares the Facebook group’s “About” section.
The success that Jersey Pizza Joints enjoyed surprised Madsen initially, but then again, Jerseyans argue over the best pizza the way sports fans argue about LeBron vs. Jordan.
Just after Christmas, Jersey Pizza Joints posted 100 pizza places from each of four regions — North Jersey, Jersey Shore, Central Jersey and South Jersey — and later, because of the popularity, upped it to 150.
At the beginning of the NFL playoff season, the crew culled the list to 32 per region, the next week to 16, then to eight, and last week each region named its “fabulous four,” to compete Saturday at Redd’s Biergarten in New Brunswick.
The pizzerias will bake eight pies each. The 16 will be narrowed to four, and the final four again will bake again for the finale.
By 3 p.m. New Jersey’s pizza champ will be crowned. It should be noted that the event is notopen to the public, but results will be announced shortly after.