From “HuffPostTaste” America's Top 7 Cities for Pizza
Posted Online: 04/25/2014
Travel a little south of New York and you'll reach another city with a sprinkling of superb pizzerias, finished with a distinctive old-world charm. The king of pizza in and around Trenton is probably Papa's Tomato Pies, a few miles away in the neighboring town of Robbinsville, which claims to be the oldest family-run pizzeria in the States. Having been open since 1912, it probably is.
“Papa’s Tomato Pies” Photo by Nick Sherman
Papa's was featured on "PIZZA CUZ" on the Cooking Channel! Check local listings to catch it!
Review from the "Trenton Times" September 20, 2013, by Susan Sprague Yeske:
Since Papa’s Tomato Pies opened at its new Robbinsville location, it has been packed most evenings, often with customers the owner hadn’t seen in years.
“People love it,” Nick Azzaro says of the new location, which opened a month ago after more than a century on Chambers Street in Trenton.
Papa’s claims the title of the oldest continuously operating pizzeria in the United States, having been founded by Azzaro’s grandfather, Joe Papa, in 1912. The new location is more spacious than the old, and you can watch the pie makers at work through a window to the kitchen. But what hasn’t changed is the enthusiasm of Azzaro and his staff, and, of course, his tomato pies.
While Azzaro learned pizza making from his father and grandfather, he does not say that his tomato pies are exactly the same as theirs. He recalls when his grandmother would can tomatoes in the summer for his grandfather to use on his pizza. Those days are gone, and over the years he has made his own choices when it comes to ingredients and recipes.
Mercer County residents are no stranger to great pizza. Good quality pies can be found in every community, and many people have their special favorites. But there are some restaurants that are considered standard-bearers for the traditional Trenton-style tomato pie, and Papa’s is among them.
We ordered a small tomato pie, $12, thinking it would be a good starter. But it wound up being the last item delivered to our table, so in the meantime our server brought our bowl of pasta e fagioli, $3; an antipasto, $4.50; a steak sandwich, $6; spaghetti and meatballs, $12; and the night’s special, chicken parmigiana, $10.
Pasta e fagioli is a staple in Italian restaurants, and I have yet to find one I haven’t liked. Papa’s version is different, as are they all, with noodles outnumbering the beans (at least in our cup) and a chicken-based broth. It was much like a very good bowl of chicken noodle soup, and will no doubt be highly sought after as the colder months arrive.
The antipasto was crunchy and fresh with tomatoes, peppers, meat and cheese over crisp lettuce dressed in oil and just a hint of vinegar.
The steak sandwich was traditional, served on a good roll, while the moist meatballs were much like you might make at home. The chicken parmigiana was hearty and filling with a large chicken breast battered and fried, set on a bed of rigatoni and covered in tomato sauce.
Everything we ordered was quite satisfying, but the pizza was the best part of the meal. Hot with tiny bits of charring on the crust, it came with more cheese than you find on most Trenton-style pies, crushed tomatoes and a light, flavorful crust. We ordered sausage on half, and that was good too.
There is no dessert served at Papa’s, but you really don’t need it. It’s the pizza that makes it worth the wait for a table and the wait for the pie to arrive.
True pizza connoisseurs enjoy trying pies at different locations, and are able to appreciate the subtle differences from one pizzeria to the next. For old-fashioned pizza with plenty of flavor, Papa’s more than holds its own in a crowded field of top-shelf New Jersey pizzas. If Azzaro has anything to say about it, it will for some time to come.
An article about Papa's in PMQ Pizza Magazine, January/February 2011:
The oldest family-owned pizzeria in the United States, this landmark is on the cusp of celebrating 100 years in business:
There were already other pizzerias in Trenton, New Jersey, when Naples transplant Giuseppe (“Joe”) Papa decided to open Papa’s Tomato Pies (papastomatopies.com) in 1912, but this institution is the only one from those early days that’s still standing. Joe was only 17 years old when he opened his doors, and made dough by hand, cooking the pies in a coal oven; his wife, Adalene, made the meatballs and pasta sauce. After a couple of moves within Trenton, the location landed at
Chambers Street in 1945, where it remains today. As years passed, new generations took over the business: After Joe and Adalene, their daughter Teresa Azzaro ran the pizzeria with her husband Dominik; later, her son Nick (who still mans the pizzeria almost every day) took over, and today he and his son Dominick (“Donnie”), along with Nick’s cousin Chip, are the only ones who make the famous tomato pies. “There are people who make pizzas, and then there are people who what they’re doing,” laughs Nick. “I’ve made more than three-quarter million years in the business, but I put a lot of care into it—that’s really the secret.” Nick says that “tomato pies” became increasingly known as “pizza” in the ’50s when neon manufacturers charged by the letter and operators wanted to keep costs down, but the Trenton tomato pie remains its own style, starting with a thin crust that’s topped fi rst with cheese, then tomato sauce. At Papa’s, the menu even offers a mustard pizza, a dough spread with Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard and topped with cheese and tomato sauce (“Some people love it,” says Nick). Meanwhile, the interior of the restaurant hasn’t changed since 1963, which regulars and new customers love—and they come in droves from all over the country to experience this much-lauded pizzeria. “People will come from 70 miles away to get our pizza—it’s just amazing,” Nick marvels. “If I wasn’t making good pie, I’d retire, but I’m still healthy and it’s hard to give it up!”
Papa's was featured as the first restaurant in the new series "The Dish", by Trentonian reporter, Jeff Edelstein. Included is a short video of the creation of a sausage tomato pie!
Papa's was featured in the January 2010 issue of "New Jersey Monthly", in their special "Pizza Issue"!
To read more about Papa's official status as the oldest continuously-owned pizza resaturant in the USA, visit our "The Oldest!" web page, with links articles by the New York Times, National Public Radio and other authorities!
Some of the best reviews, though, are on the Papa's Facebook page, from happy customers. Some people describe the experience in words, but others find it more descriptive to just post photos of their pizza!
Become a Fan of Papa's on Facebook!
A review of Papa's on the "Hidden Trenton" web site, it made "Editor's Pick for Best Tomato Pie"!
PART OF A REVIEW ABOUT PIZZA PLACES IN TRENTON by "SLICE AMERICA", May 2007:
"Our last stop was Papa's, which opened in 1912. We ordered a pizza and asked our teenaged waiter if the owner was around. Ten minutes later, Abie, a man who looked to be in his 70s,... wandered out of the kitchen with our pizza. As we started to eat, Giancarlo said, "This is real food, honest food, it smells real, feels real, looks real. I see a lot of heart in this place." The pizza is similar to DeLorenzo's, with a little less cheese and a little thinner crust. I asked Abie to tell me about the pizza. He said, "It's not pizza, it's tomato pie."He told me that he took over the place from his father-in-law. "Has the pizza changed over the years?" I asked. Abie replied, "You did it again. It's not pizza, it's tomato pie." He explained that the ovens used to be coal-fired, and that they changed over in the '50s to gas. Other than that, the pizza—I mean tomato pie—is the same.I asked Abie if he ever thought about getting out of the pizza-making business. He said, "You know, about 30 years ago, a nice fellow came in and offered to buy this place. He said that he had a few pizzerias in the Midwest called Domino's. He seemed like a nice fella, but we didn't want to sell. Making this 'pizza,' in this way, is what we do. This is what we're all about. I don't know if it makes us special or not. I just know it makes us feel good to make it this way."