About a year and a half ago, Food Curated came out with a video profiling the bread and butter of Dan Richer, the owner of Razza Pizza Artigianale. Given my carbohydrate proclivities, it was only a matter of time before I made a visit. The matter of time must be considered not because I am always busy, but because Razza is in Jersey City. The act of going to another borough and crossing the water barrier on personal time can be big, I’ve noticed, for those who live in New York, whether they live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, or Staten Island. That is, the mental barrier is much more of a challenge than the time or effort for transport. Making the commute for work is usually non-negotiable, but commuting for a restaurant can be a harder sell, especially if you’ve settled in a neighbourhood that has everything you could ever want. Leaving that cocoon to meet up with a friend from another neighbourhood, let alone the consideration of leaving just to try a restaurant, isn’t always easy. I get that. But as someone who doesn’t live near friends or restaurants I’m into, I have no problem with the cross-borough commute most of the time. Crossing state lines, though?
What’s funny is that it’s quicker for me to get to Razza from the Upper West Side than it is to get to Roberta’s in Bushwick. I did have to pay $5 extra in transit costs, but that’s negligible for a night out. A friend and I went last fall, had the bread and butter, had the pizza, and really enjoyed ourselves. I remember being impressed with the atmosphere, as it was comfortable but more elegant than just a corner pizza place—brick and wood, kind of dark with candles, open pizza oven prep area, small bar. The service was friendly. The food delivered. We loved the naturally leavened bread and cultured butter. It had a beautiful, dark crust and a chewy, hole-filled interior. The richness of the butter was (of course) a perfect foil for the natural tang of the sourdough. We liked our pizza and were impressed enough overall to say that we definitely wanted to come back. The wait on a Friday night was about an hour, but we easily found a spot to stand with a drink and weren’t squished by a crazy crowd.
Fast forward a year and we still hadn’t been back. I think the state barrier played more of a role than I thought it ever would despite the easy access, or maybe it was just easier to fulfill bread and pizza cravings at places that felt closer to home. But I still sometimes cursed myself for forgetting about it. More recently, Katie Parla posted a photo indicating that she thought it was the best pizza in the area, and I felt the need to get me and my friend back there sooner than another year. I didn’t remember the pizza being that good.
We must have been too drunk in love with the bread that first time to remember anything else. Because when we started to eat our pizzas on this visit, we both thought, the pizza really is that good. I’m usually one to say “one of the best” over “the best,” so for now, I’ll just say it’s in my top three for NYC pizza. We were kind of dumbfounded at how good it was and/or how much better it was than last time. Hers’ was a red and mine a white, and the toppings were light enough to suggest an Italian tradition but bold enough to satisfy an American palate. The crust was definitely a breadmaker’s, with the chew and flavour of a naturally leavened dough apparent. I’ve had similar pizza at Co in Chelsea, owned by Sullivan Street Bakery’s Jim Lahey, but I like Razza’s better.
We had arrived famished, so we also ordered the meatballs. The bread and butter was non-negotiable and as good as last time. The meatballs were large and very tender. They just barely held their shape. While I like meatballs with a crust, ones like these that easily crumble into their sauce can be loved just as much.
When the bill came, we were even more enamoured. With two glasses of wine each, the PATH fare, and our carb-heavy feast, we were still going to be paying approximately $20 less per person than if we’d had a similar meal in the state of New York. Budget-friendly priced wine and appetizers saved the day.
Someone please hold me to my promise to return before a year is up. Require me to be your date.