This week’s review is of café la rustique, located at 611 Jersey Ave in downtown Jersey City, a pizza joint with other basic italian dishes to offer as well. This is our first “Pizzeria” that will be reviewed, but definitely not our last. A brief intro about Pizza: myself and Elana are pretty knowledgeable about Pizza. Granted, there are a couple of pies within reasonable geographical range that, admittedly, we have yet to try… but we’re pretty good on the subject. We make it, we study it, take classes on it and argue about it. There are various types, shapes and tastes which are now classified as “pizza” but I, myself, like to generally break it down into three categories – (1) American Pizza (such as Di Fara) and (2) Naples-style brick oven pizza (such as Zero Otto Nove and Keste) (3) a Hybrid of the two (such as Grimaldi’s or Lucali). Sure, there are other niche categories that exist – but these are the main categories. I love all kinds, provided it is well made stuff, but have a soft spot for categories (2) and (3) – types of pizza usually crafted in a brick oven for that charred yet chewy crust. This whole fascination with Pizza intensified two years ago, when I was fortunate enough to eat at one of the world’s oldest and best pizzerias – Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples.
Just look at this effing thing. A charred, yet chewy circle of fine crafted slop. Yes, slop. That’s how they roll in Naples. No neat and defined slices. Just a piping hot, flattish charred bread bowl filled with the finest tomatoes and mozzarella. It was absolutely delicious. Nonetheless, the bar was substantially raised (and has yet to be reached since then), but there are good nearby options.
It would be unfair to expect café la rustique to meet such lofty standards as those depicted above. Rustique is an interesting place, and we were suspicious from the start. We entered this non-air conditioned establishment on a warm autumn night. There was literally only one other patron there while one woman seemed to make up the entire staff. Not typically the greatest of signs. There was an old television set sitting on top of the bar and jeopardy was on. You may recall our boy Trebek appearing in a previous post. I took this to mean something.
Right out of the gate, it earned a pizza demerit by offering the dreaded Buffalo Chicken Pizza as one of its offerings. This is typically just a bad sign. Pretty sure this is one of Dominos best sellers. I’m just not sure if I can take your pizza seriously but, alas, a glance into the back room revealed a brick oven…so there was hope. Keep an open mind, I tell myself.
A bowl of bread was first served in a curious fashion. Curious, because the butter that accompanied the bread was just sort of smeared on the inside of the bowl. It just looked weird. For an appetizer, we ordered the Fresh Mozzarella Salad with tomatoes, roasted peppers and olives. The mozzarella was very good, it was very fresh and not too salty. Also, it was warm which led me to believe that it could be homemade. If so, props. The tomatoes, however, were sort of tasteless and not so tender. Roasted peppers were adequate. I just could not get a feel for this place.
On to the pizza. Elana selected their white pizza. I, on the other hand, selected the Margherita pie. I think it is important that when going to a Pizzeria, a plain or Margherita pie needs to be eaten, for two reasons. First – the taste; fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on perfectly cooked bread is still an unbeatable combination. Second – the Margherita tells the story of the pizzeria. Essentially, it is the easiest way to differentiate between the qualities of various pizza. I don’t think I’m saying anything groundbreaking here. How was this particular pie? It was not bad. The ingredients, particularly the tomatoes, were good. As with the appetizer, it had good full flavor without a salty aftertaste. The mozzarella had been carefully cooked in the brick oven. It was not overcooked and was just right.
The crust, on the other hand, was pretty bland. It just did not mesh well with the pizza. It was also a little overcooked and tough for a brick oven pie which, traditionally, should be charred, yet fluffy due to its intense heat. This was an average pie.
The service was fine i guess… the woman casually breezed in and out of existence and did what she needed to d0. The atmosphere, as noted, was lacking. Combined with being empty and hot, the door was left open for interesting stragglers to float in and out; some of which were mosquitos. Mosquito count – Elana 3. Me – 1. I had been bit squarely in the center of my forehead. This was no way to eat.
The bathroom, as Elana put it, was sort of like a supply closet and had the smallest sink imaginable.
If I end up living in the downtown jersey city area, I could see myself going back for a pie every now and then. It is indeed located in a cool spot in town, and the pizza is decent. But i can’t say I will go out of my way to go back.
Overall Experience – Vanilla Sky
Afterwards, however, I did have my first 3D HDTV experience at best buy. Pretty damn sweet, minus the uncomfortable glasses.