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🎨 The Soul of Tony’s Baltimore Grill | Down the Shore

Plus, a forest fire sends ash and smoke to beaches

The exterior of Tony's Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, N.J. on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.
The exterior of Tony's Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, N.J. on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

People feel passionate about old-school places like Tony’s Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, a 24-hour total classic still slinging 12-inch pies at the corner of Atlantic and Iowa Avenues. Tony’s has been through a few owners, a bankruptcy, and some other issues. But its 95-year-old heart kept beating. During the lockdown, darting past the empty wooden bar, cordoned off with police tape, to get to the takeout window, was like being on planet Mars. It was a miracle to see people come back to the joint, a place I’ve been coming to for decades, since my now-husband took me there on one of our first dates, after sneaking into the old Harrah’s pool and winning $20 in pizza money at the slots, a winning combination. So it was with much relief when Tony’s new owners, who bought the place in 2021 for just under $1 million, seemed to understand their mission.

First, they ripped out the very unfortunate light-colored laminate flooring previous owners had installed and brought back the old black and red checkerboard tile. You wouldn’t think it would matter that much, but it did. Then, astonishingly, they ripped up the brand new black bar booths and lovingly sent them to Heather Shawne to upholster them back to red Naugahyde, which they noted “is the color and texture of our clients’ childhood … a missing part of our soul.”

Who are these guys who are restoring the soul to Atlantic City’s great original pizza joint (which gets its name because the seafood was once brought in from Baltimore)? And wait, what is that new art studio doing in the old Glazers Local 252 union hall next door? And what are all those A.C. artists doing gathering at the bar like they’re Picasso and Modigliani in Montparnasse?

For one thing, they got a supply of Tony’s pizza boxes, put out a call to artists, and, opening this Friday, behold the Pizza Box Show, an exhibition of 60 works on the iconic boxes, a size that dates to the days Tony’s used the lids of pretzel tins to make their pizza.

Read my story, with Monica Herndon photos, on the Pizza Box Show, and Tony’s emerging new-yet-old-school identity. In Atlantic City, the art is on pizza boxes.

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😶‍🌫️ The massive fire in Wharton State Forest sent smokey air and bits of ash along a west wind all the way to the beaches on Monday as firefighters worked to contain it. Investigators suspect an illegal campground fire started it.

— Amy S. Rosenberg (🐦 Tweet me at @amysrosenberg. 📷 Follow me on Insta at @amyrosenberg. 📧 Email me at

Shore talk

⛪ Church of St. Bab’s: Actor/producer Will Keenan purchased a vacant Methodist house of worship in Cape May County and renamed it for his late mother, Barbara A. Sees-Keenan, in 2016. He’s turned the nondenominational Church of St. Bab’s into a spiritual oasis on 18 lakeside acres, open to the public. Kevin Riordan tells the tale here.

🥖 Sack O’ Subs fire: A three-alarm fire Saturday displaced three families and damaged Sack O’ Subs in Ventnor, which, as you may have heard, had just reopened after abruptly shutting down before Memorial Day. Will it reopen, again?

⚖️ Pop-up parties banned: Promoters in Long Branch and Point Pleasant Beach were ordered by judges to stop promoting parties without permits, after towns went to court. Below, see your thoughts on the topic ⬇️.

🍍Ocean City’s Tahiti Inn and a sister property are for sale for $13.5 million, says OCNJ Daily. Meanwhile, the former Atlantic Club casino, formerly the Atlantic City Hilton, originally the Golden Nugget, was $2.7 million behind in taxes.

⛱️ What can’t you live without taking to the beach? My colleague Tommy Rowan wants to know. Email him here.

What to eat/What to do

🍇Visit a winery: The controversial “Ocean City Winery” proposal is still working its way through Upper Township’s approval process. So here’s our guide to Jersey Shore wineries.

Dîner en Blanc in Atlantic City: Have you signed up? Bought your Coleman’s table? Ordered your food? Picked your outfit? It’s Saturday, somewhere in A.C. Send us your pics! Dîner en Blanc Atlantic City.

🦀 AC Seafood & Music Fest: Food, music, beer, repeat. A.C.’s got another festival at Bader Field, this one sponsored by the Steel Pier. AC Seafood & Music Fest.

🌟Find out where Craig LaBan ate: Posting this week on is the always popular Part One of LaBan’s Shore dining guide, featuring the Wildwoods and Cape May.

👑 Miss the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City? (OK, I admit it, I do). The Miss New Jersey Competition is at Resorts this week, with a preliminary Thursday and the finals Saturday. Miss N.J. info is here.

🔶 A.C.’s Orange Loop: Buckcherry, of “Sorry” fame, is at Bourré, and Philly’s Sun Ra Arkestra is at Anchor Rock Club, both Saturday on New York Avenue.

🌊 Don’t sleep on salt water taffy. Kae Lani Palmisano ponders the iconic treat’s lure with a fourth-generation Wildwood taffy puller. And check out Lauren Schneiderman’s very cool videos.

Shore snapshot

Trivia question

In last week’s interview with author Joshua Cohen, who grew up in Margate, we pondered, only half-kidding, whether he was the biggest intellect to emerge from a childhood at the Jersey Shore.

This week’s trivia asks about another big-deal writer who grew up at the Shore, this one in Ocean City, and who summered there until about a decade ago.

Who is that Ocean City born and raised author?

A. Truman Capote

B. Gay Talese

C. Toni Morrison

D. Anne Tyler

📮First person to email us back with the answer gets a shout-out. Bonus points for any thoughts about either Joshua Cohen’s work or any of the authors listed.

Shore etiquette, transportation edition

🚲 Is it OK to run in the bike lanes? No. They are bike lanes. If you’re running in them, it forces bicyclists into traffic. Now, granted, I felt more strongly about this before I discovered Nike Run Club App’s coach Bennett, who Men’s Health calls the real-life Ted Lasso, but the answer is the same.

⛳ Are golf carts vehicles that must obey traffic laws? Yes.

🔋Should electric bikes be allowed on boardwalks? More and more people are questioning this. Ocean City has banned them.

🚘 Do cars still have to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks? Yes, and please watch for cars coming out from that other lane.

🍦Can my kid walk down the middle of the beach block because it’s the Shore? No, but if you must, at least hold their hand.

Shore Feedback: Your thoughts about teens, plus some memories

Lots of reaction to last week’s post about teens gathering in large numbers at night, along with nostalgia about Shore teen life.

Bill Morgan writes: First store owners whine about not being able to get employees. Then teenagers come down and presumably want to work and fill these jobs. Then what are they supposed to do? Ocean City doesn’t want them on the boardwalk and doesn’t want them on the beaches. Where are these kids supposed to go?

From Rachel Salis: I have a 14 year old son who we are now permitting to meet up with friends in Margate. He checks in when we ask, arrives home on time and we discuss his plans before and get a recap after the evening. I certainly don’t want him around smoking and drinking and certainly not bad behavior, but we also want him to have that amazing shore summer experience where he gets to ride his bike with friends, get an ice cream, play some mini golf — being a (responsible) teen. Yes, I’m not so cynical. Responsible and teen can be in the same sentence. I bet I am not the only mom who feels this way.

From Dana Turnbull: I really would like to help address the issue rather than complain about it. Here are some suggestions: Set an 11 p.m. curfew and enforce it. Patrol parking lots by the boardwalk. Enforce the “no bikes chained to the railings” regulation. Many of the teens are traveling in bike packs. It’s too easy to park their bikes and get to the beach party.

From Nhoj Etop: In the early ‘80s I was pulled over with friends and arrested in Margate because they found a weed pipe in the van, spent a night in jail ‘til my parents came and paid a $500 bail! Change the laws and make them all accountable. If underage lock ‘em up, give a fine or community service. And fine the overindulgent parents $1000! At least. Take off the kid gloves!!

📮 Great stuff. Send me your Shore memory for a chance to be featured here.

And see you for a plain pie and a martini, my father-in-law’s usual back in the day, at the bar at Tony’s.