Does anybody go to the Atlantic City Boardwalk for its pizza?
Atlantic City has its destination pizza spots, like Tony’s Baltimore Grill for the old school crowd, Tony Boloney’s for the hipsters, South End (now South Side) for buffalo chicken pizza for the late-night teen crowd. (And, if your idea of a beach day is checking Instagram from your hotel room and ubering away from the shore, there’s Bakeria 1010′s acclaimed artisanal slices on Route 9 in Linwood.)
» READ MORE: Best pizza to eat right now in Philadelphia
On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, the places seem as generic as they come. In 26 years down here, I’d never tried any of them.
But a closer look finds a clear favorite, a splintered family rivalry, a dominant style (New York-ish), and the town’s signature quirky weirdness present at every stop. At some places, you could (sometimes) also get falafel; others, elote and esquites (sometimes). One menu pump-faked by listing veal parm (maybe decades ago).
Taking this one for the team, I sampled a plain slice at all 12 pizza places on the Boardwalk (any place that required you to sit and order was not included, apologies to what I’m sure is a very fine $16 prosciutto, fig jam, mozzarella, arugula, and balsamic glaze flatbread at Bungalow).
While not the classic barstool “one bite, those are the rules,” we tried to be true to the pizza rankers of the world. We ate directly off paper plates, except at one place that insisted on a triangular slice box. We discovered Angel Ramirez, a maestro of pizza dough-throwing, and encountered dough that surely had never taken flight. There were even a few slices that cried out to be finished.
12. Three Brothers Pizza at Schiff’s Central Pier
Price: $4.75 Ranking: 4.75
Sigh. The only slice served lukewarm. No hot peppers or garlic powder in sight. Cheese OK, sauce didn’t register. Pizza crust underdone. Serve it to me hot, Schiff Brothers.
11. Molto Pizza
Price $4 Ranking: 5.2
Like the shop’s lettering (which reads MOLTO _I_ZA), something was missing. Points for umbrella seating, some nice grease on top, a decent flop, New York style. (Garlic powder shaker clogged, a recurring problem on the Boardwalk, maybe the salt air.) Crust didn’t have a hand-tossed feel: stiff, no bubbles. Cheese: eh. Sauce: didn’t register. Bottom nicely charred.
2529 Boardwalk, north side of Texas Avenue
10. Joe Rock Cafe
Price: $5.63 Ranking: 6.57 (same as the cost of a pepperoni slice)
Joe Rock makes a big statement, with its tiki umbrellas and a big vertical sign. It sports thick crust — unusual for the Boardwalk — as well as pizza-adjacent stromboli, calzone, and pizza roses. My first trip inside, a woman asked me to buy her a slice, and I did. Aggie from North Jersey gave her slice a “pretty good” but declined to rate. I ducked instead into a new place, Atexcac, for a similarly priced Mexican street corn that was delicious. I eventually tasted Joe Rock’s heavily cornmeal-dusted crust, a little underdone even out of the brick oven, and no bubbles. Garlic powder was locked to a shelf.
1733 Boardwalk at Indiana
9. Perry’s Pizza
Price: $3.95 Ranking 6.7
Perry’s wanted exact change for its $3.95 slice ($4.21 with tax), and a friendly Tropicana security guard pulled out 21 cents for me. (I rounded up). Tropicana offers a shaded patio with flowers and upbeat music, and, across the Boardwalk, a bench in memory of Robert Ruffolo Sr. of Princeton Antiques & Books. The pizza came in a triangular box. (Seagull protective, and easy to take inside the casino, I guess). It was OK, cheese was gooey, no sign of any crust craft, passable.
2901 Boardwalk at Brighton Avenue
8. Don Maco’s
Price: $5 Ranking: 6.7
A tough choice with the Irish Pub up the street on Saint James, but Don Maco’s, with a kind of horror movie font on its signs, promises brick oven pizza. A bench along Saint James allowed a contemplative view of a 9-11 memorial with a World Trade Center remnant. My slice could have been hotter. Cheese had some tang. Sauce was saucy. Crust hinted at bubbles, slightly underdone. It was early in the day. The cheese separated from the crust a little oddly. Points for cinematic music. . A buffalo chicken pie with fluffy ricotta looked inviting.
7. Food Court Pizza and Grill
Price: $5 Ranking: 6.7
This understated place with red and white striped umbrellas showcased a pie with some faint spirals, à la Manco and Manco’s. “We do not refund dropped food!!” a sign warned. A slice was $5, a whole pie was $30 (compare to $18 for a plain pie at Tony Baloney’s). Some evidence of care in the dough, came out hot. Points for a view of the iconic row of headless mannequins at the clothing store next door.
1625 Boardwalk, between MLK and Kentucky Avenue
6. (Another) Three Brothers Pizza Palace
Price: $5 Ranking: 6.7
Points for another great A.C. view: the weird giant antique statues of eagles at the gallery next door. $5 slice, bigger than the others, a two-plater. Veal parm on the menu (psych! not available), nice thin crust, some bubbles, sauce bubbles up nicely. Folds well. Seems to get better after a few bites.
1515 Boardwalk, between Kentucky and New York
5. Mario’s 2 Pizza
Price: $4.35 Ranking: indistinguishable from the last three to be honest.
Falafel is also on this menu, and the manager tells me that Mario 2 is actually run by three guys, all named Muhammad. Some seagull prowling, and the nearby outside seating seems to be for Stewart’s customers. I take a bench, and the wind shifts to off the ocean, and all is well. Mario 2 offers a biggish slice spread over two plates, crust is thin, folds nicely, no real bubbles.
1541 Boardwalk, near Kentucky
4. Original Lo Presti’s Pizza & Grille
Price: $5.50 Ranking: 6.72
Lo Presti makes a big play with flags, lots of pretty outdoor seating, red chairs, striped umbrellas, Rolling Stones on the speaker, iconic Peanut World across Martin Luther King Boulevard. Big menu of Boardwalk food. Lo Presti (the original since 1989) is one of three places owned by different members of the LoPresti family, the dominant pizza force on the Boardwalk, this one by Franco. A slice was $5.50. It was served hot. A bit underdone, and maybe underwhelming, given the big presence. Garlic powder on every table, thanks.
3. Steel Pier Pizza
Price: $5 Ranking: 7.3
This one played well as I showed up at happy hour, and there was live music and $8 Kona beer on tap across the pleasant seating area of high tops. The pizza came with an extra plate on top, which I quickly saw was a seagull shield. Cheese nice and gooey, thin crust, perhaps a bit crispy, but a nice bubble. Seagulls preferred funnel cake this evening. Musician Glenn Robert played a countrified version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Nearby is axe throwing.
2. Home Slice
Price: $4 Ranking: 8.1
Home Slice is the younger generation of LoPresti family making a play with oversized ceramic pizzas on the building and bright pink and yellow decor. “Buy our pizza, we knead the dough,” a sign reads, and you know, at this point, I feel you. Kneaded dough takes you to the next level on the A.C. Boardwalk. Some tempting shish kebab and sausage. Super thin crust, folds nicely, bottom is nicely charred, cheese seems fresh. Nowhere really to sit outside, though a marijuana dispensary beckons across the way.
1245 Boardwalk at South Carolina
1. Jersey Shore Pizza & Grille
Price: $4.50 Ranking: 8.2, just the slightest edge over Claudia’s niece at Home Slice
Owned by Claudia LoPresti, sister/aunt of the other LoPresti-owned pizzerias. Here I found Angel Ramirez, the pizza dough flinger, and Wesley Velazquez, a nine-year employee, who said he’d tasted pizza up and down the Boardwalk, and in Wildwood and Ocean City, and “To be honest, I think we’re the best.” I agree. The sauce is homemade and tangy, the cheese fresh, Ramirez slings a truly thin dough. There’s shaded seating with hanging flowers along Texas Avenue. Crust folded up, bubbles, pride in craft.
2601 Boardwalk at Texas Avenue