Cracker-Thin Pizzas at Pete and Elda’s

Guest Contributor

by Guest Contributor on February 9, 2012

Who better to write the companion installment of New Jersey Pizza Week than the man who introduced me to the wide variety and excellence of New Jersey pies, Dan Cichalski? They always say to write about what you know….

Back when I was a young newspaperman on the Jersey Shore, my co-workers and I would often put the Monday sports section to bed on Sunday night and find that we still had time to zoom over to Neptune. There, in the little town south of Asbury Park (where did you think it was?), we would walk into Pete & Elda’s with just enough time before the kitchen closed at 1:00 a.m. to grab seats at the bar and place our orders for their renowned thin-crust pizza. It was the perfect way to cap a weekend and finish off the work “day” following Sunday Night Football.

Pete and Elda's pizza
On Sunday nights just before closing, we had no problem finding three or four seats together at the bar, and the restaurant area was usually closed. But that may be the only time the place could be described as “empty.” Whether it’s a summer weekend or winter weekday, if it’s a reasonable meal time, Pete & Elda’s Bar and Carmen’s Pizzeria (its given name, though everyone simply knows it by its first names) will be hopping. Just be sure everyone in your party arrives at the agreed-upon time, because the staff will only seat full parties, no matter how much your growling stomach protests.

Pete & Elda’s remains a legendary outpost on Route 35, particularly among the high school sports set, for its participation in the time-honored American tradition of Eat This, Get a Free Shirt. If you can polish off an entire XXL thin-crust pie by yourself, the staff will bestow upon you one of its latest T-shirts (scroll down for photos). Many a football or field hockey team has entered, and many a player has exited with an addition to his or her wardrobe that quickly became part of the gym class clothing rotation.

Pete and Elda's pizza, Neptune
I, however, was never one of the skilled ones. Even as a twenty-something former cross-country runner, the best I could do was wolf down an XL pie in the wee small hours. It’s not for lack of trying. While I maintain an appreciation for doughy crusts, deep dish, even the occasional stuffed crust (More cheese? Yes, please!), sometimes cravings call for a crazy thin, cracker-like crust, and I’ve had none better than Pete & Elda’s. The thinner base forces a lighter touch with the toppings, yet the ratios allow for a perfect blend of cheese, sauce, and crust—no single flavor will overpower the others. Add any additional accoutrements, and you’re going to taste those, too—and you might need two hands to support the slice from the plate to your mouth.

Pete and Elda's thin-crust pizza
For this assignment, I ordered an XXL pie, but with no intensions of actually finishing it. I just wanted to see how close I could get. If my appetite (I skipped breakfast that morning) allowed, I just might clean the tray; if not, I’d have a few delicious slices to take home with me. Of course, that didn’t stop my companions at the table from announcing to our waitress that I would be going for a T-shirt. Feeling a need to temper expectations, I corrected them each time they brought it up.

And I couldn’t do it. As crispy and satisfying as it was—especially after the wait all morning and the hour-long drive to get there from our northern New Jersey home—I found myself staring at the last three slices and decided I’d rather enjoy them the next day than force myself to eat them at that moment. In my head, I’d made the deal that if it came down to two remaining slices and I wasn’t feeling Thanksgiving full, I would do it. But after polishing off five slices, I was satisfied and felt no need to prove a point just to get a T-shirt that my wife would say I don’t need. [Editor's Note: He doesn't!]

She’s right about that, but it doesn’t mean I won’t try again.

Pete & Elda's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

FTC Disclosure: Good. Food. Stories. is an Amazon.com affiliate and receives a minuscule commission on all purchases made through Amazon links in our posts. If you'd like to support the site further, please use this link or click the Amazon links in the sidebar to make your purchases.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies February 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Hah, I love it! James and I will have to search this place out, it sounds delicious.

Reply

Casey Barber February 9, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Amber, any time you want to take a New Jersey pizza trip, we are so in.

Reply

Sarah - A Beach Home Companion February 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Dan,
Next time I’m there, you and I are going head-to-head on an XXL pizza. I can put away thin crust pizzas like nobody’s business.

Reply

Dan February 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Sounds good, Sarah! Road trip to the Jersey Shore!

Reply

moom February 9, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Moom loves thin crust pizza. Ho molto fame!

Reply

Kerry Dexter February 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I’ve not had thin crust pizza in quite a while. Dan, your description here makes me want one… Pete and Elda’s sounds like a great place.

Reply

Frank Traina December 17, 2012 at 7:59 pm

The mussels at Pete & Elda’s are the best. Try them.

Frank

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: