Clifton NJ: At Bruno's, Square's Where It's At
1006 Route 46 West, Clifton NJ; 973-473-3339
Pizza Style: New York/Sicilian
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: The round slice is decent but not extraordinary. The Sicilian, on the other hand, is exquisite
Price: Round slice, $1.85; Sicilian slice, $1.95
In his allegorical tale that anticipated the Second World War, André Maurois' Fattypuffs and Thinifers tells of an underground land where two races of people live in a state of constant conflict. The Fattypuffs, plump, joyful and leisurely, predictably succumb in battle to the Thinifers, who are austere, hard-working, and complete killjoys. The unexpected result of the victory is the formation of the United States of the Underground, in which all distinctions of weight are abolished and the differences between the Fatties and the Thinnies begin to disappear. I found some Fattypuffs and Thinifers myself in Clifton, New Jersey but I hope that they never reach a similar detente; I want my fatties fat and my thinnies thin. Last week I told you about one of the thinnest slices I had ever eaten when I tried the Emma-style pie at Mario's. I found an equally compelling slice, although one that could not be more different at Bruno's.
Located in a strip mall off Route 46 in Clifton, Bruno's has been around for decades, and the worn oven tells the tale—you can barely read the Bari logo on the door. It has all the hallmarks of a neighborhood pizzeria: The wall is decorated with pictures of little league teams sponsored by the restaurant, and the menu is an unadulterated affair—no chicken wings or wraps to be found anywhere. Just two kinds of pizza: round and Sicilian.
The regular pie is similar to the classic New York–style pizza but with a slightly thicker crust and more generous topping of cheese and sauce. The cheese is well melted and has a somewhat muted flavor, the sauce, spiced with oregano and slightly sweet, is applied in a thick layer and is the dominant flavor.
The crust is quite dense with little pliancy, there is no tip sag. In fact the tip completely ruptured and broke off, creating a mini slice. Overall a decent enough slice, but nothing extraordinary.
Not so with the Sicilian, which is fantastic. At Bruno's, the Sicilian slice is constructed with the cheese layered over the crust and the sauce slathered on top.
The cheese does not get burnished the way it might if directly exposed to the oven's heat, but it is suitably molten, although perhaps not as apparent from a flavor perspective as other slices.
The crust—airy and light (quite unlike the round pie, in fact)—has a nice burnishing on the bottom and a pleasing crunch. It was the perfect vessel for the toppings.
The pie appears to have extra oregano and other herbs sprinkled over the top of the pie, adding a pronounced herbaceousness to the proceedings.
The resulting slice is simply wonderful. The sauce hits the roof of your mouth first and explodes with sweetness and salt—titillating the receptors at the front of your tongue. The herbs kick in next, dominated by oregano before yielding to the milky cheese and yeasty crust. Despite being unorthodox—the outside is in—it produces a taste that is both familiar but paradoxically new.
Bruno's offers a slice that couldn't be more different than the svelt, paper thin pie I so enjoyed at Mario's last week. But it is equally pleasing and worthy of praise. In Clifton, New Jersey I hope that the Fattypuffs and Thinifers remain as such.