You'd have to be looking for the Reservoir Tavern to find it. Sandwiched between I-287 to the west and its namesake Jersey City Reservoir to the east, there's not much else around but a quiet residential neighborhood and a small industrial park.
But people do find it, as evidenced by the crowd there on a Saturday afternoon at 5:30 p.m.
The parking lot was absolutely packed — and packed with a diversity of vehicles (work-battered pickup trucks, new BMWs, old Hondas, Chevys, Fords, Mini Coopers) that suggests this pizzeria draws people from all walks of life. I always take that as a sign of a good pizzeria. I added my rented Zipcar to the mix and lined up for a table.
The Reservoir Tavern
90 Parsippany Boulevard, Boonton NJ 07005 (map); take-out, 973-334-5708; call-ahead seating, 973-334-0421; therestavern.com
Getting there: Drive on I-287 to Intervale Road exit, east on Intervale a minute or so Pizza style: Call it New Jersey–style — sort of NYC-style but with a thicker crust. It's definitely not "bar pizza" as you may know it
Oven type: Rotoflex gas-fired deck oven
The skinny: Very solid, filling, hearty, recommendable pizzas from this sort-of-but-not-really out-of-the-way pizzeria
Price: "bar size," $8; small, $10; large, $11.50
The first thing pizza nerds should know about the Reservoir Tavern is that the only thing "tavern" about the pizza is in the name. This is not bar pizza as you may know it (smallish in size, ultra thin, ultra crisp, and overly cheesed).
Though there is a "bar" size (12 inch) — along with small (14 inch) and large (16 inch) — the pizzas at Reservoir instead are hearty pies with a crust that's close to, but thicker than, a typical NYC-style pizza. The sauce and cheese are there in quantities to stand up to the thicker crust — a salty, savory molten goo of red, white, orange, and yellow all flowing together. Careful when you pick it up — the scalding-hot top layer might just slide right off.
The crust stands up well to this abundance, somehow remaining audibly crisp to the bite — with that all-important chewiness in the mix.
We ordered a large plain pie (above), as a benchmark; a small mushroom pie; and a small Nick's Special (onions, mushrooms, sausage, and peppers — anchovies recommended as per the menu and the waitress).
The large and bar sizes were consistent in their crust texture and generous amount of toppings. I liked the large plain pie the most, with the mushroom pizza (made with fresh, not canned 'shrooms) coming in second. I probably would have loved the Nick's Special without the anchovies. I do like anchovy on a pizza, but I found out that I don't like it in ample amounts, as used at Reservoir.
The Reservoir Tavern is located just a twist off the Intervale Road exit of I-287, a few miles north of I-80. If you live in the area and haven't been — or if you are motorin' through — you owe it to yourself to try it.