Rosario's Pizza is the type of place I want to love, but even if I don't, I tend to cut some slack because it is such a genuine piece of Americana. Or Italian-Americana, as the case may be. This little pizzeria on the side of a busy New Jersey road has been around since 1973. I was powerless to not pull into the parking lot of the ramshackle structure that looks something like the office of a mini golf course. A large A-frame roof, there only for effect, sits atop the front dining room. The building is painted green and trimmed with red. Out front are stone tables with circular benches wrapping around them, such as you might see in the backyards of one of those gaudy houses in mob films.
Inside, Formica tables and faux wood paneling complete the scene. In the back and off to the right a large counter divides the ovens and prep area from the dining room. The menu is a full-blown Italian-American affair: pastas and hot sandwiches (pizza burgers anyone?) The shop is close enough to Philadelphia to refer to its cold sandwiches as "hoagies" and its cheesesteaks simply as that, rather than prefixing them with "Philly." But the pizza is most similar to a classic New York slice.
Sal has owned Rosario's since 1972. When I asked why he never changed the name to "Sal's" he replies, in a thick Italian accent, that Rosario was his father.
A slice costs $1.75 but is on the smaller side when compared to a typical New York slice, being closer dimensionally to the slice I enjoyed so much recently from Pizzaland. I had hoped that the pizza at Rosario's would be as unique an expression of the art as the pies served at Pizzaland, but Rosario's are more middling than that, although still enjoyable. And the ambiance and heritage of the place add to the mood.
On a positive note the sauce and dough are all made fresh in-house. The slices I tried were on the soft, floppy side. Tip sag was significant, and the dough did not have much in the way of crunch.
Not that it was underdone. The dough had plenty of life — it was airy and pliant throughout, and the dimple left from a finger poke would reinflate almost as quickly as it sagged. You will want to order your pies or slices well-done here to achieve a significant textural contrast. Truth be told, there was not much flavor in the crust, and the cheese was also rather innocuous, leaving the sweet salty sauce to dominate the palate.
But there is still something alluring about the slice, as soft and mild as it is. There is an authenticity about it. And plenty of nostalgia within its delicate cheesy folds.
While I wouldn't consider Rosario's a pizza destination, it serves an honest, serviceable pie with a slice of Americana as a side. You might be disappointed if you go out of your way to try the pizza there, but if you happen upon it as I did, it will it will offer you an enjoyable slice.