Daily Slice: Plain-Jane Cheese at Coffaro's in South River, NJ
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
When a plain-Jane place like Coffaro's has managed to stay in business for 60-plus years, you hope that there's something special hiding behind the nondescript facade. From the front, the small South River spot seems like the average slice joint, advertising its lunch specials on wobbly-lettered signs that have probably been there longer than I've been a New Jersey resident. But there's got to be something behind its doors that keeps the ovens running, right?
Coffaro's does a brisk delivery business (it was the regular Friday night meal for family friends who used to live in the area), but there were no other customers as I stepped into the shabby space for a lunch slice. The 20-something employee, who seemed like he'd rather be pre-gaming for a night at Jenkinson's than biding his time at the deck ovens on a Friday afternoon, unenthusiastically gestured to the lone pie waiting behind the counter as the only available slice option. OK, then. Two cheese slices and a Coke ($5) it was.
The slices were just that: a basic shredded cheese blend melted atop slightly sugary sauce—a filling lunch option with no bells, whistles, or fireworks. The crust offered some redemption: surprisingly well-charred for a pie baked in a deck oven, it was yeasty and crisp, miraculously avoiding the overly dry cracker-like tendencies of some thin-crust pizzas and giving the slice most of its character. Had the slice distinguished itself with a little pepperoni, sausage, or ham—a little bit of salty greasiness to add depth of flavor—I could see a freshly baked pie easily gobbled down as a late snack for night owls or an easy weekend dinner for parents and kids.
Unfortunately, eaten solo at a dingy table in a dim pizzeria, the Coffaro's slice didn't pass muster. Sophia Loren might love Coffaro's, as a piece of artwork on the green walls proclaims, but I just couldn't bring myself to like it that much.
58 Obert St., South River NJ 08882 [map]
732-257-1133; no website
About the author: Casey Barber is the editor of Good. Food. Stories. and author of the forthcoming cookbook Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats. Find her on Twitter: @GoodFoodStories