Millie's Old World Meatballs and Pizza
60 South St., Morristown NJ 07960 (map); 973-267-9616; milliesoldworld.com
Pizza style: Neapolitan and New York-Neapolitan
Oven type: Wood-fired and coal-oven
The skinny: Can't decide between pillowy coal oven pie crust and thin, floppy Neapolitan crust? At Millie's, you don't have to—these guys have both!
Price: $12-$19 for a 12-inch pie
Yes, it's a terrible stereotype that New Jersey residents are mouthy and demanding. But after more than a decade in this state, I can attest that they pretty much always get exactly what they want. That means they'll find a way to secure that minuscule, nonexistent spot in front of your car in the midst of bumper-to-bumper traffic. And they'll manage to get a hold of the one pizza that satisfies all their nostalgic cravings—even if they have to build a whole restaurant to do it.
Which is why Millie's Old World, a snazzy new spot on Morristown's main drag, has not one, but two types of ovens. The first, a wood-fired import from Naples, is capable of churning out Neapolitan pizzas in 90 seconds flat; the second, a coal-burning oven, yields a chewier (but equally flavorful) crust. Why not pick just one style of pizza? According to Marlene Carrabba, mother of sibling owners Vince and Brandon, her boys each had a favorite and couldn't choose between the two. So, in true Jersey style, they went with both.
It's a compelling move to split the difference this way, even though the financial pinch can't have been pleasant. The pies are pricey, rising to almost $20 for a 12-inch round, but luckily the quality of the ingredients almost dignifies the cost. Plus, this ain't your paper plate-and-fountain-soda affair; exposed brick walls and glossy tilework surrounding the ovens, vibrant metal light fixtures evoking coral reefs, and San Pellegrino on the menu are the obvious signs that it's more than your average slice joint. I could have done without the thumping club music at two in the afternoon, but hey, it's Jersey.
The wood-fired Neapolitan pizza arrived with a floppy crust, so heavily charred and leopard-spotted, it looked like it belonged in a zoo. Toppings options range from traditional Margherita and marinara to modern, cheffy offerings like white truffle cream, goat cheese and figs, and the Pistachio Pesto Pizza ($19). The thin layer of muted green pesto was spread across the crust, daubed with globs of homemade mozzarella and sprinkled with finely ground, well-browned sausage. The sausage wasn't quite as spicy as the menu implied, but that's probably for the best. Too many toppings would have muted the richly nutty, if somewhat subtle flavor of the pistachio pesto.
My dining companion, herself a chef, didn't even detect the pistachio flavor at first; she was too busy sinking her teeth into the pillowy high-rise crust of the Vodka Pie ($19) that came from the coal oven. Wells of sweet-salty pink sauce pooling atop the crust were equally balanced by more of the homemade mozzarella, topped with strands of freshly julienned basil. Once again, the pizza didn't come exactly as advertised; this time we were promised pancetta on our pie, but none was detectable. That said, we hardly missed it in the long run—the tangy sauce and creamy, milky fresh mozz proved more than enough.
And since the name of the restaurant is technically Millie's Old World Meatballs and Pizza, it seemed wrong to miss out on the balls entirely. An order of three impressively sized all-beef meatballs, topped with a healthy ladleful of tangy marinara ($10.50), turned out to be a must-have. Honestly, the greatest compliment I can give the restaurant is that their meatballs taste eerily identical to the ones my Calabrian grandmother would bring to the table every weekend. Only these are about four times the size.
The concept of two pizza ovens, each with its own roster of topping choices, may have seemed like overkill at first glance, but Millie's proved to be surprisingly simple and satisfying. The price tags still make me wince...then again, its BYOB status certainly goes a long way toward drowning out out the sticker shock of the bill.
About the author: Casey Barber is the editor of Good. Food. Stories. and the author of Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats. Find her on Twitter: @GoodFoodStories