Parsippany is full of good pizza. But where can you find the best slice? That's what I'm attempting to do this month, when Parsippany Eats searches for the top pies in town. Post a comment and nominate your favorite spot.
Lucky for us, the first stop we chose was a cheerful looking place a stone’s throw from Route 202 North and a bicycle ride away from the shores of Lake Parsippany.
Opened in 1997 and known then as Lovey’s, the restaurant was bought and renamed Napoli two years ago. Dennis Wagner is Napoli’s previous and current owner; he chose Napoli as the name because his mother’s family is from Naples. Wagner’s experience and dedication to turning out a quality product is evident in the pizza slices we sampled. Everyone has memories of favorite pies enjoyed in a long ago hometown pizzeria, something served in a New York eatery or better still, the streets of Rome.
Napoli is none of those but it’s a leader in its own right. From the moment you walk through the door, one of the countermen is there with a cheerful greeting and an offer to get you something right away.
But what to try? There is a dizzying array of pizzas to choose from, starting with the bargain priced cheese slice for $1.70. The complete listing goes like this: onions, anchovies, sausage, fresh garlic, pepperoni, peppers, mushrooms, meatballs, roasted red peppers, eggplant, olives (black or green), spinach, broccoli, fresh basil, hot peppers, bacon or tomato. Or some variation. So unless you’re a strictly plain type, you’ll need a few moments to ponder the choices.
And so we did. We went from the classic plain cheese to the heavenly broccoli with fresh ricotta, a concoction which had us marveling over the thin, chewy crust contrasting with the luscious ricotta. And to make it all stand in sharp relief was the chopped fresh broccoli, diced and cut in appealingly small pieces (no tree trunks here). It was a great slice to savor on a cold day that also signaled opening day at Yankee Stadium, which was broadcast on a TV in the corner.
Our other choices included a fresh chopped bruschetta (tomatoes) which we can only imagine will be perfection when fresh tomatoes are in season. Even now, though, it stood out from lots of other slices we’ve tried with its fresh and assertive flavoring. Finally there was the Grandma slice, a premium slice with a thicker and more dense crust which could hold up to the tomato sauce and thick, rich slabs of mozzarella.
Later in the day, we asked owner Wagner what is his philosophy to the pizza/Italian specialty restaurant business.
“We don’t skimp on quality. I think the customers would rather pay a little bit more than have an inferior product,” he says.
He learned the food business from his father and grandfather who were in the deli business in Bergen County. The 44-year-old Wagner came to Morris County in 1990 and was one of the original owners to start Jersey Boy Bagels on South Street in Morristown.
From that business he transitioned to pizzerias because “I wanted a different life; I didn’t want to get up at 3:30 in the morning anymore,” he explains.
But the economy and the plethora of same-style businesses throughout Parsippany has him questioning just how many pizzerias one area actually needs. As it is, there’s a pizzeria right across the street from Napoli. On Parsippany Road, there is something like five pizzerias in a two mile stretch of road.
While Wagner doesn’t frequent other pizzerias (except Lovey’s in which he’s a part owner), he thinks he is pretty far ahead of the pack in terms of quality and flavor. “We’ve been using the same sauce recipe for 12 years and our crust is the thinner, New York style” which he finds his regulars prefer. Clientele comes from a mix of local residents and corporate employees who come in during their lunch hour.
Of the competition, he says, “We’re all trying to make a living.”
Napoli Pizza & Grill 157 Halsey Road Parsippany 973-515-4800 www.napolipizzaandgrill.com Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Sunday Major credit cards