How can a new pizza place make its mark in a town where there are at least a dozen pizzerias in a square mile? Through quality and innovation.
The two owners of Balbo’s Pizzeria near the Hoboken train terminal are born-and-raised Jersey guys, but they’re also devout foodies who are skilled in the restaurant trade. Joey Cioffi’s family has owned a deli/pizzeria in Springfield, N.J. for 30 years, and describes himself as a “tomato snob.” Mike Gondevas ran the Madison Bar & Grill in Hoboken for 18 years and left to open the Hamilton Inn in Jersey City. So they want to make sure that a staple of the Jersey diet, like your everyday pizza slice, transcends the usual lunchtime fare.
Five sunny side up eggs smile at you from this pie.
They named their establishment after a pizzeria that was once located at Fourth and Jefferson streets, and decked their tiny parlor with old-time décor.
“We wanted to bring back the goodness of old times,” said Gondevas, “using quality products.”
Then they took to creating delicious meals, importing some ingredients from Italy and hiring an experienced hand to make their fresh white mozzarella.
Besides being the perfect place to grab a slice on the way home from New York City, they are highlighting their late night pizza delivery, which runs until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
What’s to eat
They say their most popular pie is the Grandma Pie, which they serve by the slice. Round or square, it’s $21 and has fresh little clumps of white mutz on it. While this reporter was interviewing the owners on a Monday evening, a woman came in off the street, spied the pizza behind the counter, and went right for it. A slice of that pie is $3.50.
A unique and absolutely delicious pizza that Cioffi developed at his parents’ place in Springfield is the truffled egg. Five sunny-side up eggs smile at you from this pie, along with pancetta (a kind of ham), spinach, mozzarella, and pricy truffle oil. It sells for $21 and is a delicious treat. The toppings are generous, unlike at some pizza places. It’s thick and provides a perfect medley of tastes, with the egg and ham complementing each other.
I liked it so much that I ordered a pie at work a week later, and it tasted even better! I had my leftovers for breakfast the next day (really). Think of the iron I got from the eggs and spinach.
Other specialty pizzas range from $16 to $22 and include veggie and buffalo chicken.
Pasta, salads, sandwiches
As far as appetizers, their rice balls and fried house-made mozzarella are popular ($7 and $8 respectively). Dipped in tomato sauce, both were a soft, tasty treat. The rice balls are made with reggiano and parmigiana, and the fried mutz comes in little circles, stretchy white inside.
Other appetizers are salads, antipasto, fried calamari, beef braciole, garlic bread, and chicken wings, priced from $5 to $9.
And…want a meal? Besides pizza, Balbo’s offers various types of parmigiana sandwiches (meatball, veal, shrimp, eggplant, braciole, chicken) for $9; street fair sausage and peppers, Italian hot dogs, baked rigatoni and meatballs (we enjoyed a huge, meaty helping for $14 with amazing San Marzano tomato sauce); penne vodka, and broccoli & cavatelli.
Calzones and vegetable Stromboli run for $8.To wash it down, try some Boylan soda, Coke, or water.
The partners hope to keep innovating. Cioffi said that his father tried their pizza and told him he was proud of him. But Cioffi credits the water around Hoboken for making the pies extra special. He says the same exact pie in Springfield tastes different.
“And it’s made with a lot of love,” Gondevas added.
Balbo’s is open from 11 to 11 Sunday through Thursday, and stays open late on Friday and Saturday until around 3:30. They deliver until during those hours, stopping at 3 on Friday and Saturday. It’s located at 70 Hudson St., right near the train station.
Check them out at Balbospizza.com or at 201-332-MUTZ (6889). They also do catering.
Caren Matzner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org