Cranford, NJ 07016
- Cost: $$
- Alcohol: BYO
- Parking: Street, Metered
- Take Out: Yes
December 20, 2010
The line was almost out the door on a recent Saturday night when my two oldest kids and I visited Emma’s Brick Oven Pizza & Cafe in Cranford for the first time. A good sign. Even better, the strips of blackened-in-spots thin crust pizza with pepperoni that the guy in charge handed out to everyone on line. Tasted great and a nice gesture.
Too bad that same guy didn’t tell us I had to go to the front of the crowded entrance way and put our name on a list as soon as we arrived. Emma’s doesn’t take reservations. When we finally made it to the front of the single file line, two other families in the know who had arrived after us and were behind us in the line, were seated ahead of us. If there’s a line when you go, get on the list.
Emma’s large brick oven dominates the back of the restaurant. When the cooks open the black metal doors to maneuver the pies, you can see the flames (burning apple wood and coal according to the website) inside. We ordered a large Margherita Pie (Buffalo Mozzarella, Whole Milk Mozzarella. San Marzano Tomatoes, Basil & Parmesan, Reggiano), half anchovy, all prosciutto (quite salty with those toppings of course). The thin crust texture is excellent – crispy with a bit of chewiness, and foldable. Unfortunately, the crust flavor just didn’t do it for me. Something was missing. Maybe it just hadn’t cooked long enough. The pizza sample on line had a nicely charred crust, our pie didn’t. The toppings are very good, though the mixture of cheeses – both whole milk and buffalo mozzarella – obscures the excellent sauce.
Aside from pizza, Emma’s has a full Italian menu with appetizers, salads, pastas and entrees. Fried Calamari with Cherry Peppers is very good – the batter is light and crispy. My daughter’s “Italian Tuna Salad” was just ok. My son ordered cheese ravioli – decent, but no comparison to, say, Spirito’s in Elizabeth.
Service was spotty on a packed Saturday night. Our server was nice enough, but he periodically disappeared and seemed distracted.
Emma’s makes a good thin crust pie I’d like to try again. Definitely worth a visit. Between Emma’s and Orange’s Star Tavern (my favorite place right now for thin crust pizza), I give the edge to Star Tavern for crust flavor and sauce to cheese ratio, though I like the texture of Emma’s crust better. My kids also give the nod to Star Tavern for its wooden booth, old school (i.e. college bar) atmosphere.