Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Restaurant review: Emma's Brick Oven Pizza

On weekends, Emma's Brick Oven Pizza and Cafe in Cranford, New Jersey, usually has a line to the door. This no-reservations, BYO pizza and pasta place definitely draws a crowd. Perfect for families, it's a great place for an inexpensive dinner out. We've eaten at Emma's many times. If there's a line, don't fret; it moves pretty fast.

Lately, we have our meals picked out before we even get there, so we hardly glance at the menu - but have a look. The front page is all about pizza. Build your own or select one of their specialty pies. Inside you'll find three pages of salads, appetizers, pastas, entrees, panini and more. Our preference is for the pizza - thin-crust brick oven pies. Yum! We've tried the pasta, and it's not bad, but Emma's is our stop for pizza. If we want pasta, we head across the street to Bel Paese.

For starters, the fried calamari is enough for at least two people and has a light batter. Served with homemade marinara, it's a great start to a meal. We've also tried the mozzarella en carozza - basically a fried mozzarella sandwich - crispy, gooey, cheesy and wonderful! Salads are large enough to share as well.

When it comes to pizza, we haven't found another place in our area we like nearly as much. The pies are made fresh when you order and each is fired in the brick oven that occupies center stage in the restaurant. My favorite is the vodka pie. Homemade vodka sauce is spread over the crust and then topped with mozzarella, bits of prosciutto and a few mushrooms. A sprinkle of Parmesan completes the pie. This is a pie for garlic-lovers. A personal size has 4 slices - I usually bring at least 1 home. My husband opts for the classic margherita pie with pepperoni, mushrooms and onions. Emma's uses fresh mushrooms and red onions which are cooked, but still a bit crunchy. The marinara sauce has fresh basil that adds another layer of flavor to the pie. And the pepperoni is cooked to perfection - it gets a little crisp on the edges and isn't drowning in grease.

On other visits, we've tried the pesto bianco pie. This white pie has mozzarella and pesto ricotta. Add broccoli or broccoli rabe for a vegetarian meal that's outstanding. The Emma pie has provolone, fresh sliced tomato and basil, another winner.

With a BYO policy and friendly service, Emma's is a great place for a casual lunch or dinner. It's hand's down our favorite for pizza.

Have another favorite in the area? Leave a comment and let me know!

Emma's Brick Oven Pizza & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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