Monday, December 3, 2012

Thin Crust Pizza from Chimney Rock Inn, Bridgewater, NJ

Chimney Rock Inn is a place high on the list of local favorites in the Somerset County area of New Jersey. For one, they have been in business for over 200 years- and is probably one of the oldest businesses in the state. The inn has a reputation for serving classic Italian fare, and has a reputation for great thin-crust pizza. By a quirk of the local Postal system, the Inn is located in the town of Bridgewater, but has an address in neighboring Bound Brook- this quirk has obviously not made it difficult for customers to find- it is always busy.  The area was the focal point of a conflict between two native american tribes, and the restaurant is named for a lanmark where, according to local legend, star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of the conflict met with their untimely end in a murder-suicide scenario that plays out like the ending of Romeo and Juliet. So with a quirky location, a long and storied local hostroy, and an association with a fascinating local legend certianly makes for lively conversation, and an interesting place- but does the food live up to the setting?

...and the answer is, yes it does.

One of the things Chimney Rock does well is group events. We were there for a group function which meant a buffet. I ahd been to othe similar events there before, so I knw what to expect- every is seated at large tables, and the food will start with appetizers- basically several orders of every appetizer on the menu will be brought in, and placed aroudn the room to be served family style. The appetizers range from Italian favorites to typical pub food. Todays spread included a salad of mixed greens with dried cranberries, fries with melted cheese and bacon, spring rolls, chicken fingers, and my favorite of the day- fried calamari. Everything is fresh and well made, but the calamari is cooked perfectly- just enough to be tender, but enough for the batter to hit that perfect level of crunch. The calamari came with a side of marinara sauce- which was tasty. I, however, didn't feel it was necessaary- the calamari was just right on it's own.
After a break, and time for the kids to play, the main course came out, and that was, of course, a variety of Chimney Rock's signature thin crust pizzas. The crust is exactly what a thin crust should be- cracker thin, and crispy to point where is really comes alive as a sensory experience when you bite into it.
I was happy with the pizzas nearest to us, and didn't feel the need to range out and negotiate with the other diners for different toppings- we had pepperoni, which is always a hit with the kids (and adults trying to recapture their childhood like me!). There was also sausage, which is always a favroite too. The star, however, is always that ultra-crispy, cracker thin crust with the huge crunch.
When you are talking about something as classic as pizza, you can't go wrong with the mst simple, basic form- the best slice of the night was clearly the pizza margherita. The classic combination of fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and shreds of fresh basil on top of that great crispy crust, is just simply perfect. When you eat this, you get a sense for what that original pizza that Raphael Esposito brought to Queen Marherita in the distant past in Naples, starting a food tradition that would last for hundreds of years, and take root an ocean away in the Americas. This thin crust, compares favorably with the best I've seen in Manhattan- which is considered to be the "hoome base" in the US for this style of pizza. Simple, Classic, Good. Thanks!

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