Like the previous Takeout Joints column which focused on Asian food, these restaurants are graded on slightly a different scale (4 stars = great). Unlike the others, though, the following Italian restaurants do have dining rooms. But they are still known for their takeout (Villa is the only one I’ve actually eaten in).
Giuseppe’s Pizza and Restaurant (Hazlet)
This is the place for pizza in Hazlet as far as I am concerned. I’ve been ordering from here since I was a kid, and it is practically unchanged. Their pizza is good, but it is their Sicilian pie which really stands out. The crust is always perfectly crispy, and there is not too much sauce like some can go overboard on. Even better than the pizza are their sandwiches. They have a special sub with grilled chicken, fresh Mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and Balsamic vinegar. Can you get that anywhere else? Sure, but their combination of actual grilled/blackened chicken (which also goes great on their salads) with the creaminess of the cheese is to die for. There is also another sub you can order not on the menu: chicken cutlet, sautéed broccoli rabe, and fresh Mozzarella. I used to get it at another restaurant and started asking Giuseppe’s if they could make it. Not only do they make it, but it’s better here than the original place. They also have my favorite rice ball, a crispy fried concoction done the Sicilian way, with meat, peas, and cheese which oozes out as you cut into it. 4 out of 5 stars.
Villa Pizza (Holmdel)
I’m actually not a fan of Villa’s pizza, but their meals may be the best of all Italian places in the area. There’s the ubiquitous chicken parm, but also a dish consisting of two chicken breasts topped with thinly sliced eggplant, tomato, mozzarella, and a creamy vodka sauce. My favorite to order there. They also have solid sandwiches and salads, and a crispy chicken cutlet/roasted pepper panini which is great to grab for lunch. Their rice balls are second only to Giuseppe’s above. The one pizza they make I actually gush over is their chicken/bacon/ranch, but what is not to like about that? Service is always ultra friendly and prices are on the cheaper side. 4 out of 5 stars.
Hazlet Pizza (Hazlet)
Where do I begin with this one? Let’s see…oh how about that time last year I ordered a small Caesar salad, asked if they could add onion and tomato, and then find that they charged me $4 extra just to add tiny pieces of those vegetables? I was stupid, though, because I begrudgingly paid for it. The next (and last time) I ordered a small Caesar salad again (but with no onion and tomato). When I arrived, the person behind the counter argued with me that I ordered a large. I refused to pay for it. I said they could either make me a small and I would wait, or I would walk out. The lady at the register said nothing. She stood there with a glazed, dumbfounded expression as if I was speaking another language. Someone who I assume was the owner then came out and said, “Okay fine!”. He literally threw the salad at me and said to just keep the large. I have a friend who works in that shopping center I told the horrors of this place about. He didn’t listen. On his lunch break just a couple of months ago, he grabbed a slice of Buffalo Chicken pizza (which was probably sitting there for three weeks) and ended up not feeling so great for a couple of days. There’s a reason why they have changed owners five or six times since we moved to New Jersey…and why they are practically on their knees begging for customers with a $3.99 lunch special (or $7.99 if you want onion and tomato). The regular pizza was not terrible, and their pepperoni pinwheels were pretty good, but their lack of customer service, lack of customers, and lack of seemingly everything else makes Hazlet Pizza a disaster. 1.5 out of 5 stars, and that’s being kind.