It is and always will be known by everyone simply as Pete & Elda’s. In actuality, that’s just the bar area. Where the magic happens, though, is Carmen’s Pizzeria. It is interesting that for such legendary pizza not just for the Jersey Shore, but nationally, that no one ever says, “Hey, let’s go to Carmen’s!”. It just doesn’t happen. But judging by the fact that at almost any time of night, you may wait an upwards of two hours, I do not think the owners mind the misnomer very much. They have a gold mine, plain and simple. But is it worth the wait? How many places have fallen from grace into the perpetual vacuum of a tourist trap novelty? We see it all the time, but thankfully, the quality of the product at Pete & Elda’s (I still can’t bring myself to say Carmen’s) is unwavering and has been in the decade-plus I’ve been eating there.
What took me so long to review it? Maybe I just took them for granted. “I’ll do it next time”, because there always will be a next time. But after reviewing Brothers in Red Bank last week, I was inspired to finally type this out. Most people know what I am going to say about the pizza: it’s thin thin crust. Take whatever you know about the supposed “thin crust” pizza that places offer and forget about it. This is the real deal, comparable to matzoh of all things. You could probably sneeze a hole through it if you tried. The dough is barely dough. It crunches and crackles with every bite. It’s light enough that you can scarf down a XXL by yourself (notably for a free t-shirt) but sturdy enough to hold any number of pizzeria staple toppings (I like to add garlic and hot cherry peppers, while my parents go for the meatball). The sauce is mild on the flavor and works well to compliment the cheese and crust. All in all, this is a pizza beyond compare to anywhere else. It is its own genre of pizza-making.
While I’ve yet to go for the XXL, I could no-doubt pull it off if my meal was beer and appetizer-free. But Pete & Elda’s is not just about pizza. They have some great appetizers. We usually end up with zucchini sticks or garlic bread, and one time they even had some killer fried green beans as a special. In years past, I’ve done the heretical and tried sandwiches and meals (which happen to be above average–excellent for a place not known for anything but pizza), but lately, it’s all about the pie. After all, it is a 40-minute drive, and this is crust you will not find anywhere else. People come from even farther away than me.
I cannot think of what a summer would be like without a visit to–ahem–Carmen’s Pizzeria. I go in winter too, but it’s always been more of a summer place for me. You’ll wait for a table regardless. The bar is a really good place to hangout, but I prefer to go to the restaurant area. Not much out there beats a pitcher of cold beer (to share, of course) and one of their pizzas crumbling apart in your mouth. Nothing but pure satisfaction there for any pizza lover. 4 out of 5 stars.
Pete & Elda’s Bar and Carmen’s Pizzeria are located at 93 Summit Avenue in Neptune City, New Jersey.