Restaurant Review #302: Strawberry’s Pizza and Pub (Woodbridge, NJ)

Strawberry’s Pizza and Pub of Woodbridge is a place that Justin and I have passed numerous times, usually when picking up pizza from nearby Milano’s in Perth Amboy. We always told ourselves we had to try it, and finally, last week we looked up the menu and headed on over, bringing my mom along. There was really nothing to dislike about the menu— a lengthy list of pizzas and topping possibilities, sandwiches, appetizers, pastas, and a section just for types of fries and even more things you could put on them. We were sure this would end up being a place we would like.

When you first walk in, you are met with a large wraparound bar which is then surrounded by tables (with another dining room in the back). The atmosphere and decor is a sterile one, but not surprising for a pizzeria. We managed to get there at around 7:15 PM on a Thursday. The place was absolutely packed and we actually had to wait around 15 minutes for a table. The vibes were fun. When we were seated, Justin ordered a beer, mom had wine, and I asked for a Stoli martini. I should have known this was not the place for a martini, when upon ordering, the waitress raised her eyebrows and said with a musical tone, “Oh! A martini!” It ended up being very well made, and unfortunately, the high point of the evening for me.

It took a while to decide what to order for meals. Sure, the pizza was there but I was not in a pizza mood and have not been for quite some time. We ordered a couple of appetizers, which would be the truffle fries and buffalo calamari. They arrived shortly after and were decent enough. The fries, at least, were burning hot and crispy. There was adequate truffle oil drizzled over the top which pooled on the bottom as well as Parmesan cheese. I really enjoyed the calamari as well, although they were lukewarm and a bit soggy due to the sauce–perhaps a drizzle would have been better rather than tossing them in it, but not a huge deal. Two enjoyable appetizers.

At this point it was 8 PM or a few minutes after and our waitress came by and said, “You guys haven’t ordered meals yet! We close in a half hour!” I thought perhaps I misheard her. The bar was pretty much full and still every table was taken. Several people had come in after us and had also not gotten meals yet. There’s no way a place like this closes 8:30, right? A few minutes later, I overheard the bartender tell someone else that the kitchen closed at 8:30 and the establishment itself at 9. But still, are you kidding me? Dinner was ordered: mom had pizza with half eggplant and half mushroom, Justin had a cheesesteak, and I went with Penne Brioni, which came with vodka sauce, prosciutto, eggplant, fresh mozzarella, and I added grilled chicken.

In warp speed, Justin’s cheesesteak arrived within what seemed like seconds. It was one of the most unappetizing looking things I’ve ever seen (just check out the picture). My pasta came a few minutes after that. We waited for her pizza. I guess being in such a rush to close, it was too much to ask for them all to be brought out at the same time. If anything, I had time to pick through my pasta which was just regular penne vodka, not the Penne Brioni that I ordered (there was no eggplant, prosciutto, or fresh mozzarella).

Anyway, mom’s pizza finally arrives and this was the laugh of the night! The runner sets the pizza on the table and announces “Pizza with eggplant and mushrooms”. But the pizza was half grilled chicken and roasted red peppers and half plain. We said we didn’t think this was the right pizza and he just shrugged his shoulders and said he’d get the server. I tried to say my pasta was wrong too, but a lost cause. I know runners aren’t responsible for kitchen mistakes but a little common sense here?

Our waitress came and was horrified that it was wrong, and also that my pasta was wrong. My mom mentioned that when they remake her pizza to leave off the oregano. She said okay. Our meals are taken and immediately her actual pizza hits the table (the guy probably grabbed the wrong one). The waitress apologized about the oregano but since my mom didn’t ask previously, there was nothing they could do. We were fine with this because it was a secondary request. But a minute later, she comes by again and takes the pizza, saying they will make her another pizza with no oregano. We said it was fine but she insisted—that was a kind gesture. My pasta eventually came and was correct, though there was still no eggplant to be found. It tasted fine, like something I could have made myself at home. The mozzarella was just thrown on top and not incorporated in any way. I don’t know if this was normal or again, because the clock was ticking and we were now T-minus 25 minutes or so from them presumably kicking everyone out. Even before our food came, the lights in the back dining room were turned off. And yes, still with a full restaurant out front!

Funny enough, about five minutes later, the same food runner set Buffalo wings and waffle fries down at our table while we were finally eating and we had to say they were not ours. Another shoulder shrug from him, before he picked them up and brought them to the next table. Seriously, this one individual was costing the place money with so many mistakes. Not on this last one, but if the pizza and pasta were simply someone else’s brought to us mistakenly? As someone now in the food service industry, I have to say, come on man!

Overall, the pizza was not bad but not something to write home about. The prices for food were excellent, though $13.75 for my martini given the surroundings was a little steep. The service was pleasant but obviously rushed to the point where it was like trying to complete a marathon. I suppose part of it is our own faults for not checking what time Strawberry’s closed before we got there, but I have also never seen such a rush to get out by any staff at any restaurant I’ve ever eaten at, and I’ve reviewed what, 302 of them now? That really put a bad taste in my mouth. It has always been a policy of mine that if mistakes are corrected during the course of an experience that they do not affect the final score. Even with that considered, this place still gets only 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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