Slice of Jersey – Stop 6 – Maria Rosa in Flemington
Nestled deep in the heart of the undisturbed cow pastures and horse farms of Hunterdon County stands a culinary palace in the world of New Jersey pizza making! It’s no wonder they’ve been nominated to our Top 10 in the “Slice of New Jersey” tour!Maria Rosa’s on Route 523 (or Seargentsville Road) in Flemington is the pride of the Marinilli Brothers, Mike and Ralph. Having learned their craft from their father, they bring pizza making mastery along with a sense of old world aura to an area very reminiscent of the hills of Naples.
Upon meeting family members, (including 5 month old little Brady – who I originally though was named Jose! I truly am going deaf!), we were then escorted to the garden and veranda area.
Once out there, I felt as though I was visiting “il paese” from where my grandmother came, looking over their fig trees and herb garden and eventually eating under the large canopy, where most of the visitors to Maria Rosa’s choose to sit.
And they showered us with a tempting variety of pies.
Ricotta forms the base of the Fried Eggplant pie, topped with bits of broccoli, a bit of mozzarella, and crushed tomato, giving it it’s signature “sweet aura!” (You like how I went “aura”?)
The “Brooklyn Sicilian” is generously served with a layer of tomato sauce, basil, a bit of mozzarella over a thin crust and pan baked – giving it the delicate “crunch” reminiscent of the pizza grandma used to make back in Brook–a–leen! In the words of “Sheky” otherwise known in NJ1015 circles as Ray “The Prize Guy” this one is a “keeper,” like I needed to be reminded!
There was the customary “Margherita,” a round pie with a firm, thin crust, sweet tomato, and fresh Buffalo mozzarella.
The aforementioned “cafone in chief” and “publicity chazzer!” Sheky (aka Ray the Prize Guy) needed a bib, salivating over the “Newark Style Hot Dog” pie, appropriately nicknamed the “Jimmy Buff’s pie” (named after the famed Newark style hot dog emporium in Irvington.) Ray The Prize Guy ate it like he was going to the electric chair!
The Jimmy Buff’s Pie includes generous slices of deep fried “Newark style” hot dogs, along with French fries, peppers, onions, and a few dollops of mustard, to give it that added “zing!”
Buffalo Chicken, Arugula, Vodka Sauce, and Chicken Marsala pies also grace the varied menu at Maria Rosa’s.
Check out some of the video footage from Maria Rosa’s:
However, since this was a special occasion, I felt honored to have been served a plateful of batter dipped zucchini flowers. For those of you who’ve never had zucchini flowers, there was a time when they were found to be in the wild, and were eaten as sustenance, as were many of the dishes that followed the inhabitants of the “Mezzogiorno” or southern Italy!
Now…fuggetabouttit! See where you gotta find them! You pay and arm and a leg for them!
A quick aside:
My father told us a story once about how, when he had “trotters”; both he and my cousin “Buster” (nickname for Sebastian) were out looking at a couple or horses, when a farmer was cutting some zucchini flowers off the plants. My dad, seeing the flowers and knowing how expensive they are, asked the farmer, “…what are you gonna do with those!” The farmer replied, “…I just give them to the horses to eat!” Upon hearing that, my father said, “…what, are you kidding?”; and quickly started chopping flowers off the plants like he was in Cuba cutting sugar cane!
But I digress…
So to say the zucchini flowers were a special treat doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt! The batter is very light, unlike the batter rich zeppoli you find at Italian street festivals. Topped off with fresh figs, right off the trees in the back and we felt right at home.
So if you ever find yourself traveling through western New Jersey admiring the wide open spaces, which hopefully won’t disappear, make a point of stopping by Maria Rosa’s on Route 523, Seargentsville Road in Flemington. And while the weather’s nice, make sure to sit on the veranda.
You’ll feel like you’re in a Marcello Mastroianni movie!