The best NJ pizzeria that doesn’t exist anymore — and the ones that still do
Growing up on 14th street in Union City in the 1970s, we were never far from a pizzeria. We had four in a five-block radius. But the best one of them all was Cristina's pizza located on 17th Street and Bergenline Avenue.
Named after Cristina Pisani, they served an incredible thin-crust pie that was to die for.
The tables had "Swami" machines that told your fortune while you waited for your food.
Many a day I'd hang with Cristina's son Robbo playing Pat Cooper's "Our Hero" to the guys sitting at the bar.
Robbo tells the story
"Started in 1937-1997 by my grandparents Vincent and Mary Moscatelli. Grandparents retired in 1966. When Vincent passed away in 1967 the business was run by Cristina Pisani who was the firstborn daughter of Vincent and Mary. She ran it with her husband Andrew until 1997 when they eventually closed Cristina’s to retire."
What made Cristina customers keep coming back?
"What made customers come back many years later was not only the thin crust, brick oven-baked pizza but also the mussels, meatball sandwiches, and sausage sandwiches that were also popular. The dining room was dimly lit with yellow lights at each booth and on every booth, table was a Genie napkin holder that for a penny you would ask the genie a question, pull the handle and a card with the answer to your question would pop out."
Of course, many came back to see if their names were still carved in the tables.
"Customers would also come back to reminisce looking at the carved names that they had carved in the soft knotty pine walls of the dining room. Thousands of names and initials some carved in hearts, graduation days, birthdays, etc. were carved on every wall of the dining room. Cristina’s was the place to be after Emerson High, Union Hill high, and Saint Michaels High schools football, basketball games, and dances. It would be wall-to-wall teenagers."
Cristina's was actually used as a backdrop in the movie "Baby It's You"
"In 1982, the producers for the movie “Baby It’s You” starring Roseanne Arquette and Vincent Spano approached Cristina to film scenes for their movie. They needed a bar/ restaurant with a 1960s theme. The restaurant’s dining room had a Rock-Ola Jukebox that played 45s. Also in the corner was the old-style phone booth. That is what enticed the producer to use Cristina’s."
But mostly Cristina's was all about people from all sides of the aisle coming together to put politics aside and enjoy a great meal,
"Cristina’s was also dining where even local political foes would come to eat and if they were there on the same night they would be buying drinks for each other as Politics had no place in Cristina’s Dining Room. You came to eat, drink and enjoy the food and the friendly atmosphere or even possibly a visit to your table by either Vincent, Mary, Cristina, or Andrew stopping by to say hello".
According to my listeners and social media following, here are the best places in Jersey where you can still go and grab a slice
DeLucia’s in Raritan
Razza in Jersey City
Susanne Bamberger Kaczun
Arturo’s in Maplewood. They ferment their dough somehow and it takes days to make it and it’s amazing.
Rocco’s in Bedminster has the best Sicilian I’ve ever had!
AMA Pizza in Hillsborough Township
Dominick’s in Raritan NJ
Grandma slice, Nonna’s in Florham Park
Christine Adamo Bruno
Nonna's in Florham Park
Christine Adamo Bruno
Sorrento's in Mendham
Clemente's Grandma's pizza in Berkeley Heights
Penne Vodka slice, Clemente’s in Berkeley Heights
The Sawmill in Seaside Heights. Haven't had a bad experience yet. My friends from south Jersey even prefer them over Lorenzo's in Philly.
Manninos in Hightstown! Hands down the best grandma pie.
Ralph’s in Nutley. Napolis in Hoboken a close second
Vic’s in Bradley Beach
Federici’s in Freehold
For tomato pie style, DeLorenzo’s with Papa’s a close second (both in Robbinsville).
Bunny’s South Orange
Prima Pizza Kitchen in Somerville
Hot House in Hoboken
La Rustique in Jersey City!
Pizza One in Wayne
Sam's Pizza Palace in Wildwood
Big Slice Pizza in Ocean City and Wildwood
Ridge Pizza in Basking Ridge
DiMaio’s in Berkeley Height
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
You can now listen to Steve Trevelise — On Demand! Discover more about New Jersey’s personalities and what makes the Garden State interesting . Download the Steve Trevelise show wherever you get podcasts, on our free app, or listen right now: