Stop What You’re Doing and Head to this Belmar Pizzeria; It’s One of Jersey’s Best

by Peter Candia

I will be the first person to admit that I was late to Pizzeria ‘Lucci in Belmar, NJ. Despite it opening a few months back, and the many, many claims I’ve heard calling it one of Jersey’s best, it took me some time to get there. Better late than never, I say.

My visit to Pizzeria ‘Lucci came with some of the highest expectations I’ve ever placed on a pizza shop. Chefs I respect immensely raved about it. Would it meet that gargantuan bar? You don’t need special powers to know the answer: of course it would.  

‘Lucci is in a strip mall five or so blocks from the sandy Belmar beaches, and regardless of where in Jersey you reside, it’s worth the trip. It’s pizza made by pizza obsessives, for pizza obsessives. 

 

A wall of cook books | Pizzeria ‘Lucci

Pizzeria ‘Lucci Demands Your Attention

Before you even sit, your eyes will flock to the dozens of cookbooks at the back wall. Modernist Bread by Nathan Myhrvold and Chef Francisco Migoya, Bianco by the artisanal pizza Godfather Chris Bianco, Food of the Italian Islands by NJ-born and Rome-based Katie Parla, to name a few. The point is this: the team behind Pizzeria ‘Lucci, led by owner Mike Gallucci and Head Pizzaiolo Adam Simmons, is not messing around. They’re serious about their pizza (and their food). And when that first pie hits the table, you’ll know it. 

My only rule when visiting a new pizzeria is to order a plain pie. It’s the basis in which a pizza shop revolves around—its lifeline, so to speak. I’ve seen many pictures of ‘Lucci’s plain pie online, but nothing compares to your first glimpse in person. As soon as it was placed in front of me, I knew it would blow me away.

Plain Pie | Pizzeria ‘Lucci

When you grab your first slice, you hear the faint crunch of the crust pinching underneath your thumb. It’s this thin, crackly shell that reveals an airy and structured interior to the dough. The slice itself is light, almost surprisingly so. Atop this dare-I-say perfect dough are simple, high-quality ingredients that set it apart: bright and vibrant tomato sauce, topped with a mixture of low-moisture and fresh mozzarella, plus a light sprinkle of chopped basil. Lucci thankfully cooks all of its pizzas well done. 

There is definitely a lot of New York influence in the pizza, albeit baked longer and much more texturally sound. A slice holds up on its own and folds well (important). Underneath are dark, charred spots indicating direct contact with the oven deck. What I just described is my ideal pizza—there is nothing I would change.

Underneath the pizza at ‘Lucci reveals a crisp texture | Pizzeria ‘Lucci

It’s not just plain that is worth the trip, though. Not even close. The ‘Lucci Pepperoni pie is equally as deserving of its praise. This specialty pie brings the same bright sauce and the same duo of cheeses, but with the addition of pepperoni, thin-sliced red onion, shaved garlic and a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano right before it hits the oven. 

The pepperoni slightly cups and crisps as it bakes, carrying with it tiny piles of parm. The red onion and garlic are sliced so thinly that they infuse the rest of the pie—packing each bite with allium flavor. That’s the key. It’s easy to see why this pie carries the same name as the shop. 

The ‘Lucci Pepperonni, add pickled chilis | Pizzeria ‘Lucci

‘Lucci’s menu is small. Five pies, a salad or two and a house-made meatball appetizer. If you go for lunch, you can grab a meatball or Italian sub, too—which you should do. Pizzeria ‘Lucci’s meatball sub is one of the best I’ve ever had, if not the best I’ve ever had. Juicy, tomato-braised meatballs come stuffed into a crusty loaf of semolina bread, along with creamy stracciatella and oil-cured peppers. 

If you can only make it for dinner, fret not, because the meatballs on their own are just as mind-blowing. The blend of beef and pork is spot on, and it’s always a great sign when you bite into a meatball and see chunks of milk-soaked bread, AKA panade. This technique keeps them moist on the inside and adds an extra layer of nuance. 

The lunch-only meatball sub | Pizzeria ‘Lucci

Run, Don’t Walk to Pizzeria ‘Lucci

There is something to be said for simplicity. Pizzeria ‘Lucci’s excellence doesn’t come in the form of unorthodox toppings, or a menu rife with dozens of options. Instead, Mike Gallucci focuses on a few things, done perfectly. This concept is the way to do pizza—and restaurants in general—if you ask me. 

To be frank, it’s one of the best pizzas I’ve had. Not just in NJ, but anywhere. Though, if we’re talking about Jersey, it’s easily a top three option in the Garden State, with few holding a candle to it. 

I wish I could have tried the whole menu, but my stomach is only so big. I have some work to do as I make my way through the options. Next time, the chopped salad, marinara pie and white pie are mine. 

Pizzeria ‘Lucci sells whole pies only. No slices. They do not take phone orders. You can order in person or online here.

‘Lucci Pepperoni, minus a slice | Pizzeria ‘Lucci

About the Author/s

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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