There's something to be said about eating something you've had maybe a thousand times, only to feel like you're eating it for the first time. This is how I felt while sampling two different pizzas from Luca's Ristorante, or rather their "Neapolitan brick oven artisan pizza" affiliate, LucAndréa Bettola. Both joints are discreetly tucked away in a nondescript strip mall on Route 27 in Somerset—and their food is worth the short trip from New Brunswick.
I've lived within walking distance of Luca's for almost two years and driven past it dozens of times. I'm pretty sure people have even recommended it, but until a few months ago I simply hadn't taken the time to check it out. Eventually, my girlfriend and I walked over to pick up some pasta to binge on while binge-watching “Master of None” (it seemed appropriate…love you, pasta). Spoiler alert: The food was just as incredible as the second season of the critically acclaimed Netflix show.
Luca’s Ristorante and LucAndréa Bettola are the brainchildren of chef Andrea Di Meglio, a Best Chef in America nominee in both 2014 and ’15. Just perusing the menus of both the main restaurant and the brick oven pizzeria, you can tell he treats every thoughtful dish with love and artful dedication.
On our second traipse to this Italian trattoria, we decided to sample some of their brick oven pizzas. At 12 inches, they can certainly be considered a “personal pie”—though any pizza is a personal pizza if you believe in yourself—so we decided to sample two. There was the classic Margherita and its organic tomato sauce, basil, organic extra virgin olive oil and imported fior di latte fresh mozzarella, and then the mouthwatering Fungo and its truffled mushrooms, ricotta, herbs and, again, the imported fior di latte fresh mozzarella.
Fungo. Photo credit: Devin Healey
As I mentioned above, these two pizzas were so lovingly crafted, so perfectly cooked, with just the right crunch on the crust, and so artfully prepared with the freshest ingredients, it was truly like tasting pizza for the first time.
Both were devoured fresh and hot, seconds were consumed later while cold and leftovers reheated over the next few days. (In the oven, though, because pizza this good deserves better than the microwave.) Each time was a different experience, and each taste was as delicious as the very first bite.
Living in the tri-state area, I've been spoiled by some of the best pizza in the country. But I can confidently say that from now on, whenever I'm home, I will never order pizza from another local spot. Unless I'm too hungover to pick it up. (Please deliver to me, Luca’s. I’m literally a three-minute walk.)
Needless to say, I'm #blessed to have such a diamond in the rough literally in my own backyard. And although I've never been in for a full meal, it won't be long. Oh and did I mention it's BYOB? So be sure to bring some great Italian reds with you and keep that Yellowtail garbage at home.