ELIZABETH, NJ – Elizabeth may be becoming a culinary capital, at least for Italian cuisine.
For the second time in just a few weeks, an Elizabeth eatery has been singled out as one of the best. This time, it’s Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza that’s been named the Best Pizza in New Jersey by The Daily Meal, who have already ranked Spirito’s as one of the nation’s 50 Best Italian Restaurants.
“I am overwhelmed and glad,” said Al Santillo, owner of the pizzeria on South Broad Street. “It is about time that people outside of Elizabeth have discovered Santillo’s.”
“What can you say about Al Santillo?” asked The Daily Meal website. “Santillo may be the least well-known great pizza tradition curator in America, the gatekeeper to three generations of pizza-making and one of the most unique pizzerias in America. The man has tomato sauce running through his veins.”
Santillo’s is no secret to Elizabeth residents and the leagues of fans who drive miles for a pie. On a recent visit, the crowd was so large that one woman was left standing in the rain. “I just got off a plane and came right here,” she explained. “It is worth the wait.”
The Santillo story began in 1920 with Al’s grandfather, Lou, who delivered bread in a horse and buggy. According to the website, by 1950, Lou while working with his son Alfred, decided to make pizza as part of his bakery business. "He wanted to keep the place open in the evening and make a little more money, so he started making pizza," says Al. "In 1957, he bought the brick oven I use now."
It is a recipe that works. Santillo’s has consistently been acknowledged as one of the best pizzerias in New Jersey, a reputation that seems secure.