So after last week’s adventures at Maurizio’s in Mays Landing, it’s fair to say the Fat Boys are on an Italian kick. And while we love our spaghetti Carbonara, chicken parm subs and mozzarella sticks, this week we opted to stick to nothing but pizza — Bruni’s Pizza in Hammonton to be exact. It’s a legend … in business since 1956 and, from everything we had heard, it was supposed to be a non-calorie counter’s dream.
Ryan: For COVID reasons we are still on a strictly to-go operating system at the Fat Boy Munch Club. And since takeout is the only option offered at Bruni’s during the pandemic, this worked perfectly.
I put in my order — one thin crust pie with half pepperoni and one Sicilian pie plain. I got there to pick it up just as they were opening up shop. As I grabbed the pies, I was pleased to notice bottles of regular Coke in the cooler. I know it’s a small thing, but for me, Coke is the single best beverage one can pair with a slice of pizza. Far superior to Pepsi and, as of late, it seems like more pizza places are only stocking Pepsi products, so this was a nice little win right off the bat.
Scott: I am with you on the Coke. Pairing the right soda is so crucial. I am serious about it. At Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, we do something that I am not sure anyone else does when it comes to fountain soda: We offer Coke, Diet Pepsi (the best diet cola), 7-Up (the best lemon-lime soda) and Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer, which is by far the most superior birch/root beer you will find. Depending on what you order, pair the right soda, just like you would pair the right beer or wine. This is serious Fat Boy soda protocol.
Ryan: Being that I had skipped breakfast, I was starving. This resulted in me stealing a fresh slice right out of the box on my ride back to the office. I went for the plain thin crust for my first bite, and it lived up to the hype. From both a visual and flavor standpoint, it reminded me of Manco & Manco’s, with a tangy but sweet sauce and a nice balance of cheese to sauce — something I have had issues with at Manco’s in the past. The crust on the Bruni’s slice was more crumbly and cracker-like around the edges than the more buttery and doughty one at Manco’s.
Scott: I agree with Fatty Ryan: Bruni’s is similar in style, appearance and even flavor to Manco’s, which is my go-to round pie in South Jersey. Manco’s sauce is a little tangier than Bruni’s, which gravitates to a more sweet sauce without being sugary, if that makes sense. Even the quality cheddar cheese blend on Bruni’s is similar to Manco, and the way they circle the sauce on top makes Bruni’s look like Manco. But Ryan is right again about the crust: Bruni’s is really, really thin, almost like a cracker. In fact, I think it’s too thin, especially if you can’t eat the pizza within minutes of coming out of the oven. Like Manco’s, Bruni’s crust does not age or travel well. And while you should eat both pizzas fresh out of the oven, Bruni’s crust is nearly inedible if it gets cold, and it doesn’t reheat particularly well. But, right out of the oven, it’s spectacular. I still give the nod to Manco’s, which has that light yet crispy yet fluffy crust, but Bruni’s thin crust gives that awesome crunch when it’s hot.
Ryan: For my second slice I tried a square of Sicilian. I am actually a huge fan of doughy pizza, so I was more than a little excited to sample one of these squares of delight. And I have to admit, I fell in love with this slice almost immediately, but for reasons that were unexpected to say the least.
Certain smells and tastes can work like a time machine to your childhood, and the flavor of this slice brought me back to “The Rink” — the not-so-creatively–named roller rink that was the site of pretty much every kid’s birthday party where I grew up in North Jersey in the 1980s. They served a remarkably similar-tasting pizza there, and as I closed my eyes while chomping on Bruni’s version, I could almost hear the sounds of the Pac-Man machines bleeping and zapping away while Michael Jackson’s Thriller blasted from the speakers, producing squeals of delight from the mob of pre-teen skaters.
Scott: This is where Ryan’s fatness gets in the way of his tastebuds. Bruni’s Sicilian is a weak-ass version of the classic style. I am not sure if they use the same sauce and cheese as the round pie – it sure seemed and tasted different – but the problem with the Sicilian isn’t the flavor of the cheese and sauce. In fact, it reminded me of carnival or boardwalk pizza, which can be a good thing. But the downfall of Bruni’s Sicilian is its dough. It has little flavor, is way too dense and doughy and was like a dough that I can surely make at home. And I can’t make dough at all. It’s a poor excuse for a Sicilian dough. It wasn’t airy or light or any of the things you want in a good Sicilian dough. Nostalgia is one thing. Liking something based on nostalgia even if it sucks is another. I will compare it to “Cobra Kai.” The first two seasons were fun and damn entertaining. The third season is just trash. So as nostalgic as I feel about all three seasons, the third season is so bad, you have to take off the nostalgic blinders and realize it’s just bad TV … just like you have to take off “The Rink” blinders and realize this Sicilian is just not good pizza.
Ryan: Nonsense – I found both the third season of Cobra Kai and the Sicilian pizza at Bruni’s to be thoroughly enjoyable, despite the contradictions of my noticeably portly co-writer. We’ll leave this one up to you.
I finished things off with the only remaining option, the thin-crust pepperoni. It’s remarkable how much one ingredient can alter the flavor profile of a dish, and this was a shining example. The pepperoni added spice and smoke and quite a bit of flavor, but it also managed to overpower the subtleties of the slice as the mild mozzarella cheese got lost in the mix despite the pepperoni being cut razor thin. That said, it also served as a nice change of pace from the other two slices and was enjoyable overall.
Scott: I skipped the pepperoni slice and stuck with the greatness of the original round pie. Some things, like Bruni’s round pie, needs to be enjoyed in its unaltered, simple, original plainness.
Ryan: While it shares similarities to Manco & Manco’s, Bruni’s offers enough of its own style to stand on its own. Plus it provided me with a tasty little bit of childhood nostalgia. And at 42 years of age, I’m happy to find anything that can bring me back to the good old days.
Scott: Bruni’s is one of my go-to pizzas in South Jersey and has been for 25 years, so I was delighted to finally have my fellow fatty experience it for himself. Bruni’s also has a location in Rio Grande, and unlike Hammonton which serves pizza only, the Rio Grande version offers a larger menu with subs, sandwiches and even the aforementioned mozzarella stick. I’ll have to go check that out, but at the top of the order is a regular pie – plain!