A wild hybrid that marries the best of both classic Neapolitan pizza and old school NYC/Brooklyn pizza, Razza in Jersey City is the kind of place where you just can’t stop eating.
The dough is bubble-charred, puffy and light, like Neapolitan pizza. But the formal requirements of noted Neapolitan rigor are quickly dispensed with and cast aside (San Marzano tomatoes, wheat flour, bufala mozz, etc).
Instead, chef/owner Dan Richer, who has been honing his pizza skills for 15 years, pulls ingredients from high quality local produce purveyors and makes a great deal of his own shit right there on site. “I’m not even close to being done,” he says of perfecting his craft.
If this is only the rising action in the first act, then I can’t wait for the denouement.
The tomatoes are bright, and left largely unadulterated. The cheese is fresh, smooth and creamy. The dough is airy yet crisp from crust to point, showing some backbone on the bottom: Like it’s New York neighbor, it doesn’t flop in the center. This magically allows the toppings to seem as if they’re suspended atop a pillow of edible air.
The crust also takes on a unique grey coloring from being allowed to cook a bit longer at a slightly cooler wood oven temperature than its motherland-cousin from Naples.
Neapolitan pies get real hot real fast. This allows a yeasty aroma to linger in the resulting khaki-colored, leopard-spotted crust, retaining a somewhat more chewy and more dense texture. Could that be called medium rare dough? Perhaps. Anyway the difference here may be slight in execution, but it is noticeable in appearance and flavor.
There’s also none of that soupy sauce or pooled melted cheese that can sometimes weigh heavy both in the center of a Neapolitan pie and in your belly after you eat it. To the contrary I felt light even after eating an entire pie’s worth of pizza all by myself. I could’ve easily had two more, but there was a steak dinner to be had nearby at Liberty Prime. I had to conserve stomach space.
In any case three of us each ate a third of three pies (two slices of each, each). We started with the Margherita, had a mid course of Fungi, and then a dessert of Burrata. I’m hard pressed to choose a favorite among these, but I think that last one left me floating. That deliciously silky burrata with tomato, olive oil and sliced garlic…
I’m fairly certain this is my new favorite pizza joint, possibly squeaking just ahead of the Coney Island stronghold Totonno’s. You really need to get over here to try this shit. But if my words and images don’t convince you to make the trip out here for this pizza, maybe Phil Rosenthal will. It was featured on the Netflix show “Somebody Feed Phil.”
Chuck buys mostly fresh beef, which he ages himself in-house to a minimum of 42 days in most cases. However he loves the flavor of dry-aged beef, especially in the 80-120 day range; he even experiments with really old stuff. For example, when I first met Chuck at Maxwell’s Chophouse, he served me a 500 day dry-aged strip.
This time he served me a 365 day dry-aged strip.
But before I get sidetracked with all of that delicious, mad-scientist shit, let me get right down to the meal from front to back.
The night began with a dry-aged martini. Grey Goose vodka gets infused with 60 day dry-aged beef fat and rosemary. It gets mixed with a little vermouth and simple syrup before being garnished with a rosemary-skewered trio of blue-cheese stuffed castelvetrano olives. Sweet. Savory. Delicious.
While we are on the subject of drinks, the main bar here is beautiful and impressive. Easily a place you’d want to hang at after a rough day at work or even to hit up for some bar grub, like this kickass dry-aged burger.
The grind comes from Debragga since Strassburger doesn’t supply dry aged ground beef at the moment. The burger had a nice funk, was well seasoned and was perfectly cooked.
Okay so back to the rest of the meal…
We started with the house-made bacon and beef fat table bread, which was served with creamy, soft, herb butter.
Everything here is house-made, in fact, from the bread to the bread pudding, from the signature sauces (soon to be bottled and sold) to the signature sides. Even the microgreens are grown by Chef Chuck at his Colorado ranch, Skeleton Ridge Farms.
The first course was a 60 day dry-aged steak tataki sushi roll that was lightly fried. This was fucking amazing and crazy creative.
On deck: even more creativity and deliciousness. Chuck cranked this out of the park. This not your ordinary bone marrow:
The marrow gets roasted, folded with blue cheese to create a mousse, piped back into the marrow bone, and then brulee’d for the finish. A squeeze of charred lemon really cuts the fat with brightness, creating a beautiful and delicate balance. A taste of this will send shock waves through your tastebuds. This is a top dish of the year for me. It’s off menu though, so make sure you tell them I sent you when you ask for it – it’s different from the regular marrow on the menu.
We had a light palate cleanse with this small, refreshing salad, composed mostly of Chuck’s micro greens.
Then we had a Spanish style braised and grilled octopus dish that was garnished with potato, chickpea puree, tomato, pickled onion and greens. Tender and delicious.
The main event for the table was a huge spread of the major beef cuts. We had (counter-clockwise from the bottom right) a 60 day dry-aged porterhouse, a 60 day dry-aged tomahawk rib eye, a 40 day dry-aged bone-in tenderloin, and the 365 day dry-aged strip steak.
Here’s a closer look at that year-long aged steak.
After all the fat and bark was trimmed away from that hunk I showed you up at the top of the review, this was all that was left:
Now you understand why dry-aged steaks cost more. So much is lost in the process! The result is a somewhat vaporous and aromatic punch in the mouth that leaves you with the familiar flavors of mushrooms, truffles, aged cheese, and nuts. Just a few ounces will do fine for this, as it can more readily be identified with a cured product like bresaola or salami than a traditional steak. I like to call it “beef jet fuel,” since it almost tickles the back of your nose – like when you catch a whiff of gasoline, or take on a big blob of wasabi.
The steaks were all awesome. Every one of them was a winner, and you can really taste the care that Chuck puts into the aging process. And Chuck’s sauces really helped to elevate them.
These aren’t your average steakhouse sauces. Chuck’s chimichurri, his vinegar based steak sauce (fuck tomato based sauces), and his horseradish cream are all recipes he developed over decades in the business, from way back when he was 15yrs old and working two blocks from home in his local neighborhood fine dining restaurant, Commander’s Palace. Hell of a place to start. Hell of a place to earn your stripes.
It should be no surprise, then, that he came up with an absolutely killer sauce made from luxardo cherries, rendered trim, drippings and reduced bone broth. This is a sauce that I might expect from an extremely high end meat-centric place like The Grill or TAK Room, to accompany a roasted prime rib or a decadent Wellington.
Insane depth of flavor in that shit. Pure gold. I would drink it.
On the side we had a nice array of creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, lobster mac & cheese, and Brussels sprouts with bacon.
And of course dessert was a blowout with key lime pie, fried cookie dough with ice cream, bread pudding, chocolate lava cake, cheese cake and creme brulee.
What a great spot. Spacious, beautifully decorated, sleek, and with top notch service and attention to detail. The place even does double duty as an event space next door for corporate events, weddings, etc.
Please don’t be dissuaded by the fact that this place is in Jersey. The PATH train to Grove Street or Exchange Place is so fast from either midtown or downtown Manhattan. And Liberty Prime is just a short five minute walk from either station in Jersey City.
I’m going to need to go back there and try some more of Chuck’s amazing cooking. I hope you get over there too!
Antique Bar & Bakery is a new joint in Hoboken. I know what you’re thinking: Fuck Jersey! But for real, everything at this place is absolutely amazing. And I can’t in good conscience fuck with Jerz: I’m from Long Island, and everyone knows that LI, NJ and Staten Island are all retarded cousins from the same demented family.
Anyway, when you walk in, you feel like you’ve entered someone’s home. It has an old school feel to it. There are a few nice nooks for seating, and a great bar with really nicely fashioned cocktails.
In the back room, you’re basically IN the kitchen, which is really fun to experience. The skylight overhead illuminates the room with a nice, pleasing natural light.
The back wall boasts an insane coal oven that cranks up to over 1000 degrees, and then to the left of that, there’s a cooler area (about 500 degrees).
On the side wall is all your normal kitchen gadgetry like a gas oven, burners, sinks, expediting station, etc.
Okay but enough about that – let me get to the food. Chef Paul Gerard is doing amazing things here. Everything has a sense of familiarity, but also a sense of “newness.” He’s accumulated aspects of Soul Food, Cajun/Creole, Italian, American and French cuisines and balled them up into a delicious, enveloping and immersive experience: especially when you sit in the back near the kitchen (a must-do if you’re anything like me).
We started with a snack of blistered shishito peppers and pickled watermelon. The peppers go into the hot coal oven and finish up really quickly – like within a minute. It’s pretty neat because you can feel the capsaicin in the air once they get cranking. If you sit close like we did, you may sneeze or cough a bit. That’s how IN the kitchen you are. So cool. It makes you feel like you’re part of the staff.
Raw Fennel Salad with Burnt Orange Marmalade: All the burnt items are done right in their crazy oven. They add a great natural bitterness to the food (and cocktails), which cuts the fat and sweetness of any complimentary ingredients. This salad was awesome: crisp, fresh and satisfying.
Hot Oil Shrimp: Incredible dish. Really nice heat from the peppers, and the shrimp retain a lot of shell flavor from being blasted in the oven. Perfectly cooked.
Rice Balls: I mean, these guys even managed to make rice balls interesting, new and fun. The outside is really crisp and the inside is soft and gooey from the provolone fondue. You need to try them.
Fresh Mozzarella: This shit is made to order, right there at the prep counter. You can watch the guy stretch and pull until its ready. It’s topped with some cracked pepper and a few cherry tomatoes. Eat this quickly while it’s still warm, otherwise it can firm up a bit and lose its softness.
Burger: The only slight I will make about this entire meal is that the burger was a bit overcooked for our liking. But the flavor was off the hinges, even though our burger was medium-well. It gets some dry aged fat (carved right off the steaks), some chuck and some flank in the grind – made in house, obviously.
It’s topped with shredded cheese, spicy fries and pickled chili peppers. Despite the shape of the burger being spherical, it really was formed well: Loosely packed and not overworked; hollowed out top bun so it isn’t too tall and unwieldy. This burger has real potential to be one of the best around. I need to come back and try it again, and make sure the temp is pink through the center. Don’t shy away from ordering it just because mine was a bit over.
Whole Octopus: This is a special menu item, which you can order as a half or whole portion. The octopus is treated in a similar way as the shrimp, but it is tossed in an olive puttanesca sauce that really blew me away. It was cooked very nicely too: snappy to the tooth, but not chewy. Great char flavor from the oven.
Whole Fish: This was black bass, and it was really damn delicious. When you cook seafood hot and fast, you retain all that great juiciness in the flesh, so that nothing ever dries out. That’s what happens with the fish here. You can’t go wrong.
Whole Chicken: Absurdly delicious, and I’m not even really a chicken man. This is plenty big to feed the table.
Dirty Rib Eye: I was amazed. I watched as Chef Paul went through the entire process, and I even got some good video.
First, he broke down a 28-day dry aged rack of ribs that the restaurant got from DeBragga Meats. Antique Bar & Bakery has its own shelf in the DeBragga dry-aging room.
The steaks are allowed to come up to room temperature so that they cook better.
Once they’re ready, they’re coated with coarse salt, slapped on a cast iron skillet, and then popped into that ripping-hot coal oven for about five minutes. This hell-fire licks every square inch of surface area on the meat, giving it a great outer crust.
The steak is then pulled out of the crazy oven, placed onto a bed of herbs, hit with some drawn butter, and then finished in the other oven until the center comes up to the proper temperature.
Finally, it rests for a while before being sliced and plated – sometimes up to 20 minutes. While resting, it gets brushed with more herbs, so you really get that great herb flavor with each bite.
Alright here’s the video. I made you suffer through reading all of that first before linking it, because I’m a dick.
The herbs really make it. In fact, they have herbs drying and hanging all over the back room. It was pretty cool, and reminded me of my dad’s garage, which always seems to be decorated with dangling peppers and herbs from his garden.
Needless to say, this steak is an easy 10/10 for flavor. It’s really unbelievable. I suggest you get out there immediately to try it.
Hard Herb Hanger: Perfectly cooked, great crisp on the outside, and wonderful flavors from the herb roasting process in the ovens. This is a great option for those who aren’t willing to go big with the rib eye but still want to eat beef. Just $23? Awesome. 8/10. We actually had this come out alongside our desserts and we still devoured it instantly. Haha!
All entrees can be consumed with a variety of available sauces. We tried them all, but I really liked the herb puree and puttanesca the best. As for the steaks? No sauce needed. There’s so much flavor on those babies already.
Okay let me address some of the fantastic sides we tried.
Charred Kale with Pickled Chilis: Really nice acidic punch. This is similar to something like collared greens in Soul Food cuisine, only with a new twist.
Blackened Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts: Awesome. This is my new favorite beet dish. And if you’re one of those weird bastards that doesn’t eat meat, then this is the way to go for you. Very satisfying, satiating and fulfilling.
Fava Beans: Holy shit! Traditional French styling here with butter and shallots, and finished with mint, but so great. I kept going back for more of these green delights. Probably because they’re served with Spring Brook Farm Reading Raclette, a raw cow’s milk cheese.
Fingerling Potatoes: As I said above, Chef Paul is making things in a new way here. These babies are roasted with dried, aged, shaved Bottarga fish flakes (similar to what you might see being used to make dashi broth, but more specific). It might not sound that appetizing, but it adds such an amazing earthy flavor to the potatoes. Trust me. And with a topping of cheese and that awesome crisp from the hot oven, this side is not to be skipped.
Now on to the desserts. We tried a few, and all of them were excellent, just like every-fucking-thing else in this meal.
Lady Ashton’s Dirty Chocolate Cake: Served family style in a large cast iron skillet, this is one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten. I’m not huge on chocolate either, but I loved this.
Frozen Cannoli: This is essentially a cannoli in sundae form. Incredibly tasty, and equally beautiful.
Dandy’s Decadent Cookie (with sweet milk ice cream): This baby is baked to order, and it is a massive, soft, delicious cookie with ice cream on top. This is my kind of dessert.
Burnt Lemon & Marshmallow Pie: I have a weakness for this type of stuff. It was a great twist on lemon meringue pie.
TCB Sundae: This is based on the Elvis sandwich. Burnt banana bread, caramelized banana, peanut butter ice cream, candied slab bacon, milk chocolate covered potato chips, and all of it draped in gold! Just like Elvis would want it baby! Chef Paul rocks harder than Elvis, if you ask me.
Holy shit. Is that everything? I’m dying to go back here. Get your ass out to Hoboken ASAP. You will thank me.
This place just keeps getting better. Not only was the Dry Rib Eye even more heart-stoping than last time, but this time there was a new burger being offered. Check it out:
That’s right – he takes a whole 40oz rib eye and grinds it up right there for you. This makes four burgers and is off off menu, so make sure you call and ask for it ahead of time with a group.
That’s a dry-aged rib eye with aged cheddar cheese sauce, fresh herbs, garlic puree, chilies, pickles and a house made bread. The fries are cooked in beef tallow. Awesome. This is my new favorite steakhouse style burger. Nothing comes close.
We also tried some pasta dishes:
Excellent hot oil shrimp:
Pork cheek parm! Beef cheek is also available sometimes as a special, and with an egg on top for the brunch special.
And these ribs, called “Buried Bones” – there bad boys are wrapped in banana leaves with spices and buried under hot embers from that monster oven. Slow cooked for 8hrs they are insanely tender. The best ribs I’ve ever had.
And just for shits and gigs, lets look at that steak progression again: