Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 7/5/17
If you grab a pie from the Original Thin Crust Pizza Company, which opened on Feb. 1 in the Dayton section of South Brunswick, you may have the vague feeling that you have tasted this pizza before.
That’s because you probably have.
The Original Thin Crust Pizza Company, owned and operated by Matt Verney of the Dayton section of South Brunswick, is bringing back the famous pizza that was once served at Pete’s Bar of Old Bridge from 1973 to 1987; the pie developed a cult-like following that spanned about 50 years.
Verney worked for the Vitale family of Old Bridge who created the famous upside-down pizza. While at Pete’s Bar, he saw firsthand how much patrons adored this pizza. So, when he found out in February of 2016 that he would lose his 26-year job as an accountant with General Electric in two months, he decided to utilize his lifelong passion for cooking and reinvent the past pizza that so many knew and loved.
Verney said that the pizza has no secret ingredient or secret cooking method. Lovers of the Pete’s Bar pizza often say “It’s something with the sauce,” which is tasted that much more since the cheese on the pizza goes down first and is then covered with the sauce.
“I never stopped making the Vitale’s pizza recipe, so I always remembered it,” Verney said. “My kids would get a kick out of it that I made homemade pizza and family and friends who came over always liked it, so when the opportunity presented itself, I thought I could make this work.”
Verney then approached the three Vitale family members that were credited with this iconic pizza — Michael, Linda and Carmen — and asked them for their permission to recreate their famous pizza. All three gave Verney their blessing.
After that, Verney posted the idea on Facebook to see how people would react to it and if they would really be interested in having this pizza available again.
“I got 500 responses that basically said when and where,” he said.
Verney then found the South Brunswick space at 304 Georges Road, which also previously operated as a pizzeria, and spent time decorating the space in a modern vibe that’s also “very comfortable and cozy,” he said. “We put up phrases on the wall such as ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ We are the perfect example — I got laid off and was then able to open this restaurant.”
Verney also has taken cooking classes at the Italian Culinary Academy of the International Culinary Center which prepped him to create some of the most popular dishes at the Original Thin Crust Pizza Company such as pizza, beer-battered onion rings, French fries soaked in vinegar, fresh pastas and homemade meatballs on the menu that ranges from $3.95 for an appetizer to $15.95 for a large pie.
Although most patrons are fans of the upside-down pizza, Verney said that he does get some confused customers.
“We do get the people who look down at our pizza since it’s not going to win any beauty contests or they think it’s burned, but that’s the way it’s supposed to look,” Verney said. “So, there is sometimes a little bit of education that people will take or not take.”
The Original Thin Crust Pizza Company brings in about 750 to 1,000 people a week in its space seating 40, alongside an overflow room and a banquet facility in the basement.
Verney said, “Former Pete’s and Vitale’s patrons are coming in and paraphrase each other with some version of ‘It’s like eating a memory’ .”
Staff Writer Jenna Intersimone: 908-303-8390, JIntersimone@MyCentralJersey.com
The Original Thin Crust Pizza Company
Where: 304 Georges Road, Dayton section of South Brunswick
Cost Range: $3.95 appetizers to $15.95 large pies and entrees
Contact: 732-823-1471, theoriginalthincrustpizzacompany.com