Monmouth County in New Jersey — perhaps best known for Asbury Park, Bruce Springsteen’s old stomping grounds — lies just across the bay from New York’s Staten Island.
But while Monmouth may be close to New York City in geography, it’s got its own style of pizza.
Yes, the thinness calls to mind Manhattan-style pizza. But slices in NYC are foldable. You can’t do that with north Jersey’s crisp, thin crust, which has a cracker-like crunch.
This taste of Monmouth County arrived on Monroe Road in east Charlotte last summer, when Fabio Durazzo opened Sal’s Pizza factory.
“My dad came from Napoli, Italy, in 1970,” Durazzo says. “He saved every single penny until he was able to buy his own place.” Eventually, the father owned 14 pizzerias, most under the name Dusals. “My dad and my uncle were both named Salvatore,” Durazzo explains. “Two Sals, in Italian that’s Dusals.”
“My dad taught me to make the thin crust. Sauce and cheese gotta go all the way to the edge.” No thick crusty edges for customers to discard.
Durazzo sells whole pies or slices, available with a dizzying array of toppings. I especially like one that features old-style ricotta cheese plus crumbled-up, hand-made meatballs.
Another Jersey tradition: arancini. Balls of rice are wrapped around a mozzarella core, then deep-fried. You fork off bites and dip them in tomato sauce. An internet search suggests that Monmouth County folks love Italian rice balls so much that even Irish pubs serve them.
When a sister moved south to Charlotte, Durazzo and his father sold their New Jersey holdings and re-united the family in the Queen City. Soon Fabio Durazzo was back in the pizza business.
“My dad, he never had a place called Sal’s. When I showed him the Sal’s Pizza Factory sign, he started crying a little bit.”
Sal’s Pizza Factory
Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday.
Address: 3723 Monroe Road.
Info: 980-219-7108; salspizzafactory.com.