Benny Tudino's

Benny Tudino’s Pizzeria

Benny Tudino's Pizzeria
NJ Town: Hoboken
Cuisine: Pizza

I once ate at Benny Tudino’s in 1995. It was some time after midnight. But it might have been eight. Whatever time it was, we were well into our cups and enjoying a mammoth slice of piping hot pizza. I seem to recall it was a cold winter night, so we sat inside at one of the few cramped booths along the wall. When all of a sudden a brawl broke out by the front counter. At least a couple — and maybe up to four — dudes started throwing haymakers and ended up grappling and rolling out into the icy street. It was exactly what I’d hoped for from Hoboken. Shit was wild.

This visit was pretty much the polar opposite. It was a warm day in the ‘boken. Like real warm. Ms. Hipster and I, with Hipster Jr. Jr. in tow, walked Washington Street. Which is the main drag in this one-mile-square town. We pointed to where the flood waters from Superstorm Sandy drowned the CVS. And the fancy Italian restaurant that used to be Maxwell’s, where we once saw Titus Andronicus. Hipster Jr. Jr. regaled us with her intricate theory about how brunch is stupid as we walked past a multitude of joints serving a meal she feels shouldn’t exist. Which made our decision to just go get a slice at Benny Tudino’s a slam dunk. My Jedi mind trick working overtime!

This is not what one would call a “classy” place. It is an old-school slice store. Giant pizza ovens crowd the tiny front area. And what isn’t taken up with equipment is a swirl of bodies throwing food into them. Paying and waiting for your warm-up is an almost pathological experience. Everyone is in the way. Nobody knows quite where to stand. And there are hardly any smiles to be had. It’s a working pizza joint, and it’s all business. The drink fridge probably hasn’t been serviced since the Carter administration, so our sodas were about the temperature of Caribbean Sea water. Eyeballing the slices themselves, I feel like I was asked if one each was appropriate. It is. Two is just gluttonous, the things are so large. So large, in fact, it takes two paper plates to support one slice.

So what are we talkin’ here? Grease is the word. Lovely, lovely, orange grease. I got mine with pepperoni, which doubled the slick factor, but I just didn’t care. It kept the thing, uh, juicy, without making it soggy. They somehow manage to burn the bottom of the slice, but have none of the carbon char taste you would think it should have. If I got that at my local joint, it would taste like a charcoal briquette and would immediately go back. Instead, Benny’s bottom crust blackening technique creates this wonderful crunch when your teeth cut through the scalding cheese and haphazardly tossed pig parts. It’s a pretty heavenly experience, honestly. After years of mid, infirm and inconsistent NJ pizza found just another ten or so miles due West. Which, in and of itself, is still 1000% better than any Southern California garbage I grew up eating. I honestly don’t know how they pull it off — other than the fact they’ve apparently been doing it this same way since 1968. I’ve found myself daydreaming about that slice on occasion of late, which is just sad. But the heart wants what the heart wants, even if he has to hop on the train to get it.

622 Washington St. – Hoboken