Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 39
 
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
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PURE PIZZA PLEASURE; “Our oven is great. It’s so hot — 800 degrees — that the pizza is in and out in 90 seconds. It cooks before your eyes. And it tastes so much better.” Tom Grim (left) and Stalin Bedon, co-owners of Nomad Pizza, are enthusiastic about their wood-fired brick oven from Italy.

Nomad Pizza, Once a Traveling Catering Company, Now Has a Home on Broad Street in Hopewell

They’re lining up at Nomad Pizza! The new restaurant opened at 10 East Broad Street (former location of Soupe du Jour) in Hopewell in August, and the customers just keep coming. They can’t get enough of the delicious pizza with the fresh ingredients and thin, crispy crust.

“Pizza is so appealing,” says Nomad Pizza co-owner Stalin Bedon. “Ours is so fresh and healthy that people are really getting a very good meal.”

Pizza is said to be the single most popular food in the world, and nearly everyone has an opinion on it and a favorite pizza place. What makes Nomad Pizza so special is its use of an authentic imported Italian wood-fired brick oven (the hardwood, often apple or cherry, gives the pizza an intriguing smoky flavor); the freshest vegetables and cheese from local farmers — organic when possible; and the hand-made pizza dough from organic flour which when cooked at an intensely high heat for 90 seconds emerges crisp on the outside, moist on the inside.

Creating such pizza has been a labor of love for the two owners and the result of inspiration, experimentation, and hard work.

Pizza Dough

Known for years in Princeton as co-owner and founder of Thomas Sweet ice cream and chocolate, Tom Grim had always been interested in bread-making. “Some years ago, someone gave Tom a book on bread-making, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, explains Mr. Bedon, who had formerly been manager at Thomas Sweet. “He started making bread, and he noticed that the book also pointed out that bread dough could be made into pizza dough. The thing was that you needed a very hot oven — 750 to 800 degrees — and Tom wanted to make the best pizza he could.”

Mr. Grim had also been in Italy, and found the pizza there to be terrific. Very different than that in the U.S. — it was lighter, with fresher ingredients and with a thinner, crispier crust.

One thing led to another, and Mr. Grim ended up purchasing an imported Italian brick oven, and he continued to experiment and perfect his pizza-making skills. Mr. Bedon decided to invest in a special truck, a 1949 R-E-O Speed Wagon — creamy yellow with chocolate brown accents — which they reconditioned to hold the brick oven, two sinks, a commercial refrigerator, and hot water heater.

In 2007, they launched Nomad Pizza Company, a special traveling pizzeria, catering parties and special events in the Princeton/Hopewell area and beyond. The pizza and the truck were an instant hit!

“We had lots of repeat customers,” reports Mr. Bedon, “and once we got started, we knew we had to open a restaurant. A lot of the customers kept asking where our restaurant was.”

When they opened on Broad Street in August, the response was just as positive as it had been for the traveling catering company. “It has been just great. We have been very warmly received, with a lot of former customers and a lot of new customers coming. We have also been getting good reviews from the press and food critics, in addition to customers.”

Hands-On

And these guys are really hands-on. They both make the pizza — 200 to 250 a night — and Mr. Bedon, who formerly owned a landscaping company, even built the restaurant’s patio.

“What we saw in Italy,” continues Mr. Bedon, “was that every pizzeria used the freshest ingredients, and we strive to do that. We get produce from Cherry Grove Farm, Gravityville Farm in Titusville, and North Slope Farm in Amwell. We’re organic when possible, and we use organic flour when we can. The dough is very wet, and when cooked at such a high heat, it makes our pizza crust so crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.”

In addition, Nomad Pizza has its own garden, points out Mr. Grim. “We like to show people where the food comes from. In season, we have tomatoes, arugula, basil, chives, nasturtiums, and garlic. Kids love the garden.”

In fact, kids love Nomad Pizza, which is very family-friendly. The restaurant seats 60 (30 inside and 30 outside on the patio). A long farm table inside encourages camaraderie and interaction among customers, and the outside dining has been very popular through the summer and into the fall.

Flemington resident Jennifer Bednar arrived early with her three children on a recent evening, after her 5-year-old twins Charlotte and Caroline had finished ballet class in Princeton. “This is our second time here,” she notes. “It’s a different kind of pizza, with such fresh ingredients, and the atmosphere is very friendly. Last time, we sat inside with four families at the big farm table.”

Charlotte and Caroline have their opinions as well. “We like the pizza and the special drinks. It’s really good food here, and our mom is nice to bring us here. She’s a fun mom. We love it here, and want to have our birthday party here in April.”

Once a Week

Justina Siracusa, from Hopewell, has been a regular since the restaurant opened, and was also a catering customer. “I come at least once a week, and the pizza tastes a lot better than any other pizza I’ve had. They have the freshest ingredients and a very nice crust. It’s a great place.”

Customers may choose from six different pizzas on the menu, which changes weekly. The popular Margherita di Bufala is a favorite, with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di Bufala imported from Italy, aged parmesan, fresh organic basil, organic olive oil, and sea salt. Also very popular is the spicy sausage, with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, aged parmesan, Simply Grazin’ local sausage, organic caramelized onions, fresh organic basil, organic olive oil, and sea salt.

Others are marinara, and shitake mushroom. “We also have a really great pepperoni,” says Mr. Bedon, “and we’re working on a clam pie.”

Salads include caprese, blue cheese, and tossed green house salad with organic greens and balsamic vinaigrette.

Customers also enjoy the beverage selection, featuring Coke and Pepsi from Mexico (with cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup), San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water, Limonata and Aranciata; water is served in elegant blue bottles from Italy.

Prices start at $11 for 12-inch pizzas; salads are $7 and up. Take-out is not recommended; Nomad Pizzas should be eaten right away in order to appreciate their unique freshness and crisp crust.

Catering parties and events are still available Sunday through Tuesday, with lunch and dinner offered. “In fact, we have booked the same family for Halloween for the last three years,” says Mr. Bedon.

“We’re really putting our heart and soul into this,” he adds. “It’s fun — you get to meet a lot of new people, and for some customers, it brings back memories of their trip to Italy. It’s a happy place. And we couldn’t do it without our great staff. They’re super, and we have two great pizza makers, who went to pizza school in Naples.”

Nomad Pizza is open Wednesday through Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (609) 466-6623. Website: nomadpizzaco.com.

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