It’s a favorite of nearly everyone. First introduced in Italy in the 1500s, so the story goes, it made its way to the United States in 1905, and was introduced in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Whether it’s a slice or a whole pie, plain with cheese and tomato sauce, or with “the works”, pizza has become a staple in the American diet. It’s on just about everyone’s menu.
“Pizza is so popular because it’s good for you — with the cheese, tomato sauce, veggies, and the protein. And it tastes good!” says Nino Spera, owner of Nino’s Pizza Star in the Princeton Shopping Center. “And our pizza is set apart because we make fresh dough every day. Nothing is frozen, everything is fresh. We cook the sausage ourselves, and we have our own special recipes, developed by my father and me.”
Customers have been coming to the popular pizzeria for more than 30 years, and they know they can count not only on great-tasting pizza but friendly service as well.
“We have so many loyal and regular customers, and we always make them feel welcome,” says Mr. Spera, who purchased Pizza Star with his father Giuseppe Spera in 1977. He is proud to be carrying on the tradition of his family’s pizza business.
“My father had a pizza business in Wildwood, and I really grew up in it,” he recalls. “I started to make pizzas when I was 13, working with my uncle in Pizza City in Trenton.”
And he still makes them today. Not only is he a hands-on owner, he takes pride in creating pizzas of every kind. “Some of our specialties are the “Buffalo”, honey barbecue, Margherita, and the ‘Brooklyn,’” adds Mr. Spera, who was born in Sicily, and came to the U.S. when he was 10.
“This is the best pizza ever — the flavor is fantastic!” said a customer recently about the “Brooklyn”, which features fresh plum tomatoes, basil, Buffalo mozzarella, and mozzarella.
Other favorites include spinach, broccoli, and ricotta pizzas, and of course, all the popular toppings, from pepperoni and sausage to mushrooms, olives, anchovies, and peppers.
In addition to pizza, Nino’s offers a variety of Italian specialties, from every kind of pasta dish to such Italian favorites as sausage with peppers, veal parmigiana, veal marsala, and chicken cacciatore, and the ever popular calzone and stromboli sandwiches. Hot and cold subs as well as veggie subs are available, and for special events, a 3-foot hoagie is offered. Cheesesteaks and cheese burgers are another favorite option.
Mr. Spera has expanded the menu in the past few years, and the establishment has become more of a popular setting for sit-down dining. It is an attractive spot, with its colorful murals displaying scenes of Tuscany, and there is seating for 70.
“We’ve been expanding and improving the menu recently, and my wife Daniela has been very involved in this,” says Mr. Spera. “She has added special salads, and also helps with the catering, which is a growing part of our business.
“We have a special homemade soup of the day, and our salads include arugula with goat cheese, aged olives, cherry tomatoes, and olive oil; spinach salad with white raisins, sliced almonds, sliced reggiano parmiagiana; and caprese salad with wet mozzarella and mozzarella, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes, salt, pepper, oil, and garlic, among many others.
“We also have a terrific Pizza Star antipasto, with assorted cheeses, meats, olives, and anchovies, served over lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.”
Seafood entrees are growing in popularity, too, and include everything from shrimp scampi to calamari marinara and mussels marinara.
Beverages range from sodas, juices, and coffee to the popular new bai specialty. There is no liquor license, but customers are welcome to bring wine or spirits of their choice.
Pizza Star is also known for its popular Italian desserts, such as tiramisu and cannoli, as well as for its soft and hard ice cream.
Prices cover a wide range, with a slice starting at $2.40 and a medium plain pie at $13.50. Cheesesteak sandwiches are $8.75, subs from $7.50 (veggie), and pasta entrees from $11.25.
Even with the attractive expanded menu, for many customers, the focus at Nino’s is still pizza,” says longtime customer and Princeton resident Mark Jaffe. “I swear by this place, and I swear by this pizza! It’s authentic, excellent pizza. I’ve been coming here for 30 years, and it’s an Italian jewel! The owner is here, and the staff is loyal and friendly. Nino and the staff love being here and have a true Italian passion for food.”
Such accolades are not unusual, and Mr. Spera is grateful to his loyal customers and looks forward to serving them and meeting new ones. “The customers know they can count on us for the best pizza and service. And the shopping center location has been great. The parking is so easy and convenient. We are one of the oldest tenants here, and I look forward to continuing to be here a long time. I love meeting all the people. It’s socializing for me, a pleasure.”
Nino’s Pizza Star offers take-out and sit-down from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 to 11:30 Friday and Saturday. Delivery is also available. (609) 921-7422. Website:www.ninopizzastar.com.