- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Founder of Barstool Sports
RARITAN BOROUGH – Christian DeLucia’s family has been making pizza in the same brick oven for more than a century.
His First Avenue pizzeria had been a legend among locals for decades when it, along with Stan's Chitch's Cafe in Bound Brook, was one of the few places where you could get a slice in Somerset County.
But now the world knows about DeLucia's.
Over the past week, people from up and down the East Coast have been waiting in line outside in the cold for as long as two hours to get their hands on DeLucia's Brick Oven Pizza’s signature crunchy-crusted pies.
Demand has been “insane and overwhelming,” said DeLucia, since Barstool Sports and One Bite Pizza Reviews founder and host Dave Portnoy gave DeLucia's pie a near-perfect review on Jan. 6. The video review was seen almost 400,000 times in less than a week.
Portnoy gave DeLucia's a 9.4 out of 10. Out of the nearly 1,000 pizzerias with listed reviews on his YouTube channel, only one – in Portnoy's hometown – has gotten above a 9.4. DeLucia’s comes in second with two other pizzerias.
“Is this the best pizza I’ve ever had? It’s 100% in the conversation,” Portnoy said in his review. “You drive 3-4 hours for this pizza. Absolutely spectacular.”
People are following Portnoy’s advice. DeLucia said since the review, customers have come from as far as Pittsburgh, Maine, Maryland and Miami.
Demand has gotten so high that phone and online orders are temporarily suspended. The only way to get a DeLucia’s pie right now is to get in line.
On Thursday morning, Jonathon Colon of Hillsborough was one of them. At 11:30 a.m. – the time the pizzeria opened – he already had been in line for 40 minutes. He had never been to or heard of DeLucia’s before the review, but as a fan of One Bite Pizza Reviews, he wanted to visit after he saw the video.
“I think it will live up to my expectations,” Colon said. “Dave Portnoy has a pretty good opinion. Yesterday I drove by and I didn’t think it was going to be really packed, and there were already 20 people in line.”
On a busy Saturday, DeLucia said he usually makes about 90 large pies. This past Saturday, he made 300.
To keep up with demand, DeLucia and his cook and manager, Steve Fraser, are working a lot more.
“A lot of pizza shops have 3-4 cooks, but me and Steve are the only two guys who know how to do what we need to do inside that oven,” DeLucia said. “We would never hire anyone else to cook, but hiring people to take some of the heavy lifting off our shoulders is going to have to be a must.”
DeLucia said he used to get to the pizzeria at 7:30 a.m., take an hour lunch break, and get home before 8 p.m. Now, he’s arriving at 6:30 a.m., skipping a break and getting home at 9:30 p.m.
He recommends that for customers to minimize their wait time and get their pie before sellout, which lately has been around 6 p.m., they get in line a half an hour to 45 minutes before the pizzeria opens.
“I don’t even know,” DeLucia said when asked what the best time to get in line is. “This is all so new to us; we’re doing the best we can until we figure out some sort of system. I’m trying to make as many people happy as I can.”
Right now, the system is to stand in line to place your order in the morning or afternoon and then come back six hours later for pickup.
That may not be the system forever, but DeLucia’s is forever changed – even if the pizza will remain exactly the same way DeLucia’s great-grandfather, Constantino DeLucia, made it when he opened his bread bakery in 1917.
“I’m with pizza legends now. It’s a total honor to be put with these pizza guys that have been doing this forever,” DeLucia said. “Now all of a sudden you put us up on the list with Frank Pepe, John's of Bleecker St., Sally's Apizza. That’s like a religion right there of pizza and all of a sudden they decided they’re going to put DeLucia’s in the mix. That’s pretty wild.”
DeLucia was disappointed when he wasn’t at the pizzeria when Portnoy arrived unannounced – he was about 30 minutes away visiting family.
“I have been waiting for about two years (for Portnoy to visit). I knew there was going to come a day, I didn’t know when or how,” DeLucia said. “My heart just dropped when I found out he was there because I knew I had no shot at getting in the car and making it there. It was the biggest nightmare story you could ever imagine. The guy that you want to come in and review your pizza, I didn’t even get to cook for him.”
But luckily, Fraser was there to carry the team and make the pie exactly how DeLucia had trained him over seven years.
“I recognized him right away. I was instantly nervous,” Fraser said. “I just did what I do — I made the pie as perfect as I could, and I handed it to him. I didn’t want to bother him, I just wanted him to do his thing.”
DeLucia thought his pizza would rank in the high 8s, but he was shocked – and elated – at the 9.4 rating.
Rewards, bonuses, free trips: How NJ restaurants are battling the labor shortage
According to some, 9.4 isn’t doing it justice. Bi-monthly regular Dan Battista of North Plainfield, who is originally from Brooklyn, calls the pizza, without hesitation, a 10 out of 10.
“The pizza is off the hook,” he said. “It’s the best pizza in New Jersey that I’ve found. It’s always exactly the same and exactly the way you want it.”
If you go: 3 First Ave., Raritan; 908-725-1322, deluciasbrickovenpizza.com
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member at the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, after becoming a blogger-turned-reporter following the creation of her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her stories about food, drink and fun, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Contact: JIntersimone@Gannett.com or @JIntersimone.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: DeLucia's in Raritan NJ has two-hour wait after Barstool pizza review