Last night, we headed to Annabella’s Pizzeria in Parsippany, the next stop on our ongoing quest to find the best pizza in New Jersey. This pizza joint comes by way of a recommendation from Patsy, a fellow local food blogger. It’s located down the street from the Sheraton Tara. I love the look of the Sheraton Tara. When I got old enough to start thinking about weddings, for a time I imagined getting married there. It looks like a castle from the front and casts quite an image. Even though we’ve lived here seemingly forever, I’ve actually never driven down that street. Turns out I’m not missing much, save for this new strip mall that has sprung up recently.
When I google’d the restaurant to get the address, I spotted a couple of reviews on it. A quick glance showed mixed reviews. One, in particular, said the place “lacked soul, typical of a strip mall pizza place.” Yikes. Luckily there were a few good reviews to balance it out.
Being it’s in a strip mall, there is ample parking out front, and with this particular location set back from the highway (read: pretty hidden), it’s not a hotbed of activity. The decor is interesting. I will say they’re trying, but I’m thinking maybe they shouldn’t try quite so hard. Three massive chandeliers dot the ceiling from front to back, and the walls are lined with large statues. It’s like what people who have never been to Italy imagine what it might be like. There are about 10 round tables and as many booths. We were the third party when we arrived for dinner.
I grabbed a high chair and headed towards a booth. As I was getting Madeline strapped in, the young waitress comes over with menus. She smiles at Madeline and asks me, “Is she hyper?” HI! HOW ARE YOU? YES, THE WEATHER IS CRAPPY. OH A DRINK SOUNDS WONDERFUL – THANK YOU SO MUCH. Oh no, there will be none of that tonight. The first words out of her mouth were to ask if my daughter is hyper. (Side note: Maddie hadn’t said a peep). Interesting tableside manner, but whatever.
Nick had had pizza for lunch, so ending up going with penne with vodka sauce for dinner. I ordered a slice of pizza for myself, and an order of cheese fries for us all to share. Ever since the Sonic visit recently, Nick has become quite enamored with cheese fries. Twenty-five minutes later, still no food (did I mention we were only the third party there?), so when the waitress passed by, I asked for a piece of bread or something to keep Madeline satiated until it came. Didn’t get the bread, but the food came a few minutes later. Perhaps if the kitchen staff hadn’t been transfixed to the History channel on the tv in the corner, the pizza might have been ready sooner, but who am I to judge?
First, the pizza. The crust is relatively thin, but I wouldn’t call it crispy. There is a little bit of floppiness at the end, but not so much that you’ll have trouble aiming it for your mouth. The cheese doesn’t all come off the pizza when you take a bite, which is a very good thing. I loved the sauce and the cheese. For me, perfection would have been a little crispness, a bubble or two and a charred bubble at that. This had none of those.
The penne with vodka sauce? Excellent. So, so, so very good. A deep rich sauce. I kept stealing pieces from Nick’s plate, and he happily shared with Madeline too, who inhaled her pieces. I asked the waitress what was in the sauce. “I really have NO idea.” Wonderful.
The cheese fries? I promise I could do a whole separate tour on finding the best fries in New Jersey, because I tend to be picky about fries. I very rarely like fast food fries, and when I do get them, a certain old friend used to make fun of me, because I’ll pick through and eat about 4 or 5 of them, only the specific kind I like. I either like them all soft or crispy on the outside or soft on the inside. If I’m going to injest the extra calories, I want them to be the kind I like, you know? If I’m at a diner, I have a special dipping sauce I like to make. What can I say … years of honing in on what makes me happy. Now when it comes to cheese fries, I prefer cheese sauce as opposed to put a few slices on top and let it melt. This version was the latter, so not my style. But that being said, the fries themselves were really good, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
The waitress was young, nice and polite. Just very clueless. At the end of dinner, I asked for two cannolis to go. “Do you want them plain or with cheese?” I looked at Nick, who had a priceless “huh?” expression on his face, and said, “plain, please,” nervous at what the alternatives might have been.
“They have cannolis with cheese?” he asked. “I’ve never heard of that before.”
“Neither have I, Nick,” I said. Maybe I’m not as Italian as I think!
We had half the order of fries leftover, and some penne leftover. The third plate had just the pizza crust. (Nope, not good enough to eat the crust). When I asked the waitress to pack the stuff up, she asked if she should pack up everything.
“No, we don’t need the crust.” Seriously!
“All in one container or separate?”
“If you could put the fries separate from the pasta, that would be great.”
I swear Nick was in near hysterics on the floor.
After we paid, she came to clear the rest of the table and I started gathering up our things to go. She looked at the kids and said, “Good luck with them!” Which would make total sense if they were running around the restaurant acting like hooligans. But they were quiet the entire time we were there; they could not have been better behaved. I just said thanks and headed out the door.
Very clueless indeed.
Would we go back? Definitely for the penne with vodka sauce. The pizza was good, but not “the one.” The search continues.
329 Smith Road
Parsippany, NJ 07054
Miss our other pizza reviews?
Luigi’s in Succasunna
Reservoir Tavern in Boonton
Margherita’s Pizza & Cafe in Hoboken
Star Tavern in Orange
Grimaldi’s in Hoboken
Annabella’s Pizzeria in Parsippany
Fenicci’s Restaurant & Tavern in Hershey, PA
M&S II Pizza in Rockaway, NJ
Sarah Caron says
Oh dear Lord. That is one way to start a restaurant experience. Maybe she was worried that if Madeline was hyper she would disrupt the staff’s important History Channel viewing.
Kris #40 says
Never did know a strip mall was there – never get passed the Tara (I worked there about 22 years ago) – we usually get on 80 there if we are in the Parsippany area.
Have you done Tabor Pizza? Goodfellas? (If you go here – go at lunch they charge $6 more on some pies at dinner time)
I love reading about your search. That sounds like quite an experience…that waitress would have had me in hysterics!
That waitress sounds flakey. I like crispy crust pizza too.
As far as fries go, I like my thin and crunchy. The hubby makes the best ones!
I would have been tempted to tell the kids to have a food fight, just to see the expression on that girl’s face….
You know there are some people out there who just don’t have great conversation skills! Also, servers see alot of crazy acting kids in there restaurants….and she just made a stupid assumption. You’d think after the hyper comment and she saw how sweet she was acting….she say something along the lines how good they are….but alas….it’s the lack of social skills here!
Natasha - 5 Star Foodie says
I enjoyed reading your review! That waitress sure has some learning to do :)
Kris #40 says
Forgot to add yesterday – my friend and I like crispy crust too so we always ask for our pizza to be “Well done”
So sorry to hear you got a bad waitress! We were there just a couple weeks back and had better service than you experienced. I also tried the penne vodka last time and thoroughly enjoyed it (and the leftovers).
The owner is a really nice guy so, I’ll let him know about your experience as I know he’s had a bit of trouble with hiring decent servers recently.
Hehe Nick cracks me up. It sounds like your elementary schooler is savvier than that waitress was!
I think you can make better penne vodka yourself and not have to deal with crazy service. .. i dare you ! :)
Sarah – too funny!
Maris – I think he just might be! I do have a tried-and-true recipe for Penne with Vodka Sauce (actually making tonight for guests), but I daresay theirs might have been a bit, cough, cough, better.
Patsy – she wasn’t rude or anything like that. Just a bit ditzy. :) Would totally go back for the pasta – yum!
Kris – I always ask for my fries well done – never thought to ask for pizza well done. Might have to try that next time. Nothing of note in the strip – Jersey Mike’s Sub, Dunkin Donuts, guess they’re trying to give the hotel crowd a few food alternative. ;)
Natasha – thanks!
Jenny – think she might have been just a little green, but it happens. The end result was that we got everything we ordered, and correctly at that, so I’ll take it!
Joanne – you ain’t kidding!
Ramona – a food fight would have been priceless!
Kris – no Tabor or Goodfellas yet. Passed Goodfellas on the way to Annabella’s and the parking lot was empty. Are they closed on Sundays? Thanks for the tip on the price hike – ouch!
There’s a Jersey Mike’s in there now? In addition to the one on Route 10? Wow. I knew the DD was there, as it’s been a frequent stop on the way back to the office from the dentist’s office. I like the people in that one much better than at the DD on the corner of Parsippany Road & Littleton.
Cannolli with cheese? Really? I used to work around the corner and would walk over to there for the Chinese place. Not bad. mmm… penne with vodka sauce!
My co-worker and I order from Annabella's everyday. And more than 3 times we have had our order incorrect. The delivery came to our office to deliver today and he was complaining because he said we took too long to bring the money and get our food at the front desk. It was less than 3 mins he had to wait. Then I called to speak to the owner and he got very disrespectful with me. And he was arguing with me “his faithful customer”. And he told me if I don't like his service go somewhere else. The customer service at Annabella's sucks and I do not recommend you go there. Take your business elsewhere.
Annabella’s is mediocre at best. The pizza tastes like mid-western pizza. No garlic, spice, etc.
If you order a big order for your office they almost ALWAYS leave something out, and you have to call and ask for what you paid for.
They really need to work on the service. The servers are great mind you, the packers not so much. And the owner is a douchenozzle. I guess he doesnt realize that you can get great Italian just about anyplace else but there.
I have to add though, that their chicken noodle soup is to die for. But that really isnt Italian is it?