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