Lakewood has been developed in an area of New Jersey that was once covered in thick forest. The timber-rich lands were the ideal site for a sawmill and that's how the city began its two-hundred-year-plus history. Nothing much changed for almost a century until a migrant with knowledge of iron-ore smelting arrived in the settlement and discovered ironstone in the ground uncovered by the felling of the trees.
Industrialization of Lakewood began with the construction of blast furnaces, but came to an abrupt halt and the land used for the foundries was sold off for housing. Forward thinking for the time led to hotels being built in the village and because of the area's three scenic lakes, Lake Shenandoah, Lake Carasaljo and Lake Manetta, it began to be promoted as a vacation destination. It proved popular from the start and required many migrant workers to fill the job vacancies created. Italians moved to the area with other Europeans, but they were the ones who brought pizza with them.
Lakewood is geographically the same distance from Philadelphia as it is from New York. That's something that’s influenced pies in Lakewood and the city has become known for its thin-crust pizzas. The large rounds of thin-crust dough served up in Lakewood can rival a New York pie in size but the slices are generally cut into smaller triangles than the over-generous Big Apple ones. Tomato sauce and toppings cover the dough almost to the edge like in a Philly, but they're layered in the traditional way of sauce first, followed by any other ingredients, and cheese usually goes on top. Usually is the key word here, though, as you will find some variations including thin-crust party-size square pies, and upside-down ones as well as white pies, so always read the menu well before ordering or you could be in for a gastronomical surprise.
You could order a pie to be delivered from a veritable host of pizzerias in Lakewood, but logic says there's only one that can make the best delivery pizza in Lakewood. Which is it? It has to be Pizza on the 9. It may be a strange name for a pizzeria but there's nothing strange about their pizzas or the delivery service they provide. They go all out to send you the perfect pizza in record time.
Pizza on the 9 occupies a small premises in a row of stores on the city's River Avenue. They're a business that concentrates on take-out and delivery so it's nothing flash to look at until you get to the kitchen. That's designed to accommodate the chef's swift action and is streamlined for dispatching pies - ASAP. They don't believe in bamboozling you with an overloaded menu, so just ask for what you want and your wish is their command.
Roll up to where Capra's Italian Restaurant has their premises on the NJ-70 and you could find a puzzled expression crossing your face. If you haven't been there before, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd driven into a small industrial estate or a site full of garages and storage units. It may look confusing, but surprisingly enough from one of those units, they produce the best take-out pizza in Lakewood.
After being befuddled by Capra's external appearance, the smart interior will come as a complete eye-opener. They even use white tablecloths which is always a good sign you're in a professional set-up – unless they're stained and they're definitely not at Capra's. Capra's favor one ingredient for topping their pies unless you go for the Works or one of their specialty pizzas. If you like a combo of two or three different things then you'll need to ask for extras.
When you're in Lakewood, but need a breath of fresh sea air, jump in the car and drive over to Brick Township. In less than twenty minutes you can be crossing over the Mantoloking Bridge to the township's barrier island beaches and appreciating the views of the New Jersey Bight. After getting your fill, visit the Swan Point State Natural Area on the mainland for some bird watching before picking up a pizza from Joey D's Brick Oven Pizza on Cedar Bridge Avenue.
History fans will be over the moon if they make the eight-mile trip north of Lakewood to Howell Township to visit the Allaire State Park. Wander around the well-preserved time capsule that is the 19th century Allaire village then take a ride on a steam train before hiking some of the many trails there or around the nearby Manasquan Reservoir. Return to the modern day by dining on pizza from Nonno's Pizzeria on the US9.
If you think there's something spookily familiar or you get a sense of deja vu when you visit Toms River, it's understandable. This town has made more than its fair share of appearances on TV and in films. It's a location used in the reality shows Jersey Shore and Made as well as being the backdrop for the scary 1998 movie, Amityville Horror. Try a pizza from Shiano's on Lakehurst Road and you'll find pizza in Toms River is as good, if not better, than the entertainment that's been made there.
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