Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Everything on a pizza — or a bagel

Every town should have at least one pizzeria, deli and bagel shop. Not only does Long Valley fit the bill, but they're they're all under one roof.

"We do pizza here; we do subs, salads and appetizers, but our main thing is pizza," says Robert Prudente, owner of Long Valley Pizza, Deli & Bagel.

He used to work down the street at Salerno's before the owner asked him if he wanted to make the big jump as owner of this location. And since Salerno's sells pastas and the like down the street, why sell a similar product? That's where the deli part comes in.

"Most of the time, people will come in and the kids want pizza, and you want lasagna, and the wife wants linguine with clam sauce, or something, and we don't do that," Prudente says, "So I figured that if we do the deli, you can come in and get an Italian sub, the kids can get pizza, your wife can get a grilled chicken Caesar salad, and it seems to be working."

Okay, so the deli angle makes sense, but bagels? Prudente has an answer for that, too.

"One of the stores where the restaurant is, used to be a bagel shop," Prudente explains while taking a sip of coffee (and yes, coffee is sold here, too), "So, I said, wait a minute, there's no bagel store in Long Valley now, so I said, 'You know what? We have to open up a bagel store.' "

And just like that, you can now enjoy a Taylor ham, egg and cheese on a bagel at 7 at night if you like and still take home a pizza for the family.

Oh, and speaking of pizza, you haven't had anything like this. If you look in the back of the small but comfortable shop, you might think you see a kitchen, but don't be fooled. That place back there is not a kitchen, but rather a laboratory: Some of the creations they come up display scientific ingenuity.

"Oh, we do crazy stuff," Prudente says. "One of the ones that we used to do but we stopped because people have allergies is peanut butter and jelly pizza. We put peanut butter and jelly and just a little bit of cheese on it just to hold the dough down. Pull it out, let it cool, put on the peanut butter, and then we do half strawberry and half grape jelly."

This crazy combination comes out every so often, but Prudente doesn't do it on a regular basis because the oven is used for so many other different meals, from burgers to pancakes, and he's aware that peanut allergies can cause severe reactions.

If your heart just sank because you want a slice of peanut butter and jelly pizza, don't be too upset. This shop has plenty other great slices to offer.

"Honey-mustard chicken is very popular," Prudente says of the sumptuous slice that swaps pizza sauce for honey mustard and has little bits of chicken fingers sprinkled on it. "I'm going to say it's almost more popular than pepperoni. The kids love it."

There also is a macaroni-and-cheese slice, a buffalo chicken slice, and (in this writer's humble opinion) a Sloppy Joe slice that is the greatest combination since hydrogen joined with oxygen to make water.

"We ran it (Sloppy Joe's) for a special. We had a little left over, and we threw it on a pizza," Prudente says.

"We like just about everything that we make, but it's up to the people," he says. "When they come in, especially when we try something for the first time, we usually cut up a couple pieces, and then, if they ask for it again, then we know it's usually pretty good."

In addition to pizza, the shop also is known for its stellar Thumann's meat sandwiches. Prudente wants to add one new product to the deli menu to give it that extra kick: "Right now, there's a gentleman who lives in Long Valley, and he has his own provisions company in Jersey City. He brought me his own stuff in, and it's fantastic."

If the deal goes through, Prudente would still sell Thumann's meat but would also sell the Long Valley meat.

"And it's called German Valley Provisions, which is kind of nice, too, because Long Valley was originally called German Valley." Prudente says.

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