backstrEATS at a glance:
167 Wood Ave, Edison, NJ 08820-3504 Tel: (732) 494-0340
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.- 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.- 11 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m.- 10 p.m.
Atmosphere and Attire: Rustic with dark emerald green walls and dark cherry oak wood tables and booths. Casual Attire welcomed.
Cost: Moderate. Main Entrees are roughly $10-20. Whole pizzas go for $15-23. Portions are generous! I would highly recommend sharing.
Coke products: Yes! Refills! Also they sell bottled drinks to go, too. AND… BYOB! or BYOW (Bring your own wine)
Important Info: Credit Cards Accepted but a $15.00 minimum. Wheelchair accessible.
After a very long day at work, I was chatting with a coworker about places to eat around Edison. Being a fellow foodie, she definitely knew where to go for good food. She listed off several restaurants and finally ended with, “And you’ve got to try Oakwood Pizza! Their buffalo chicken pizza is THE BEST!” I was politely skeptical. I mean, I wasn’t a big fan of buffalo chicken to begin with and I have had some pretty mediocre pizza around town. She shook her head vigorously after my response, “No. It is the BEST. Actually, do you want to go grab a slice now?” I laughed. Of course! Skepticism or not I am always up for a food adventure! And off we went.
I was unable to talk with Carmelo, the owner of Oakwood Pizza, but Mark, the restaurant’s manager and historian (as the lovely servers referred to him), was just as helpful. This story begins in 1974. That’s right, thirty-six years old. Back then, the area around Oakwood Pizza was very much populated with Italians, Sicilians, and Jewish people according to Mark. But Oakwood Pizza was known by another name then: Menlo Pizza. It was in 1982 when Carmelo’s father bought the restaurant from the previous owner and Oakwood Pizza was born. And after thirty-six years, they are still churning out one heck of a pie.
If my coworker had not pointed out the restaurant to me I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. I dare say I wouldn’t have even ventured in… what a horrible thought! Located in a slightly abandoned strip mall at the busy intersection of Oak Tree Road and Wood Avenue (Ha! Do you get the name?), the restaurant facade is hidden from view by a Burger King located in front of it. Corporate bastards.
It is quite disheartening to see the strip mall not as active as it should be. Mark explained that with the decline in the economy, the office buildings near by that supplied them with hungry men and women were near empty, resulting in a slightly slower pace for the establishment . Also, the area underwent some changes in demographics, transforming from a mostly Italian and Sicilian neighborhood to an Indian one. Surrounded by newly opened Indian restaurants, Oakwood became the odd man out. But they still serve it up without missing a beat! They stick to serving great Italian food with only the best ingredients and in a traditional way that they would never compromise.
Never judge a book by its cover. NEVER. Despite the rather plain facade on the outside, the inside was pleasantly surprising. The atmosphere was quite casual yet richly rustic. The seating area is not very big but there are a good number of comfortable booths (Always an A in my book!) and a few tables. Pears and grapes are painted on the walls throughout the restaurant with a few personal pictures punctuating whatever space there is left. Overall, a great place to come relax with friends and family or even a casual dinner date. (By the way, it is quite chilly for those of you who get cold easily. I recommend bringing a sweater.)
Dine in, carryout, or delivery order is available to guests. If you plan on dining in, you can grab your own table after ordering at the register or you can be waited on and have the full service experience.
The menu is decently extensive, ranging from speciality pizzas to flavorful pastas and various dinner entrees. Of course, we had to order the Buffalo Chicken Pizza. It was what my coworker was raving about and the store’s number one speciality. On my first trip with my coworker, we each ordered one slice of the Buffalo Chicken Pizza and then the Bruschetta Salad to split. When the food came out, I was shocked at how HUGE one slice of pizza was. The smell was indescribable. It wafted gently in the air with a slight twang of spicy vinegar mixed with hot bread crust.
I bit into the pizza and my mind was blown. Sure, I’ve tried buffalo chicken in a variety of forms, but I had not had buffalo chicken like THIS before. It was like I was having it for the first time. A born again BC virgin. It was a perfect balance of the hot buffalo sauce, not too vinegary or overpowering, with the perfect mild tanginess of the bleu cheese. All together melding into a beautiful sea of sauce for the chicken. Such harmony was achieved on my palate that I made sure to eat as slow as I physically could to savor the moment. The crust was divine as well. Perfectly thin and crispy yet at the same time soft where it should be. And the best part? Piping hot! It was a lovely piece of pie, my friends. Lovely.
The salad was good, too. Granted, the pizza stole the show. But the salad portion was nice and the balsamic dressing was delicious. The salad had balsamic tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, romaine lettuce, and olives with hard Italian bread like croutons scattered on top. We added grilled chicken to the salad and it was flavorful and delicious.
With the food being yummy and the portions generous, I had to come back for more. Since that fateful day, I have tried Romano Ranch Pizza, another speciality pizza of theirs. It has spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and their own ranch dressing. Though it may sound salty and perhaps odd to those who are not able to envision ranch with pizza, it was DELICIOUS! It was just as fabulous as the buffalo chicken pizza.
I also have tried their Pennette Alla Checa pasta dish. Three Letters. O. M. G. It is a magnificent dish with penne pasta tossed with sauteed garlic, onions, tomatoes, green and yellow squash and grilled chicken. The result? A sauce that is a bit watery but completely fabulous to the dish. The flavors mix well and gives a perfect warmth on the cold late September evening. The vegetables and pasta were cooked superbly and the mozzarella lovingly melted all over the entree. I wanted to eat the sauce like soup but… I thought better of it. Like the pizza, the portion size of the pasta was huge! All entrees come with an all you can eat salad bar and deliciously hot bread. It was worth every penny. The only minor complaint I have is that I wish the chicken was cut bigger.
All the times I have been to Oakwood, it appeared to be the same crew of servers and kitchen staff. The servers I have met all have been there for quite some time and are super friendly and obliging. One of them actually remembered me when I first came with my coworker! They are always ready to give great recommendations and provide quick, friendly service! I definitely hope to become a regular here in no time!
With a full belly and a vow to try the Penne Alla Vodka the next time, I left Oakwood Pizza with happy thoughts on the food experience I just had.
Until my lovely friends, keep in touch and Eat On <3Tags: Carmelo, Central Jersey, cheap, Edison, food, Italian, New Jersey, Oakwood Pizza, pasta, pizza, restaurant, salad