"You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars." Charles Kuralt

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Famous King of Pizza

There’s a place in Cherry Hill, New Jersey that’s been around pretty much forever where you can get a slice of pizza to rival some of the best you’ve ever had. It’s “The Famous King of Pizza”, and as far as I can tell it’s not associated with anyone named Ray. King of Pizza has been at 2300 Route 70 since 1965 and has outlasted many of the landmarks that surrounded it, the most famous of which are probably the Latin Casino, the Rickshaw Inn and Garden State Park.

The Original King of Pizza building was itself destroyed by fire in 2004. For anyone who loves the King of Pizza like I do, it was a sad day indeed. The sign out front, however, made it through unscathed and is still a beacon to hungry pizza lovers everywhere. The original building was a cool looking structure of mid-century design, the likes of which are fast disappearing from the American Landscape. I have no photographs of it, and I couldn’t find any while researching this piece. If anyone out there has one please forward it to me. I’ll add it to the article.
Having made a hard sacrifice to the gods of the coal fired oven, the owners of the King of Pizza were able to quickly rebuild. (The ovens are actually gas.) On the outside, the new structure has none of the charm of the original. The interior, however, is quite warm and inviting. It’s just the kind of place to enjoy a hot and drippy slice of pizza.
Did I say drippy? As a matter of fact I did. What? You don’t like a little grease on your pizza? Are you crazy? Listen up people! That’s where some of the best flavor hides. A nice bite right off the plate will send a small rivulet of hot oil streaming toward your wrists and beyond if you allow it. It’s just enough. Anymore would be a real mess, and I can’t eat a pizza that is just an oily lake on my dish. A little bit is all it takes, and that’s what the King of Pizza has. If you still want to dry it off a bit, it will only take you one napkin per slice. See, that’s not so bad. Besides, if you’re on some kind of restrictive diet, you probably shouldn’t be eating pizza in the first place.
The cheese, which is the source of said oil, is actually quite good. It is loose and chewy and stretchy and breaks just in time not to drag the whole mess right off the crust. The crust is thin, but not too thin, and it has a nice crispness that allows for easy folding. The sauce is on the money for my tastes, which is to say it is not too sweet and is nicely spiced. The fact that the Campbell’s Soup world headquarters is just up the road from here seems to give some pizza places in the area permission to use sauce that is not much more than glorified tomato soup. Not so at the King of Pizza. Here you get the best in South Jersey.
Nowadays, when Big Corporate McPizza is running rampant in America, it is the King of Pizza and other places like it that are out there preserving true pizza culture. Face it; if the crust is preformed and then goes through a conveyor belt oven, it’s just not pizza. True pizza almost always requires there to be a little Italian guy standing in the back, throwing an ever enlarging disc of dough into the air and catching it again just in time to avoid potential disaster. It then goes in and out of an oven on a wooden paddle. If that’s not how they’re doing it, then they’re doing t wrong. At “The Famous King of Pizza” they’re doing it right. Let’s all hope that they keep doing it for a long time to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I use to eat at this place all the time back when I interned for the Cherry Hill Mayor - wow, 12 years ago now. ::feelin old:: It was perfect for an intern's budget - I think the lunch deal was like $3 for 2 slices and a soda. And, back when I had to wear business attire for the gig, the risk of a grease drip was worth it. Sorry to hear the old place burn down. (It was a little grungy, though.) Guess it's been a while since I've been past there. Thanks for review!