DSCN1865Puglia’s clam pie, called the Mulberry Street. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

morsels mediumBy SUSAN ERICSON

A town that has more than 20 pizza venues at any one moment has some serious competition.

In Red Bank, one goes out (Biagio’s) and another is on it’s way in (Patrizia’s). For restaurateurs, breaking the habits of diners who rarely step out of the box on on their usual Friday night order is a challenge.

Dining out, though, with pizza specifically in mind, well, there’s a chance for diners to try something different.

One of the new kids in town is Puglia. If this Bridge Avenue pizzeria, located in the former home of Red Bank Pizza, seems remotely reminiscent to another time and day, that might be due to the Little Italy vibe. The place pulls you in with its promise of good Italian food, and keeps you there with comfortable atmosphere and good service.

The menu includes one pie that has a pedigree to it’s name: the Mulberry Street pizza. This is is not your usual red sauce with “choose your toppings” variety. No, it’s a small masterpiece that deserves its own space in your culinary heart. Redolent with garlic and sweet tender chopped clams, finished with creamy mozzarella, it reminded PieHole of pasta with clam sauce, but served up on a perfectly executed crust.

In a town that could easily be known solely for its multiple pizza choices, Puglia is a welcome old school New York Italian eatery. You’ll need a reservation on the weekend, but for lunch, no problem.

The Mulberry Street is priced at $15.95.