Personal-size pizzas from the oven at Urban Coalhouse in the Galleria. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By SUSAN ERICSON
PieHole stopped in for lunch last week at Urban Coalhouse Pizza and Bar, the former Tommy’s Coal-Fired Pizza in the Galleria of Red Bank, one of four restaurants that owners Andrew Cameron, Chris and Matt Lombardi and Mike Centaro have up and running around New Jersey.
We were happy to find few if any changes to what we enjoyed about Tommy’s, including the fact that the menu still centers around an enormous, coal-fired, 900-degree oven used to producing the signature pizzas and wings.
An arugula salad and one based on romaine, below, are among the lunch special options at Urban Coalhouse. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
Exposed brick walls and wood beams create a rustic ambiance typical of shops and restaurants in the Galleria, the onetime home of Sigmund Eisner‘s booming uniform factory on Bridge Avenue. The dining room still offers comfortable mahogany-dark-wood tables and booths.
Unlike founder and former owner Tommy Bonfiglio’s newer Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright, with its expansive offerings of everything from burgers to sushi, the menu here has stayed closer to its Italian trattoria-style roots. Pasta, heroes, and artisanal pies dominate, with one exception: spicy chicken wings roasted in the super-hot oven and served with long hot peppers. They’re something to obsess over.
The lunch specials menu is a mix-and-match affair. Meatball, chicken or eggplant parmigiana heroes come with soup or a salad for $9. Penne pasta is served with a choice of bolognese, marinara or vodka sauce, and also with soup or a salad, at $12.
We homed in on the nine personal-sized, artisan-style pizzas ($13) with catchy names. There’s the Bye Bye Buffalo Pie, topped with breaded chicken, celery, mozzarella and provolone, plus a drizzle of hot sauce and blue cheese. The Don Gregorio should appeal to the stromboli-loving crowd, as its ingredients include sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, tomatoes and mozzarella.
We opted for a simple vodka pie, pervasively spread with a cream, tomato and vodka-infused sauce, and speckled with bites of grilled chicken. It was probably the least daring pie on the menu.
A spinach artichoke pie hit all of the right notes. Like a party-favorite spinach artichoke dip, this pie has a velvety cream texture, featuring chopped artichokes, spinach and melted-cheesey goodness that harmonized with an under-bite of roasted garlic.
A pizza is only as good as its crust, and this is where a coal-fired oven really shines. Wood-fired ovens tend to emit a more moist environment at 500 to 900 degrees, while coal ovens can reach 1,200 degrees. This one excels at producing a slightly smoky, charred and flavorful crust that is cooked right through the center of the pie.
Our salads were colorful and fresh. Arugula, bits of artichoke hearts, generous shavings of grana padana cheese and cherry tomatoes were brought together with a light lemon vinaigrette in one salad.
The other, consisting of romaine lettuce, dried cranberries, matchstick slices of granny smith apple, gorgonzola cheese and candied pecans with an apple cider dressing, could have been a happy meal in itself. Not one taste bud was ignored by the the sweet, salty, and savory funk of the cheese. Throw in a riot of crispy and creamy textures, and you’ve achieved salad nirvana.
Urban Coalhouse offers its lunch specials from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.