Out of town report: The Monk Room (Newark)

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After Beauty & Essex in NYC, I headed back to Newark with my sister and brother-in-law to their apartment, where I passed out on the air mattress in their living room. The following morning, I woke up to the sound of my brother-in-law coming into the kitchen. I groggily asked him what time it was and was shocked when he replied, “11:30!” Eleven thirty??!!!! I never sleep in the late! It felt absolutely glorious knowing that I had over ten hours of sleep in my system. I guess lugging that giant weekender all over lower Manhattan had really exhausted me. My sister came out a few minutes later and we decided to head to their favorite pizza spot a few blocks away for lunch before I had to go back into the city to meet up with friends.

The Monk Room opened up on the other side of the Prudential Center about a year and a half ago, with a small and concise menu of Italian dishes. My sister and B raved about this place, which I consider a great sign, especially since pizza is not really my sister’s favorite kind of cuisine. I, on the other hand, was totally ready to house another pizza after my restful night of sleep. When we arrived, the bartender informed us that the dining room was not yet open, so we would have to sit at the bar.
The restaurant is brightly lit with the large windows which made up slightly for the lack of outdoor seating. We sat down at the bar and chatted up the bartender while waiting for the kitchen to finish setting up. The friendly bartender was nice enough to bring us out a plate of the restaurant’s mozzarella to sample. The house-made cheese is served with sundried tomatoes and fresh basil, and tastes fresh and creamy.
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For her main dish. my sister decided to get the Bootzin pasta dish, which consisted of fresh orecchiette, tomatoes, fennel sausage, cherry peppers, olives, parmigiano reggiano, basil, and fennel pollen. She approved of the al dente pasta and fragrant toppings. My brother-in-law went with the Meatball Sandwich, which came out on a toasted roll. He also enjoyed this, and said the slightly spicy meatballs, sharp pecorino cheese, and soft bread were a good combination. I knew that I wanted a breakfast pizza (clearly having a pizza less than 18 hours ago had done nothing to quell my pizza cravings), and went with the Carbonara, which was topped with guanciale, parmigiano reggiano, roasted egg, parsley, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. The roasted egg was a little overcooked for my taste; I love when the egg on a pizza is slightly running so that I can spread it all over and enjoy the additional creaminess the yolk adds. Despite this, the pizza was a very good, mostly due to the guanciale. Guanciale is probably one of my favorite cured meats (comes from the pig’s jowel), especially when the fat has been rendered and the meat becomes extremely crispy. The strips of smoky pork cheek on this pizza were cooked exactly the way I prefer. The slightly sweet, yeasty thin crust help up well under the toppings and each bite of the pizza was a chewy, savory overload of flavors. Despite filling up after three slices, the combination of the salty guanciale and melted cheese on the charred crust was addictive and I did not stop eating until I had polished off the entire pie. Surprisingly, I did not have any room for dessert, despite the bartender’s insistence that their desserts are not to be missed. By that point, both my sister and I were leaning over in our chairs, trying to adjust our bodies in a way that allowed for faster digestion. When it comes to good pizza, my self control goes out of the window and this pizza definitely fell into that category.
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