WITH LOCATIONS IN RED BANK, BRICK, AND HOBOKEN, URBAN COALHOUSE BRINGS AUTHENTIC COAL FIRED PIZZA TO GARDEN STATE APPETITES

BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN PHOTOS © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Michael Centaro knows a few things about pizza. A devoted fan of the famous thin crust coal oven cooked pie at Totonno’s in Coney Island, he’d been forced to cross two bridges to get his fix upon moving to New Jersey in 2001. There, after spending years on research and perfecting the ideal recipe, Centaro took a leap and opened Urban Coalhouse reveal ing his take on the perfect crisp Brooklyn pie.

“This all started with a desire to bring the same kind of coal oven pizza that I grew up eating to the masses,” he said. “We wanted to build a pie out of fresh ingredients nothing frozen using imported tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil; everything top quality…flavor “This all started with a desire to bring the same kind of coal oven pizza that I grew up eating to the masses,” he said. “We wanted to build a pie out of fresh ingredients nothing frozen using imported tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil; everything top quality…flavor.

The grandson of a pizzaiolo (one seasoned at pizza making), Centaro toyed with a few old world recipes before opening his first shop in Red Bank in 2009. “When we opened there, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I had visions of having this small place, similar in size to Totonno’s, with 10 tables packed with people who come for a pie and then go home.”

But the ambience turned out far more inviting than that. The space, decorated in a rustic yet urban style, is filled with soft light and exposed brick walls. The modern but warm interior is equipped with a full bar and several TVs, each broadcasting a different sporting event. Centaro said the space quickly became a go to for authentic New York style pizza along Red Bank’s Bridge Avenue strip.

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“Our business was built on a bad economy my partners and I launched during the financial crisis of 2008,” noted Centaro, who worked on Wall Street before becoming a restaurateur. “But despite the downturn, it was well received right from the start. After a few years of success in Red Bank, we started to pursue other locations.”

“Our business was built on a bad economy my partners and I launched during the financial crisis of 2008,” noted Centaro, who worked on Wall Street before becoming a restaurateur. “But despite the downturn, it was well received right from the start. After a few years of success in Red Bank, we started to pursue other locations.”

“I think we really hit a niche with that coal oven taste,” he said. “We cook our pizza in less than three minutes at 800 degrees, and I think that simply sears in the flavor, giving the pie a different texture and taste than a traditional gas oven is capable of.”

The menu is hardly limited to pizza; Urban Coalhouse has also become known for its signature wings, which are smothered with oven roasted onions and served with focaccia. “And they’re not fried…first dry rubbed and then seared in the coal oven,” Centaro said. “They are so different and delicious that they’re almost as popular as our pizza.”

The restaurant offers a variety of simple, home style options, including Baked Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan topped with a blend of mozzarella and provolone cheeses and served with a side of penne. Other standout main courses include classic Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, Penne Bolognese (or Vodka or Marinara), and Chicken Parmigiana. Appetizers include Buffalo Chicken Salad, Eggplant Rollatini, Fried Calamari, and Grilled Octopus. Favorite desserts include cannoli, vanilla or chocolate gelato, and Nutella pie.

“These are all at the core of our ‘true to the craft’ philosophy,” Centaro said. “Our dishes are generational crafted from age old recipes.”

In addition to Centaro, the restaurant is owned and operated by Andrew Cameron and Chris and Matt Lombardi, all of whom share in this generational vision.

“We have been bringing old world pizza to New Jersey residents for 10 years, and are continuing to expand upon that idea every day,” Centaro said. “For example, we introduced a burger menu a few months ago, which has received a lot of praise, and also recently launched a brunch menu, which is doing well. Our lunch and dinner menus change seasonally just to keep things fresh and exciting.”

Centaro added that the kitchen focuses on using local produce, and that the bar features 20 di erent beers on tap as well as a large selection of signature cocktails. Also available is house made red and white sangria.

“Nobody does a happy hour quite like us,” the owner said, listing a range of hand crafted cocktails, a curated list of wines, and more than three dozen kinds of beer. “We have a lot to offer our clientele, which ranges from families and couples to large groups looking for a fun and relaxed atmosphere.”

And it all started with Centaro’s desire for a good, old school slice.

“I feel blessed that this concept has been so well received,” he said. “I’m grateful that others share my desire for coal red pizza, and am delighted to bring this to people throughout New Jersey.”

Urban Coalhouse
2 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank / 732.212.1700 515 Route 70,
Brick / 732.262.5180 116 14th Street, Hoboken / 201.292.3388 / urbancoalhouse.com