Presenting our next feat. A monstrous monument to one of the Garden State’s greatest exports, with no room for vegetables. Piles of pork roll. Pounds of American cheese. A pepperoni stromboli crust. Ladies and gentlemen, this megaslice is as New Jersey as Bruce Springsteen and Turnpike traffic.
Read on, if you dare to face this delicious New Jersey devil.
It’s somewhere in the swamps of Jersey — Roselle Park, NJ to be exact. Here, one pizzaiolo dares to pack the state’s signature foodstuffs into one massive megaslice. Everyone loves it. However, it’s not without controversy.
“This is North Jersey, so we call it the Taylor Ham and Cheese pizza,” Joe’s Rotisseria owner Joe Brignoni said. “But, soon, we open up our new location in Asbury Park. So, we’re going to have to call it the Pork Roll/Taylor Ham and Cheese pizza.”
This is no small matter – in New Jersey, the Taylor Ham vs. Pork Roll debate has raged since the birth of this mysterious pig product in the 1800s. When the Star-Ledger polled NJ residents on the hot griddle issue, the results were sliced roughly down the middle. About 54% voted Pork Roll, 46% for Taylor Ham). Naturally, there a line drawn right around I-78, the widely recognized partition between North and South Jersey.
(Fun fact: this unofficial border also marks a divide between sports allegiances and musical preferences. North of I-78, you’ll find higher concentrations of Jets/Giants, Yankees/Mets, and Springsteen diehards. The further south you go, the more Eagles, Phillies, and Bon Jovi loyalists you’ll find. New Jersey is large, it contains multitudes.)
Brignoni grew up in Union, New Jersey. That’s north of the border. He cut his teeth in the kitchen of Cioffi’s, a local institution for Italian-American classics. After a few years, he took some time off to go to a culinary school in Florida. While there, he picked up a few new kitchen skills and ideas. When he returned, he eagerly showed his boss his latest creation – a pizza pie with a garlic knot crust.
“If you wanna do stuff like this,” Brignioni recalled his boss saying, “Open up your own place.”
Feeling a bit dejected, Brignioni went down to Atlantic City for the weekend to blow off some steam and blow through $4,000, the entirety of his savings. On the two-hour drive home, which felt even longer than usual, he vowed to make a change.
“After that, I had a chip on my shoulder. I stopped gambling,” Brignioni said. “From that moment on, I gambled only on myself.”
One afternoon, Brignioni was surfing Craigslist for used cars he could fix up – his favorite pastime, next to pizza – when he spotted a listing for a pizzeria in Roselle Park, available for $35,000. This time around, he was happy to empty his bank account for an opportunity to bring his insane creations to life.
“I knew the area and I knew I could make deliveries to Cranford, and Westfield, and the other towns nearby,” Brignioni said. “It changed my life – a few short years later, here I am talking to Slice about my pizza.”
Years later, the Jersey boy found inspiration in Florida once again. Unable to get his hands on his favorite breakfast sandwich, he fixed a pork roll and cheese as soon as he returned home.
“I was gone for a week and I couldn’t have it. I was dying for one,” said Brignioni. “When I came back, I started slicing and grilling Taylor Ham and I noticed it curling up, just like pepperoni. That’s when I said, ‘Let’s make this into a pizza!’”
However, Brignioni wasn’t content to just slap slices of pork roll and American cheese on a pie. Instead, he supersized it into a two-foot megaslice, complete with a pepperoni roll crust.
After forming the pinwheel crust with pounds of pepperoni and mozzarella, Brignioni uses every inch of a full baking sheet to pound out one “slice” blanketed with parmesan, tomato sauce, and even more mozzarella. While they merge and bake in the oven, he slices and griddles half-inch discs of pork roll, each of which will be added to the pizza at the end and blessed with a triangle of American cheese.
Before the slice is carried out of the kitchen, the wheels are brushed with garlic butter for the finishing touch, because “everything tastes better with garlic butter…and it gives it that nice gloss for Instagram.”
The megaslice emerges gloriously greasy, though not quite as hefty as one might expect thanks to the thin crust. It’s not just a novelty, either – it delivers the signature flavors of a pork roll and cheese sandwich with, arguably, a better mechanism for delivery. The giant slab of pizza is there to catch every morsel of porky and cheesy goodness, unlike a hard breakfast roll. Those who manage to muscle through the 24” inches of porky pizza perfection are rewarded at the end with perfectly executed pinwheels of pepperoni rolls, ensuring that you’ll leave table completely satisfied and totally stuffed.
Today, the Taylor Ham & Cheese megaslice is one of Joe’s Rotisseria’s best sellers, along with the Triple Threat, a menacing mashup of a calzone, pizza pie, and garlic knots. Other smash hits include pizzas with jerk chicken, shrimp parm, and fried mac & cheese, and half or whole rotisserie chickens (in case you forgot that this is also a rotisseria.)
The permutations of pizza at Joe’s Rotisseria are innumerable, especially since orders can be fully customized when ordering on Slice. The menu is still growing, too. Brignioni’s team posts every new invention on Instagram and, if it’s on the ‘gram, you can have it on your plate.
“That’s my rule,” the rule-breaking chef said. “Show us any picture you want, and we’ll make it for you.”