The Upper Crust: NJ's Own Coal House

Food And Dining

“The experience is what guests really remember ... We strive to make everyone feel comfortable and enjoy their visit.” – Anthony Abdy

In a world where pizza is often anything but authentic, The Coal House takes pride in doing it right. It all starts with a dough recipe perfected with time and care. Then, homemade, from-scratch ingredients are added—like fresh produce from the farmers’ market and soft mozzarella made in-house daily. But the hand-built coal-fired oven really seals the deal. Each pie slides off the pizza peel into 800-degree heat. Ninety seconds later, a stunning pie emerges—golden brown with a touch of savory char and bright red tomatoes punctuating melted mozzarella.

The Coal House is part of a unique tradition in the art of pizza-making that dates all the way back to 1905 when Lombardi's first opened its doors in Manhattan. Not many pizzerias still use a purely coal-fired oven, but The Coal House is committed to using this sought-after oven to achieve a superior pie. The signature of a pizza baked in a coal-fired oven is a crisp and airy thin crust—the lightest you’ll ever try. Furthermore, the speedy cooking time means all of the cheese and toppings melt and merge together seamlessly.

In 2010, former CBO (Coal Brick Oven) Owner Paul Ippolito joined forces with childhood friend Anthony Abdy and Dr. William Focazio—a well-respected doctor in the area—to open The Coal House in Point Pleasant Beach. Subsequently, an additional location opened in Sea Girt on Route 35 one year later. Ippolito’s history of pizza-making prowess is inspired by Lombardi’s and has spanned nearly three decades, making The Coal House a link in perhaps the longest standing chain of 100-percent coal-fired pizza in the state of New Jersey.

Ippolito attributes the tremendous success of The Coal House’s first location to one thing: authenticity. “We have a real hand-built coal-burning oven, and we use the perfect grade of coal to create the proper heat. You don’t find that in very many places these days,” he says.

That authenticity extends to the ingredients, too. You won’t find any cans, jars, or pre-packaged ingredients in the kitchen at The Coal House. They make all their own sauces, prep their own dough daily, craft and hand-stretch their own balls of mozzarella, and hand-pick their own greens from the farm itself.

The pies are authentic yet unique with simple, high-quality toppings. The Coal House Original tops the list for its classic combination of the housemade mozzarella and tomato sauce, Italian extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil. The Patti Pie, named for a customer, is also popular—adding fontina cheese, diced tomatoes, onions, and other fresh herbs to the mix.

Ippolito and The Coal House chefs have also invested a great deal of time into perfecting the whole wheat crust, which they proudly promise is indistinguishable from their other pies. And while The Coal House is clearly committed to authenticity, they are just as determined to accommodate all their guests. Thus, gluten-free crusts can be substituted in any pie, and vegetarian and vegan pies are also available.

Impeccable pizzas are at the heart of The Coal House menu, but the kitchen also serves fresh salads, housemade soups, hot panini sandwiches, and desserts—like the ever-popular ice cream-filled Cannoli. What’s more, the newest additions to the menu are generating buzz of their own. Where else can you get coal-fired Chicken Wings, tossed with lemon juice, garlic, and a special seasoning blend? And the Nutella Pie, artfully developed over months of tinkering, satisfies guests with a sweet note of strawberries and bananas smothered in a rich, creamy, chocolate hazelnut spread.

Comforting ingredients like this fit right in at the warm, welcoming restaurant, which became so popular that the trio opened the aforementioned second Coal House location in 2012 in Sea Girt, New Jersey—just a stone’s throw from well-known Sea Girt Square.

Both of the locations offer a true slice of Manhattan with a trendy SoHo vibe, designed and decorated by Debra Rose-Focazio for Thoughts & Guidance. Both restaurants are classically decorated with colored glass tile trim and wainscoting, cement floors, and striking metal sculptures hanging on the walls, all of which are painted sea foam green to match the ocean close by.

But at both of these upbeat locations, the open-air kitchen and coal-fired oven steal the show. Guests can watch as each dish comes together beautifully. Families with awestruck children sit at the pizza bar and marvel as the chefs toss spheres of dough into the air. Most importantly, the food that emerges from this impressive, entertaining kitchen is what keeps guests coming back for more.

The Coal House has mastered the achievement of a warm yet trendy ambience and, of course, the consistent creation of top-notch pies. But they are also true sticklers for great service. The owners, managers, and service team are eager to go out of their way for guests and ensure that every detail of the dining experience is flawless, making this an ideal spot for a relaxed family outing or a special date. Even business executives grace the dining room, grabbing a panini or a pizza for lunch. Both locations are also BYOB, which means guests can pair their own bottles of wine with dinner.

“People recognize that we’re doing things the right way here, and we always have,” Ippolito says. “We’re not pretentious about it—we just do it right. And our guests recognize that. That’s why we’ve been able to open two successful locations, and are looking forward to growing.”

This is what makes The Coal House such a destination. Sure, it boasts one of only a few genuine coal-fired ovens in the state, and yes, the pizzas are bona fide masterpieces, but that’s just the beginning of The Coal House’s sincere charm. It’s conveniently rooted in Sea Girt and Point Pleasant Beach, just 40 minutes from New York City and one hour from Atlantic City.

“The experience is what guests really remember,” Abdy says. “It’s like walking into a family meal. Everyone has a good time here—wherever you come from, whoever you are. We strive to make everyone feel comfortable and enjoy their visit.”

For a tasty bite of tradition—for pizza “the way it was”—The Coal House is the sure-fire, coal-fired place to go.