If you’ve ever vacationed in Ocean City, NJ, you’ve probably at least heard of Mack and Manco pizza. Maybe you’ve skirted the lines that snake out the front of the store and clear across the boardwalk. Or, better yet, you’ve stood in the lines, ignoring the people making comments about your intelligence. Why wait in a line, they wonder, when there’s a perfectly good pizza place with no line only three doors down. Yeah, well, those people don’t have tastebuds. Mack and Manco’s is an institution, around since the 1950’s and it deserves every minute of waiting in line. The pizza is transcendent. I’ve only tasted pizza like this in one other place in the world: Rome, Italy.
This past weekend I took my two kids and one of their friends to Ocean City. The first stop was Mack and Manco where the line was even longer than usual. (My son’s friend appeared to question my intelligence but wisely, he said nothing). Eager to be seated as soon as possible, we took the less desirable counter seats and what an experience! Sitting in the booths doesn’t give you quite the same sense of bustling business as sitting at the counter. I watched in wonder as the small army of young men, all them slender with dark, cropped hair, wearing a retro uniform of white shirt and white shorts, hustled back and forth from tables to the kitchen calling out their orders. "One plain, two roni," they would yell. Or "One shroom seal" which I figured out to be a Sicilian pizza with mushrooms. There were exactly three men working in the open kitchen for the approximately eight servers. One man spun the dough, expertly flattening and spinning, mending holes with careful fingers. He passed his dough to a man standing next to him who added the toppings: sauce (the recipe of which must be guarded in a safe somewhere), ample amounts of cheese and any other toppings. A third man loaded pizzas into the pizza oven on one side, removing them from the other. The pizza oven boasted five levels of revolving trays, each of which could hold at least five pizzas.
During the thirty minutes that we sat there, wolfing down pizza and enjoying every bite of the thin, crispy crust, I never saw any of the guys take a break. They didn’t stop to chat, drink a soda, go to the bathroom. They were the Mack and Manco army at cheerful war with the ever growing line of tourists hoping for a seat and a few minutes to enjoy the best pizza on the east coast.