Ask Dr. Barb
More fun
Comment or question?
Print editions

Massa Pizza brings authentic taste of Italy to Scotch Plains 

Marco Massaro at Massa Roman Square Pizza in Scotch PlainsTucked between a hobby store and a health shop on Park Ave. in Scotch Plains, there is a little taste of Rome.

Marco Massaro paces himself to rock music in Italian, pressing soft dough into huge oblong pans.

Some are drizzled with rich, green extra virgin olive oil. Others are spread with a marinara of intensely flavored San Marzano tomatoes. For his Massa Square Roman Pizza, Massaro has prepared toppings of mushrooms, artichokes, broccoli rabe, fresh cherry tomatoes, roasted eggplant and roasted zucchini.

There is no pepperoni. Instead, he’s sliced imported prosciutto di Parma, prosciutto cotto, pancetta and soppressata. The sausage, and the porchetta used in one sandwich, are from a local butcher, originally from Ariccia, a suburb of Rome. Shavings of Italian Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese are sometimes used, but every Massa pie has fresh mozzarella from Lioni Latticini, the Union-based winner of coveted national and world-wide awards for its Italian cheeses.

The cheeses and toppings are layered onto pans of dough that will bake with a crisp bottom and a light, airy interior. This dough, for pizzas easily the size of two round pies, is made with a mix of flours, using a method developed in Rome by chef Angelo Iezzi, under whom Massaro studied.

“The dough is 80 percent water, with three days of fermentation,” Massaro says. “That’s why it is so light.” With its unique crust and prepared toppings, Massa pizza is a hybrid of Roman and Neapolitan pizzas, which Massaro also returned to Italy to learn to make authentically before deciding on the more complex Roman-style crust. The slow-rising dough also makes focaccia, served with Massa’s salads and used for their panini.

Light, airy focaccia results from a 72-hour rise. The same dough is used for Massa's pizza crust. Selections of Italian cheeses and cured meats (salumi) with accompaniments are served on wooden boards, as are sandwiches and slices. “Massa” was Massaro’s nickname growing up, and his pizzeria, deli and store serve as a gallery for the food art of a man who left Milan for love but still holds Italy in his heart and on his palate.

In 2013, he came to America to marry a beautiful Jersey girl with Italian roots whom he had met in Italy and fallen for 10 years earlier. Jennifer Collins had traveled to Italy with her best friend from high school, and Marco was her friend’s handsome cousin, a tall, soft- spoken soccer player. Both were instantly smitten.

“She learned Italian for me,” Massaro said. With an ocean between them, they kept in touch as friends over the years, exchanging emails in Italian. She would occasionally return to Italy.

When fate brought them together again, they chose New Jersey over Milan. They now live in Cranford with their 4-year-old son, Matteo.

Studying Roman pizza-making in Italy and returning to the U.S. to make it authentically became a passion project that helped her husband cope with his longing for the true flavors of Italy, Jennifer Massaro says.

Around Massa’s dining area, decorated in white, black and gray, he has stocked packaged pastas, olive oils, sauces, candies and other imported foods. They bring the feel of a market in Italy. There is a commercial-size La Spaziale machine to make espresso. Jennifer selected complementary artwork.

“We wanted to show images of Rome that were different, more of an insider’s glance versus the standard photos you see.” Everything is a backdrop for the pizza.

“We use quality ingredients, so we don’t have to hide anything,” she says. “We try to let the food speak for itself.” In the Firenze panino (“panini” is plural, “panino” is singular), fresh mozzarella melts into Italian ham, layered with tomatoes and artichokes. The Friarelli pizza has become a mainstay. Here, broccoli rabe mingles with mozzarella, Pecorino cheese and the previously mentioned Italian sausage.

An array of slices at Massa Square Roman Pizza in Scotch Plains.A feww of the menu items from Massa Pizza in Scotch Plains.“It sells so well for us that we are not going to take it off the menu,” Jennifer says. “We still have a lot of people coming in the door for the first time, so the core menu is what we know customers like.”

Specials will periodically introduce combinations highlighting seasonal ingredients. “We have had people say the pizza transports them back to Italy or to their mother’s kitchen table,” she says. “We hope to be able to share Massa with the masses for years to come. There’s so much heart driving the business forward, we hope our customers can quite literally taste it.”

Massa Roman Square Pizza: 405A Park Ave., Scotch Plains, NJ. (908) 312-9499


Free smartphone photo workshop at Morristown National Historical Park

A great photo can be made by those who learn to "see" differently. How to take better photos with your smartphone will be the focus of a free Oct. 5 workshop at Morristown Historical Park.

Participants, who may also bring point-and-shoot and other cameras, will take an exclusive photo tour of the Ford Mansion, one of three Revolutionary War sites at this United States national historical park, also the site of Jockey Hollow and Fort Nonsense.

“The Art of Phoneography” workshop will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It includes instruction by photographer and author Xiomaro, who was commissioned to create a photographic exhibit and booklet on the Ford Mansion, which served as George Washington’s headquarters during the war.

The fact that smartphones are often on hand and easy to use has resulted in an abundance of shared photos, says Xiomaro (pronounced “SEE-oh-MAH-ro”).

“Almost 100 million photos are posted to Instagram alone -– every day,” he says. But convenience and ease aren't what make good photographs.

“The secret to better photographs is not in the camera, it’s in applying the principles of seeing used by artists for centuries,” he notes. His workshop will cover five key artistic principles, illustrated with slides of photographs and paintings.

Click to read more ...


Garden State Cat Expo & Show 2019 set for July 20 - 21 in Edison 

Hundreds of cats and their people will head to the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center on July 20 and 21 for the 83rd annual Garden State Cat Expo & Show.

Cats will show their best features to the judges, model designer gowns and demonstrate their agility at this fest of all things feline, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days at 97 Sunfield Ave. in Edison. Learn about 42 pedigreed cat breeds, shop for unique kitty gifts, get expert guidance on cat care, sit for cat-inspired face painting, or have a pet’s picture recreated as a caricature. Many homeless cats also will be available for adoption.

Those strolling the exhibit halls might think they’ve fallen into the rabbit hole. This year’s Cats in Wonderland theme is a spin on the beloved Lewis Carroll fantasy that will bring the Cheshire Cat and other characters in decorations, costumes and contests. 

Admission is $15, $12 for seniors and $8 for children under age 12. The $35 family rate admits up to five people (two adults max.) At, print a coupon for $1 off adult or senior admission. Bring cat food to help feed rescued cats.

The cat expo is the major fundraiser of the Garden State Cat Club, the registered not-for profit organization that produces the event annually to support its endeavors related to cat welfare, including donations to no-kill shelters and state rescue groups, including Angel Paws in Colonia and Cause 4 Paws in Union County. 

Click to read more ...


Winterhill Antiques store closing sale in Scotch Plains (photos)

Love Chinoiserie? Here are just a few of the pieces available. Winterhill Antiques, a fixture on Park Avenue in Scotch Plains, will close its doors on July 27.

This closing, however, represents a move to a new shop in Morris County for owner Yola Chalabi. We're told the new location is in Chester. Photos show a more recently constructed shopping center with attractive, contrasting roof dormers. The shop, Grouse and Pearls, is being prepared to open in a few weeks.

Chalabi has owned Winterhill, formerly Country Cottage Antiques, since 2009. She also is known in the area for her antiques evaluation events held at the Fanwood Museum, at Fanwood's historic train station. 

Among the six other Winterhill dealers who will be clearing pieces from the two-level store at 425 Park Ave., some will relocate to or expand offerings at Summit Antiques Center, some are already working in estate and home inventory sales, some will venture into the antiques show circuit, and others were still exploring options.  

In the meantime, there is much to be found in the expansive showroom, including furniture (such as a classic Eames lounge chair and ottoman), chandeliers and lamps; period housewares; signed artwork (at least one piece by Peter Max), jewelry

Click to read more ...


Beautiful Kitchens by Paul: Makeover for Westfield family of seven

The making of a dream kitchen


A Westfield couple’s dream home involved carving space from their backyard for a 310-square-foot kitchen. The addition would make room for lots of storage, two dishwashers and a 13-foot-long island.

“I felt it was important to give them an island that can seat every member of their family,” said Paul Barreto, owner of Beautiful Kitchens by Paul. He worked with the couple to plan the new kitchen and its island that seats seven, including their five children.

The two-level island elevates casual dining for the large family. One side of the island’s leather-finished granite top steps down to the same height as the other counters, expanding food prep surfaces and making it possible for several family members to cook together comfortably.

Like the kitchen’s custom, American-made Wellborn cabinetry, the island is topped with dark titanium granite from Brazil. Paul designed the island with a two-level top. The elevated area is for casual dining, and the lower for food prep. He also converted the home’s original kitchen into an office, with desks built from the same cabinetry used in the kitchen.

Click to read more ...