Let it never be said that Tom Grim and Stalin Bedon, owners of Nomad Pizza, haven’t set high standards.
“Our goal is to make the best pizza in the country,” Grim said. It was a long journey for Grim to think he had a shot at attaining that goal. The origins of the Nomad Pizza restaurant at 10 East Broad St. in Hopewell Borough were in a cookbook, of all places.
Until several years ago, Grim was working at the opposite end of the temperature spectrum as an owner of the Thomas Sweet ice cream shop in Princeton. He made his first pizza several years ago when he found a dough recipe in a cookbook. It made good bread, and a footnote said the dough could also be used for pizza. So he tried his hand at a pizza pie, and it turned out pretty good … but not perfect.
Soon he became obsessed with the art of pizza making. “I started doing a little research on pizza, and I realized you had to do it really hot. I put about 20 pounds of terra-cotta tiles in my oven.”
In an attempt to get his oven up to the requisite 800 degrees, Grim disabled the safety mechanism that prevents the oven from being opened while self-cleaning.
In the end, he destroyed the oven.
“I realized you have to have a wood-fired oven to really get it to 800 degrees. You can’t do it in a home oven. By the time I bought a wood-fired oven, I knew we were probably going to start a business.”
The plan became serious when friend and business partner Bedon bought a 1949 REO Speedwagon truck from Ebay. The truck was in great condition, and soon he and Grim were modifying it to be a mobile pizza stand complete with wood-fired oven, refrigerator and sink.
The Nomad Pizza wagon catered parties and gatherings. They served pizza to Gov. Jon S. Corzine and Donald Trump (he ate two Margarita pies.) But when Bedon was driving 15 miles per hour up a hill on the interstate, he realized the term “speedwagon” was a misnomer. After an upgraded engine, the wagon still isn’t very speedy, but it gets around better.
The whole time the catering business was running, Grim and Bedon had the intention of settling down into a permanent pizzeria.
They even took a field trip to Naples, Italy, where pizza was invented, to learn from the best pizza makers in the world.
They came back after ordering an oven from a local pizza maker who makes them for Naples restaurants. With the upgraded oven, Grim said, they will be able to produce superior pies.
In August, the Nomads settled down in their 60-seat restaurant (about 30 inside and 30 outside.) Grim and Bedon believe their big wood-fired oven, combined with their Neapolitan techniques and high-quality ingredients — (American dough, buffalo mozzarella imported from Italy, herbs from the garden outside and tomatoes from local organic farms) will allow them to make one of the best pizzas in the country.
Unlike most pizzerias, the emphasis is on dining in rather than delivery. They’re not going to stop you if you pick out your own toppings, but the menu includes several fixed pizza configurations, a salad, and that’s it. Grim said the idea is to do a few things well rather than try to serve a large complicated menu.
For more information, visit nomadpizza.com or call (609) 651-1974.