The town of Bloomfield in Essex County is happening, with new residents attracted in part by its setting near Montclair, Newark and Manhattan.
Some are also drawn by the intriguing food culture on the rise. Chef Lawrence Talis has emerged as a leading Bloomfield tastemaker, with two in-demand, innovative restaurants, Blue Steel Pizza Co. (one of NJM’s favorite pizza joints) and 7 Doors Down Ramen Co. (so named because it’s seven doors down from Blue Steel). NJM talked to chef Lawrence about his approach to feeding his diners.
NJM: First, chef, more about you.
Chef Lawrence Talis: My parents emigrated from Russia to Brooklyn, where I spent my first few years, then we moved to Springfield. I went to Springfield High and worked in restaurants while wondering about a career. I started as a server, then host, then bartender. I worked in nice places like The Pluckemin Inn. My mentor, the chef of Danielle’s, an Italian bistro in Chatham, showed me the art involved in cooking. After that I went to the Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan and really got into being in the kitchen.
Why did you take on pizza and ramen?
Well, these foods are maybe Jersey’s two favorites. You want to eat great pizza and ramen every week, but how often do you find that? I wanted to open those places, plus provide a whole lot more.
A lot more in food, or ambiance, or what?
Both! We’re against boring. We have fun. Blue Steel is so much more than a pizza place with a broad menu. We have two floors with two bars including The Rabbit Hole, a speakeasy. And 7 Doors Down, which is BYO, is lightyears beyond a ramen joint.
What’s your novel approach to pizza?
New Jersey is where the great Neapolitan pizza is now. Everyone I know has a favorite place. I didn’t want to step into this competition, and anyway, I never do what everyone else is doing. I did a lot of thinking, tasting and planning and came up with Blue Steel’s food identity. The pizza we make is Detroit-style.
What’s Detroit pizza?
Detroit pizza is not a round pie but is baked in a rectangular, 8-inch-by-10-inch blue steel pan. The cheese is a mix of mozz and cheddar and is layered below, not above, the sauce. It has no crust, but the cheese oozes and bakes into a crispy “frico” around the edges. How Detroit pizza truly differs from Neapolitan or Sicilian pizza is the dough. It’s cold-fermented for three days and is closer to sourdough. It has real flavor and an airier texture.
What varieties of Detroit pizza does Blue Steel serve?
Around a dozen, with classic tomato sauce, vodka sauce, white pies, all composed with a lot of flavors. We like peppers and offbeat pestos. We make a duck-confit pie with Gorgonzola, pistachio, fig jam and more. It’s outrageous but it’s irresistible.
The pizza alone would probably float the Blue Steel boat. But your menu offers two dozen other dishes, plus dessert.
We want to give our diners a lot of choices. Burgers, salads, pastas. Cool appetizers like mushroom-peanut dandan noodles and onion-soup ravioli with short-rib filling. Entrees like steak frites and chicken with fried rice. We go way beyond pizza.
So what’s the take on ramen at 7 Doors Down?
My daily chef there, Luis Blasini-Sinchi, is Italian-Peruvian. His style is wildly multicultural. Our intent is to shake up Peruvian-Japanese Nikkei cuisine. The result is eccentric but delicious. Our ramen broth is made the traditional long-cooked way, with flavors that are deep and focused. It’s wonderful ramen.
It seems you step outside the lines with the rest of 7 Doors Down’s menu.
It’s all highly original dishes, very creative and playful. Wings with miso ranch dressing, kimchi fries, coconut shrimp bao buns—they’re as fun as they sound. Our mazemen dishes are brothless ramen. Yes, you can do that. It’s sort of Japanese pasta, and I love it.
I’m getting that you won’t find this kind of food elsewhere.
Only in Bloomfield.