TJ’s Woodfire Pizza owner Tim Gonzales learned multiple pizza styles during his study at Tony Gemignani’s famous San Francisco International School of Pizza. Concentrating on thin Neapolitan, for almost 5 years he’s been O.C.’s mobile-pizza master, hauling his wood-fired oven to food truck meetups, farmers markets, and private events, perfecting the style. I’ve loved following TJ’s trajectory, and his quattro formaggi is my favorite pizza in Orange County—or anywhere, really. I always ask for extra char, and when available I add the optional Hatch chile that New Mexico-born Gonzales sometimes has as a semi-secret extra.
Now, TJ’s has put down roots, last week opening a restaurant in San Clemente right next door to Krikorian Cinemas. And pizza possibilities are increased. Deck ovens installed in the kitchen complement the wood oven right out front. The really big news, and I mean like-18-inches-in-diameter big, is the New York style pizza that Gonzales bakes in the new ovens. Exceptionally thin crust is cornmeal-dusted and topped judiciously with the same sort of quality ingredients we expect from TJ’s. So good! Last night my family tried a Brooklyn ($28): tomato sauce (Gonzales uses excellent Carmelina tomatoes exclusively), whole milk mozz, pepperoni, sausage, ricotta, pecorino romano, and Sicilian oregano. I love ricotta on pizza—it’s also on my favorite Neapolitan four-cheese ($13.25), which was as delicious as ever from the wood-fired oven.
Gonzales is also a craft-beer guy, and the new restaurant’s 16 taps fulfill a long-time dream of matching up craft brews with his handcrafted pizzas. And there’s more to match—in addition to the New York, square Sicilian has already joined the Neapolitan. Tim tells me Chicago cracker-thin is in the works, as is a sourdough crust. Another hush-hush special-to-come requires custom pan fabrication.
It feels kind of strange to be eating TJ’s pizza indoors. But we adjusted quickly—could get used to it, in fact. Mobile TJ’s remains, though: The wood-oven-pizzeria-on-wheels will still roll for big events and private bookings.