Ahh, mozzarella. It’s most famous as a pizza topping, but it’s delicious no matter how you have it. Cold and sliced with tomato and basil. Baked over chicken and red sauce. Of course, it’s a welcome addition to a prosciutto ‘sangwich,’ too. And in Hoboken, there’s even a festival devoted to it. (Mutzfest is a rite of passage for residents.)
Elsewhere in America — even across the Hudson — the cheese is referred to as “mahtz-arella.” But if you’re in Jersey, and most specifically in Hoboken, you know it’s mutz. And it’s our NJ vocabulary word of the week.
Mutz – Noun. Short for mozzarella.
Example: “I’m craving a sangwich with prosciutto, peppers and fresh Mutz.”
Mutz, as it is lovingly called, is as honored and revered in Jersey as is pork roll. And with good reason.
In an ode to the stuff, Time magazine once wrote, “There are things that you can miss for many years and not know it. Some that come to mind are great sex, true love, self-esteem and real mozzarella.“
We’re not talking about the bricks of hard cheese or string stuff you find in the supermarket. And although many a lunch box has benefited from the pull-apart stick, mutz is all about the soft, wet, fresh stuff.
Mutz vs. Mozz
Now that we have clarified that we are talking about mutz and not mozz, let’s explain why we call it mutz. Vito Buzzerio, owner of Vito’s Italian Deli, explains: “Hoboken had an influx of southern Italians. And they called it mutzarella, so to abbreviate, we call it ‘mutz’.” Basically, imagine an old Italian grandmother saying mozzarella with her Italian accent and go from there.
A Mutz-Visit Town
While New York has Arthur Avenue as a destination for Italian specialties, New Jersey has Hoboken. Drop into any deli and you’ll see salami, prosciutto, stuffed peppers, and, of course, balls of that delicious stuff: Mutz. In 2013, the city decided it was time to honor the cheesy goodness that made Hoboken a foodie destination. Eateries like Fiore’s, Vito’s, Fran’s, Lisa’s, Losurdo Brothers, Luca Brasi’s, Tony Boloney’s and Biancamano have long been praised for creating pillows of white heaven from cheese curds and hot water.
“Mozzarella in this town is very good,” said Buzzerio, who has owned the deli since 1986. And the festival puts a spotlight on it.
It’s not just about the eating at the Mutz Fest. It’s about finding the best mutz in town. Mutz-masters from all of the above-named venues regularly compete for the chance to earn the title of best mutz of the year. All the attendees get to taste and vote and participate in the rest of the day’s activities. The line up goes something like this:
Eating mozzarella, Frank Sinatra sing-along, signing up to volunteer to help Hoboken’s special-needs programming, eating mozzarella, eating cannolis, signing up for the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge, eating mozzarella, watching the Mutzfest Challenge, eating mozzarella.
“It’s a real family affair,” says Michael Angelo, an Edgewater resident who attends every year. “I come with my wife and kids and we all have different opinions on who makes the best mutz.”
Hoboken’s got the mutz year-round, and you can take advantage of the good weather — and Hoboken’s walkable size — to taste test the mutz at the delis. After all, why take someone else’s word for the best mutz in town when you can eat the good stuff yourself?
Improve your Garden State vernacular and learn the New Jersey lexicon with NJ Vocabulary: The Series.