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New Jersey is all about its pizzerias, but there’s a new Central Jersey spot that’s taking its crust to a whole new level.

Panko Pizza in Middletown serves pizza with a panko-coated crust that makes it extra crunchy. The homemade pizza dough is coated in olive oil and then dipped in the Japanese breadcrumbs, topped with a sweet tomato sauce pre-cooked with garlic and onions, and finished off with chunks of mozzarella and sprinkles of Pecorino Romano. It’s an epic flavor combo with lots of crunch.

The price is another plus. A large round panko pie is $9.99, and a Sicilian (square) is $12.99.

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Owner Francis Garcia is a fourth-generation pizzaiolo who is responsible for New York’s famous Artichoke Basille’s Pizza (which has locations in Hoboken, Jersey City and New Brunswick) and Lions, Tigers and Squares in NYC. His mother’s restaurant was the famed Basille’s in Staten Island from the 1980s, which later moved to Freehold Borough. Panko Pizza took over the space occupied by Basille’s Middletown.

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Panko Pizza is the only one of his locations – and the only pizzeria we know about – that uses panko in not only its pizza crust but also in its fried calzones and freshly baked loaves of Italian bread.

“Making pizza is in my blood and bringing something new into the competitive pizza industry is an exciting opportunity to continue the legacy my family started,” Garcia told New Jersey Family. “We’ve found that after a couple of hours, pizza crusts can lose their crunch or even get soggy, and we wanted to find a solution that not only adds crispness but an amazing texture to the pizza. After lots of trial and error, we found that the panko sears really nicely and creates a great pizza that you can’t find anywhere else.”

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Don’t leave here without trying a fried calzone. They are gigantic and filled with creamy Impastata ricotta (typically what’s used for cannoli cream), mozzarella, provolone and Pecorino Romano and will take you back to the days of visiting an Italian street fair with Nonna.

Panko Pizza is located at 1104 Rte. 35 in Middletown. The pizzeria is open 7 days a week from 12-9 pm for dine-in or takeout.  You can also try Artichoke Basille’s Pizza via Goldbelly.

Check our Instagram page for a giveaway contest for a $100 gift card to Panko Pizza in honor of National Pizza Pie Day.

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