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Comfort Food, Transplanted

New eateries bring authentic East Coast foods to the East Bay — finally.

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"I'm not saying that I won't ever have avocado here," he said with a grin. "But it probably won't go on someone's sandwich."

At the same time, Boyd doesn't mind taking a somewhat more refined approach to the comfort foods of his youth. He uses local and seasonal ingredients whenever he can. And he's willing to put his own creative twists on certain East Coast classics.

For instance, as Boyd explains, a stromboli is essentially a "a pizza without the sauce that's rolled up like a strudel." You bake it, cut it up, and serve it with a tomato dipping sauce — "basically, a glorified Hot Pocket," he jokes.

The classic stromboli on the menu at Scolari's has pepperoni, ham, salami, and mozzarella, and it's more or less what you could find at any pizzeria on the East Coast. But Boyd also offers another version, dubbed the "Whitey," whose ingredients include sautéed spinach and goat cheese, and which you'd probably never find in New Jersey. Sometimes he'll even put a vegan stromboli up on the specials board.

Whichever permutation you order, the stromboli at Scolari's has a surprisingly light crust thanks to a dough that's had a slow-cold rise of at least 48 hours — for the best texture and flavor, Boyd says. It's the same dough he uses for his pizza, an off-the-menu item he sells by the slice whenever he has a chance to make it.

Scolari's also has a "crispy hot dog" on the menu, a version of the deep-fried hot dog (or "ripper") that's served at a popular North Jersey eatery. Again, Boyd ups the ante by using a more natural, sausage-like dog instead of a traditional commercial wiener.

Boyd says he's been surprised to see just how many people from New Jersey are living in the Bay Area — and while his rotating list of specials at Scolari's also has Latin, Asian, and Middle-Eastern influences, for these folks, anyway, it's all about the East Coast diner grub.

As Boyd put it, "It's pretty easy to tell when someone's from New Jersey or the East Coast because the first thing that comes out of their mouth when they see Taylor Ham on the menu is, 'Holy shit!' It's like it brings out the Jersey in them."

Taylor Ham (aka pork roll), Boyd explains, is a kind of cross between Spam and Canadian bacon, and pretty much every deli or bagel shop in New Jersey will offer a Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese sandwich — otherwise known as the "Jersey breakfast" — as its standard breakfast sandwich.

Served on the same challah buns Boyd ships in from the East Coast for his burgers, this is as good a breakfast sandwich as you can find in the Bay Area: compact, perfectly balanced, and satisfyingly savory. The ham itself, which of course is made in New Jersey, is deeply smoky, with nice crisp edges after being grilled on the flat-top.

Boyd explains that when you order one of these sandwiches in New Jersey, they'll typically ask you if you want "salt, pepper, ketchup" on it. The poor newbs who have grown up in the Bay Area are inevitably confused when they're first asked that at Scolari's, perhaps wondering what kind of special condiment "salt-pepper ketchup" might be.

But someone from Jersey? How, according to Boyd, might they respond to that question?

"Fuck yeah!"

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