Long Island’s Oldest Pizzerias

By Arthur Bovino
June 6, 2018

I do this to myself all the time, have a project that I’m working on that sends me down a rabbit hole (pizza rabbit hole? pizza hole? black pizza hole? pizza whirpool? pizza spiral?) that’s related, tangential, not what I should be spending my time on, but too interesting to let go. In this case, I’ve been left wondering about the oldest pizzerias in Long Island. What are they?

How has this not been a topic that’s been definitively resolved? If it has, I can’t find it online. Considering the proximity to Pizza City, the number of Italian-Americans who have lived there over the decades and the strong pizza culture that exists, you’d think someone would have asked and tried to answer this question. According to the Census, of the 2,832,882 residents of Long Island living there today, 669,639 of them are Italian-American. That’s nearly 25 percent!

According to Stony Brook University’s Long Island History Journal, “By 1930, Italian immigrants had flourishing populations in Port Washington, Glen Cove, Patchogue, and many smaller, recently formed neighborhoods, like San Remo, on Riviera Drive in Kings Park, or Marconiville, a small ethnic enclave in Copiague.”

Those were good locations to start looking. And look I did, noting Long Island’s most famous spots as I went (fair to say those would be what, Umberto’s for grandma pies, Eddie’s for bar pies, Gino’s, and Little Vincent’s for the cold cheese slice?). While far from definitive, here’s a timeline of some of the area’s most well-known pizzerias and, toward the bottom of the list (let’s say the Original Umberto’s on down), a stab at naming some of the oldest. It omits all pizzerias in Brooklyn and Queens, which, while technically Long Island, don’t count for the purposes of this game—Nassau and Suffolk counties only. Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with Long Island’s best pizzerias (though a few of my favorites are there).

Funny, I grew up going to Umberto’s (grandpa John Tortorello’s favorite place) and Borrelli’s, though most frequently there for their manicotti.

If you have any suggestions for places that should be added to the list, please hit me up at pizza@best-pizza.nyc (Erica Marcus, I’m looking at you!). — 🍕🤠

1980 Sal’s Pizza (Sayville)
1980 Emilio’s (Commack)
1980 Carlo’s Pizza Oven (Port Jefferson)
1979 Piccolo (Bellmore)
1976 Prince Umberto (Franklin Square)
1976 Mamma Lombardi’s Restaurant (Holbrook)
1976 King Umberto (Elmont)
1974 La Scala (Commack)
1974 Aegean Pizza & Italian Restaurant (Holbrook)
1974 Ancona Pizzeria & Heroes (Valley Stream)
1971 Little Vincent’s (Ronkhonoma)
1970 Baby Moon (Westhampton Beach)**
1969 Mario’s Pizzeria (Oyster Bay)
1965 Original Umberto’s (New Hyde Park)
1965 Agnoletto (New Hyde Park)
1962 Gino’s of Long Beach (Long Beach)
1958 Pizza Supreme (Garden City)
1957 Albert’s Pizza (Copiague)*
1955 Borrelli’s (East Meadow)
1947 Sam’s Bar & Restaurant (East Hampton)
1931 Eddie’s (New Hyde Park)

*Shoutout to Porter Francis
**Credit Matthew Hyland of Emily Pizza

Can You Take Pizza on a Plane? The TSA Says, “#PieCanFly”

By Arthur Bovino
March 7, 2018

No hot dogs, no hamburgers, no tacos. No bagels, barbecue, fried chicken. None of those foods are currently listed on the Transportation Security Administration’s list of vital vittles approved to go through airport security. That’s not to say that burgers and the like aren’t allowed, but they aren’t officially sanctioned foods. List or not, ultimately, “The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.” But it can only help to be on the official list. So good news cheese and crust lovers asking the question, “Can you take pizza on a plane,” according to the TSA’s National Press Secretary Matt Leas, “The TSA is pro pizza.”

If you’re curious about other foods you can take on board, include the following: baby food; formula; bread; candy; canned food; cereal; solid cheese; chocolate; coffee beans; cookies; crackers; dried fruits; fresh eggs; cooked and fresh meat, seafood, and vegetables; whole fruits and berries; nuts; pies; sandwiches, and spices.

If the amount is less than 3.4 oz (0.42 cups), the TSA’s list includes: creamy cheese, liquid chocolate, creamy dips and spreads, gravy, honey, hummus, jam and jelly, juices, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, peanut butter, salad dressings, salsa and sauces, soups, and yogurt.

Continue reading “Can You Take Pizza on a Plane? The TSA Says, “#PieCanFly””

New York’s Newest Pizza Creation? Wait for Dessert

By Arthur Bovino
March 1, 2018

Chocolate pizza. No, not a hard chocolate disc or round of pizza dough slathered with syrup or spread with melted chocolate, but a dough made with chocolate, that rises and bakes similarly to a conventional New York City pie. It’s the newest creation of Sofia Pizza Shoppe, the pizzeria that last year, introduced New Yorkers to the $38 dollar, 12-hour risen pizza creation, the Doughdici.

In the annals of dessert pizza, the modern classic has to be the Nutella pie. Typically made at Neapolitan pizzerias and topped with bananas or strawberries, Nutella pizza still thrills tourists and the less jaded. Grimaldi’sRizzo’s, Adoro Lei, SottocasaSan Matteo Pizza, Antika, Olio e PiúKesté, GnoccoSong E NapuleLuzzo’s, and Sorbillo are a handful of New York spots all serving pies topped with the palm oil-hazelnut spread.

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The Week in Pizza: Pizza Bowls, MREs, and The Barefoot Contessa

By Arthur Bovino
February 23, 2018

Olive Garden, Determined to Overfeed America, Unleashes Meatball-Stuffed ‘Pizza Bowl’ — Sigh.

Michiganders Can Order the World’s Largest Pizza Delivered to Their Doorsteps — The hed is deceiving; it’s actually supposedly the world’s largest deliverable pizza. Mallie’s Sports Grill & Bar in Southgate, Michigan makes their six-foot by six-foot, 100-pound pie in a convection oven they made out of a shipping container. It takes two hours to cook. That a lot of center slices. Just saying.

Pizza MREs On the Way to Troops by Next Year — “The military is preparing to produce Meals, Ready to Eat pizzas that are engineered to stay fresh for three years in a pouch.” Continue reading “The Week in Pizza: Pizza Bowls, MREs, and The Barefoot Contessa”

200 Essential Pizzerias From Pizza: A Slice Of Heaven

By Arthur Bovino
February 15, 2018

If you’re serious about pizza, chances are, at one point, you picked up Ed Levine’s Pizza: A Slice of Heaven. It was probably the first, or at least, one of the first  serious books about the best pizzas in America. I’ve read my yellow Post-it-filled copy cover to cover at least three times (the binding is giving out).

Some of its information is dated, natural since it was published in 2005. By the time I got there, Maffei in Chelsea was a shadow of what it must have once been. Is New Haven’s Brü Room really bar pizza or just New Haven-style pizza being served in a bar? Would anybody call Todd English’s pizza “consistently good” anymore? Still, while legions of pizzerias Neapolitan, VPN, and otherwise have opened in the decade since, its reporting on old-school places mostly stands the test of time.

While I have and enjoy Daniel Young’s guide Where to Eat Pizza, which lists more than 1,700 pizzerias around the world (full disclosure: I’m one of the 1,000 experts quoted), there’s only so much context and history that can fit in a tome that dense. I usually crave a more background on the places.

I’m the kind of guy who creates spreadsheets and Google Maps of places “to do.” I have one such sheet for George Motz’s must-eat burgers from Hamburger America so I can check its famous burgers off my list (who are we kidding, I check before I go). But sheets can be a pain, and sometimes, I just wish I had a list I could search in Google.

“Some of the the book’s information is dated but the reporting on the old-school places mostly stands the test of time.”

Ed excerpted many of the write-ups from the book on Serious Eats years ago (you can find them using Serious Eats’ tag, Pizza: A Slice of Heaven), and you can  still find that reporting online. But I’ve never found a full list of the places Slice of Heaven featured.

So it is that minus three pages of the world’s VPN pizzerias (80) that existed in 2005 (how that number has grown), I’m listing every pizzeria Ed or one of his guest essayists singled out. The pizzerias are cross-referenced a few times, so it can be confusing to count, but by my estimate there are about 213 pizzerias. Let’s call it 200. At last count, including the 46 pizzerias that have since closed, I’ve been to 56, just about half the remaining places in the book.

I hit more every year, and so turn to the book less to supplement my personal to-do list formed by the best pizza lists I read (and have written). But I have still used it occasionally as a supplemental checklist. And I’ve met enough other pizza fanatics like me who might just find this a helpful way to check off some of the country’s (and the world’s) most destination-worthy places for themselves.

So here they are!

— 🍕🤠

Continue reading “200 Essential Pizzerias From Pizza: A Slice Of Heaven”

Bocce Club Pizza to Open New Downtown Buffalo Location

By Arthur Bovino
February 8, 2018

Bocce Club Pizza is probably the most iconic pizzeria in Buffalo. Some folks might debate that and call out La Nova. It’d be a clean fight—above the belt. Regardless, The Buffalo News reported some big Bocce-related news. Food Editor Andrew Galarneau notes that owner Jim Pacciotti is reopening on the corner of Clinton and Adams where Bocce once served Buffalo for half a century.

Bocce got its start on Hickory Street in 1946 after Dino Pacciotti returned from World War II. The business was a members-only bocce ball court. (“You needed a membership to come in,” his son Jim Pacciotti told me. “You had your card, you played some bocce, and had a meal.”) Dino, a bartender, bought Bocce and decided to start making pizza. “The other bartenders thought he was crazy,” Jim told me last year, “but he found a Blodgett oven in the basement and started experimenting with a recipe.”

The Hickory location closed in 1958. “People were skipping out on mass for pizza and liquor and the priest wasn’t happy about it,”  Jim told me. They opened a new location on Clinton Street the same year, and followed that in 1959, with a new location on Bailey in the town of Amherst on the outskirts of the city. The Bailey location, owned by Jim, has gone on to become one of the most beloved pizzerias in Western New York, but the Clinton Street spot closed in 2011 after its operator, Rudy Sacco died. By all accounts, Rudy must have been quite the character. Jim told me Rudy, his cousin, used to carry two guns.

Jim Pacciotti is reopening Bocce Club Pizza on the corner of Clinton and Adams where Bocce once served Buffalo for half a century.

Pacciotti told The News that he bought the building at 630 Clinton Street five years ago. “I’m using the bones of the building, which are good,” he was reported saying. “There’s lots of work to do.”

The idea that a new Bocce will be opening in an original Bocce location a five-minute drive east of downtown Buffalo is another sign that the city is on the rise. But by all indications, it still may be some time before it opens. When I talked with Jim in February 2017, he told me they were hoping to open a downtown location in July or August. This is that same location, and the goal now is three to nine months.

Whenever it opens, it will be a significant date to add to a list of other important milestones in Bocce’s history. — 🍕🤠

1942 Dino Pacciotti goes off to war.
1945 When he gets back, Dino works part-time for Bocce Club and gets a job at General Mills as an accountant.
1946 Dino Pacciotti and his sister Melvina Sacco purchase the Bocce Club and start developing pizza.
1955 Dino Pacciotti takes a risk and quits a job at General Mills to work full-time at Bocce
1958 The Hickory Street Bocce closes and the Clinton Bocce opens.
1959 The Bailey Avenue Bocce location opens.
1959 The Bailey Avenue Bocce location opens.
1978 Dino Pacciotti dies. The Pacciotti family continues to run the Bailey location. The Sacco family runs the Clinton Street spot.
1983 The Bailey store remodels with wood front
1988 The Pacciotti family opens a Bocce location on Hopkins Road.
1996 Bocce Club Pizza turns 50 years old.
2009 Bocce celebrates 50 years on Bailey Avenue with a new stucco facade.

Bocce Club Pizza (Downtown)
630 Clinton Street

All the Pizza Places in the East Village

By Arthur Bovino
January 30, 2018

How many pizzerias are there in the East Village? If you Google “East Village Pizza” the results are fragmented into the several pages we’ve all become familiar with and not quite been satisfied by (Google, why do some places always seem to be missing?). Then you have Yelp, whose results are paid for, er… just patently absurd (Lombardi’s and Prince Street Pizza are both in Nolita, and not so fast, &pizza). Using Houston to 14th Streets as the south-north boundaries and the East River to the Bowery as the east-west limits, doing a block by block survey on Google images and street maps, the answer seems to be 37.

That number is a little fuzzy. A few places (Emily and Joe & Pat’s) haven’t opened yet and a few places aren’t technically pizzerias but do serve pizza. That 37 also doesn’t include Domino’s, which is its own animal. Pie by the Pound and Artichoke technically aren’t in the East Village. The former is on the other side of the hood’s western boundary (4th Avenue). And since Artichoke moved to its new location across 14th Street, it joins the jumble of neighborhoods (Gramercy Park, Stuyvesant Square, and Stuyvesant Town) north of the East Village and Alphabet City.

How many pizzerias are there in the East Village?

Forgoing all questions of quality, this total should be pretty close. Are there any missing? Are there any omitted East Village restaurants serving pizza? Check out the list and the map below and please shout if something obvious hasn’t been included.

Solo Pizza NYC
Gruppo Thin Crust
Tramonti Pizza
F & M Slice Pizza
Baker’s Pizza
East Village Pizza
Proto’s Pizza
Joe’s Pizza
99 Pizza
99 Cents Fresh Pizza
Luzzo’s La Pizza Napoletana
Muzzarella Pizza
2 Bros Pizza
Gotham Pizza
Three of Cups
Little Gio’s Pizza
Lil’ Frankie’s
Vinny Vincenz Pizza
Bruno Pizza
Numero 28 Pizzeria
Baker’s Pizza
Johnny Favorites Pizzeria
Yankee Pizza
Stromboli Pizza
Two Boots
FDR 99¢ Slice Pizza
Double Zero
Ray’s Pizza & Bagel Cafe
Eleven B
Joe & Pat’s

— 🍕🤠

What Is the Catalan “Pizza” Called Coca?

By Arthur Bovino
January 20, 2018

When the Adrià brothers are involved, you never know what bite to expect next. But when it comes to one upcoming project of these two world famous modernist chefs, a food hall in the Hudson Yards, there are hints. Albert told Eater they plan it to be their “homage to the Spanish cuisine” and that there would be “three restaurants and smaller places to taste Spanish specialties, mostly tapas.” In addition to tapas and jamon bars, and a tortilla stand, some pizzaphiles may have been intrigued to hear Adrià say it will also serve coca, “the mostly unknown Spanish pizza, which we intend to put on the world’s food map.”

So what is coca?

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The 10 Commandments of Pizza

By Arthur Bovino
January 10, 2018

It’s a wonder what you can find when you crack open a book.

I keep a modest pizza reference library. And I’ve probably read half of the books cover to cover. I find something fun or learn something whenever researching some aspect of pizza I’m currently writing about (or eating). So it was while perusing the some 90 recipes in Tony Gemignani’s Pizza Bible, that I came across his 10 Commandments of Pizza.

If you’re unfamiliar with Tony, he’s a 12-time World Pizza Champion and chef-owner of more restaurants than I can ever keep track of. Count among them Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (San Francisco), Capo’s (San Francisco), Pizza Rock (Vegas, Sacramento), Little Tony’s (Vegas), Tony’s Coal Fire (San Francisco), and Slice House (San Francisco, Las Vegas), which you can read more about in this interview with Tony from early 2017.

The Pizza Bible doesn’t feature a recipe for every regional American pizza style, but it does cover New York, New Jersey, New Haven, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and California (not to mention regional Italian pies and those from other parts of the world). And tucked in there between cleaning your pizza stone and Tony’s master dough on page 39 are Tony’s “10 Commandments of Pizza.”

“Hey, it’s the pizza bible, right?” Tony asks. “So here are my sacred laws.”

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10 Best Pizzas of 2017

By Arthur Bovino
January 5, 2018

One hundred and eleven places — by my count, that’s how many I hit during 2017, mostly in New York’s five boroughs and Buffalo (where I was doing research on the best wings, beef on weck, and pizza), but also in New Jersey, Maryland, and Texas (Dallas and San Antonio). And while eating pizza once every three-and-a-half days will probably keep the dues paid as far as maintaining my pizza cowboy bona fides, it has made it challenging to narrow down a list of just the top 10.

So I’ll make it a little easier by not including for consideration the 33 places I’ve previously visited, some of which I hit several times in 2017. That leaves 78 places to whittle down. It was still tough, one reason being the dozens of Buffalo pizzerias I visited. They totally skewed this list by taking half its spots. One of them would undoubtedly have been king of the hill if it hadn’t been for one truly inimitable pie. (In fact, Buffalo pizza deserves its own best-of list, so look for it in June in my upcoming book “Buffalo Everything”!)

Before listing the top 10, here are a dozen pies that deserve honorable mention. Leonardi’s Pizzeria for a straight-up delicious parking lot meal-worthy cup-and-char pizza; Emilio’s of Morris Park for their chicken vodka slice; Rosario’s of Astoria, which I was turned on to by and visited with Adam KubanVIPizza in Bayside, Queens, for its exemplary Sicilian; The Parlor in Dobb’s Ferry, N.Y., for its bone marrow, everything bagel, and lemon pizzas; Lou Malnati’s, whose Toro pop-up made me grudgingly admit there may be room for love in my heart for this style of pizza; Delorenzo’s in Robbinsville for its tomato pie; Pizza Town USA in Elmwood Park, N.J., for its super thin plain cheese slice; Johnny’s Pizzeria in Sunset Park, Queens, for its old-school New York City slice; Vic’s in NoHo, for one of the most right-under-my-nose good pizzas in recent memory; Federici’s of Freehold, N.J., for its storied bar pizzas (hat tip to Adam again for this rec); and Anthony Falco’s Thin ‘n’ Crispy bar pizza served at a packed pop-up at Hair of the Dog on the Lower East Side.

I could go on. But with that…

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