Giants get special pizza delivery -- from LI

The staff at Umberto's Pizzeria in New Hyde Park got up early on Friday to prepare the Giants' favorite pies, which got an official escort to LaGuardia Airport before departing for Indianapolis, where the players were hungry to continue their weekly tradition. Videojournalists: Jim Staubitser and Mario Gonzalez (Feb. 3, 2012)

INDIANAPOLIS - INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Giants lose Sunday, don't blame the pizza guy: He delivered, all the way from Long Island.

Umberto's Pizzeria and Restaurant rushed a shipment of 20 fresh-baked pies Friday from the New Hyde Park eatery to the Giants practice facility here.

Gaetano Corteo, a manager and son of founder Umberto Corteo, personally escorted the pies, which were loaded into overhead bins on Delta Flight 8795.

Players have grown accustomed to pregame slices from Umberto's and wanted some on hand when they finished their Friday morning practice for Sunday's Super Bowl.

Corteo, 34, who lives in Franklin Square, left the restaurant shortly after 8 a.m. in a black unmarked car provided by the Nassau County Sheriff's Department. The car made it to LaGuardia Airport during rush hour with the help of two deputy sheriffs on motorcycles.

In Indianapolis, Corteo and the pies were picked up by Rich Salgado, a Franklin Square insurance company owner who is credited with starting the Giants' pizza ritual.

Five years ago, Salgado brought one of his clients, then-Giant Michael Strahan, to Umberto's. Strahan was impressed.

"Umberto makes an incredible pizza," recalled Strahan, now a television football commentator.

"Big Daddy, Rich Salgado, would bring them in on Fridays for me and next thing you know, these big, fat offensive linemen are eating my pizza, and equipment guys are eating my pizza and everybody is eating my pizza," Strahan said Thursday in Indianapolis.

"We were winning when he did it, and it was like: 'Hey! We won! So let's keep on bringing those pizzas down,' " Strahan said.

Salgado said offensive linemen Chris Snee and David Diehl currently oversee the distribution of slices to players.

There's one major rule.

"If you don't have it at the beginning of the year, you don't get it at the end," Salgado said. "It's a superstition thing. They don't want to break habits."

After Friday's pizza delivery, Corteo didn't head straight home. He got a game ticket from Salgado.

"First Super Bowl," Corteo said. "It's a dream come true."

Postscript. Did the Giants have special pizza delivery in Arizona in 2008 before they defeated the Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII?

"No, didn't have to," Strahan said. "We were filled up on them from the week before."

With Neil Best

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