What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago I compiled my first list of Long Island pizzas worth driving for and, with the exception of a few coal-oven pizzerias (Salvatore’s in Port Washington is the only one still on the list), the prevailing style was that of Naples, Italy — puffy-rimmed 12-inch “personal” pies baked in a wood-burning oven.
Back then, most serious local pizza makers looked to the traditions of the old country to make their mark. In 2022, pizza Napoletana is still rocking the Island, but exciting new styles have also come to the fore: Large-format Roman-style pies, cut into square slices, have appeared, as have (somewhat improbably) chewy, cheese-crusted deep-dish pizzas from Detroit.
The newest style to hit Long Island is a throwback to the pizza we all grew up with, the classic eight-slice New York pie enjoyed as frequently by the reheated slice as the fresh whole. In the past, that pie was all too often a lowest-common-denominator crowd pleaser, distinguished more by the abundance and novelty of its toppings than by the quality of the dough beneath them. But now, inspired by their own legacies as well as by such “neo New York” places as Corner Slice in Manhattan and L’industrie in Brooklyn, our homegrown pizzaioli are lavishing as much attention and finesse on their “large pie with sausage” as on any pizza quattro stagione.
All of this means that Long Island is enjoying a bona fide pizza renaissance. At 19 places, this list is larger than it has ever been, and if you don’t think a great pie is worth a drive — though, really, what better reason is there for a drive?— there is certainly one that is close to you. Buon appetito!
1653 Pizza Company
(80 Gerard St., Huntington):Michael Viglotti, a maestro of the wood fire, learned how to work with a new fuel when he and partner Frank Antonetti took over this coal-oven pizzeria's spot last year. His pie has the light, puffy rim of a classic Neapolitan pie but a sturdier crust, the better to handle such harmonious toppings as mozzarella, stracciatella, pistachio pesto and mortadella or vodka sauce, Calabrian chili and housemade bacon jam. His unorthodox clam pie — involving a clam-infused cream, lemon zest and pickled banana peppers — is a triumph. There’s lots more than pizza on the menu, plus swank décor, craft cocktails and an inventive wine list. More info: 631-824-6070, 1653pizzaco.com
(61 Main St., Westhampton Beach): Tiny Brunetti kicked off Long Island’s neo-Neapolitan pizza trend in 2010 when it opened in the back of a Häagen-Dazs shop. Last year it expanded into a proper restaurant with tables, chairs and a full menu but its soul is still the wood-burning oven. The Margherita remains a classic whose lily might be gilded with "Mary’s meatballs" and ricotta. White pies include the "Funghi e Cipolle," with shiitakes, caramelized onions, goat cheese and thyme. Tomato-less and (mercifully) cheese-less is Brunetti’s signature "Vongole," a refined marriage of crust, clam, garlic, parsley and little else. More info: 631-288-3003, brunettipizzahamptons.com
Charred Brick Oven
(3915 Merrick Rd., Seaford): Since owner Greg Garofalo installed a wood-burning oven between the bar and dining room, the tables up front offer an unobstructed view of the pizzaioli at work. The Margherita is textbook Neapolitan, with its puffy, leopard-spotted crust. For sheer overindulgence, get the mortadella pie wherein slices of the imported sausage are draped over a white pie then lavished with stracciatella cheese, chopped pistachios, arugula and pistachio cream. More info: 516-586-8617, charredbrickoven.com
Chef Gigi’s Place
(970 Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square): When Italian chef Pierligui "Gigi" Sacchetti took over the original Naples Street Food in 2021, he changed the name and added dozens of regional Italian pastas. But, happily, the pizza remains the same, still made in the wood-burning oven by Giorgio Jeri, who has been slinging pies here since 2016. The classic Neapolitan pies are available in both 12- and 17-inch sizes. More info: 516-673-4630, chefgigisplace.com
(18 West Ave., Patchogue): At this four-year-old pizzeria, a wall of deck ovens dispatches both traditional New York- and Detroit-style pies. The latter, a Michigan import, are baked in deep, steel pans, a thick topping of cheese seeping down the sides and caramelizing, perhaps even burning a little, to create lots of crunchy, pleasantly greasy crust. Then there’s a wood-burning oven for baking individual Neapolitan pies and the open-faced calzones, whose torpedo shapes maximize the proportion of well-browned crust. They arrive heaving with a molten filling of fresh mozzarella, ricotta, sausage and marinara sauce. More info: 631-730-7002, donatinapizza.com
Dough & Co.
(318 Main St., Huntington): Pizza prodigy isn’t too strong a term to describe Danny Rocca who, at 24, is the proud owner of Dough & Co. Pizza, which opened in February. He recalls a day when he was working on the restaurant build-out: "I was up on the ladder, thinking about my dough and wondering, ‘Could I eat four slices and still want to work afterward?’" He got down off the ladder, polished off four slices, and "climbed right back up the ladder. I knew I’d found the right dough." While the Neapolitan, Sicilian and grandma pies are made with a straightforward dough that nevertheless has an unusual degree of hydration, the "pizza al metro," a rectangular pie sold by the square, uses a super-high hydration dough and toppings like fresh mozzarella and caramelized onions. More info: 631-213-2426, thedoughandco.com
Grotta di Fuoco
(960 W. Beech St., Long Beach): The bar provides a perfect vantage point to appreciate the artistry that goes into Neapolitan pies turned out by Andrew Allotti’s wood-burning oven. Allotti’s jones for spice is evident in the “diavola” with hot capocollo, hot peppers, hot honey and Bianco Sardo (the Sardinian answer to Parmesan) and a suave white number featuring thinly sliced potatoes, smoked mozzarella, rosemary pesto and incendiary little blobs of the Calabrian sausage spread called ’nduja. More info: 516-544-2400, grottalbny.com
(1343 Hempstead Tpke., Elmont): John Cesarano grew up at King Umberto, the iconic pizzeria established in 1976. Having mastered the Long Island basics (thin-crusted round, Sicilian and grandma), in 2018 he introduced the "metro pie," inspired by the long-fermented doughs and carefully sourced toppings that characterize Roman pizzas. In 2021, he got himself a fancy new electric oven, and started working on his own personal holy grail, a pie that has the airy structure and refinement of a Naples-style pie, but with the crunch and crackle of New York. The Margherita is a thing of beauty, made with both cow and buffalo mozzarella. Less traditional pies include those inspired by cacio e pepe and Amatriciana pastas. More info: 516-352-8391, kingumberto.com
(14 S. Park Ave., Rockville Centre): Crust and toppings are in perfect harmony here, from the simplest marinara and Margherita to the "PLT" (smoked Tyrolean Speck, arugula, cherry tomatoes, lemon, mozzarella and Parmesan) and the "Calabrese," sparked by hot sausage and Calabrian chilies. Gluten avoiders can order any pie with a cauliflower crust and oenophiles will appreciate the wine list, full of interesting, pizza-friendly wines, many of them available by the glass. More info: 516-447-6744, mangiabenervc.com
Mike’s Underground Pizza
(Amityville): Mike’s isn’t really underground anymore since most people know it’s the pet project of Mike Esposito, and the pizza is cooked in a kitchen adjacent to his Amityville restaurant, Vittorio’s. Esposito grew up in the family pizzeria (the original Mike’s Pizza, est. 1969, was half a block north). “My whole thing is the dough,” he said. “Everything on a pizza matters, but if the vessel isn’t good, what’s the point?” Customers within four miles of Amityville are served by a platoon of men in sport coats and ties. Otherwise, you can schedule a drop in Amityville, West Babylon or Massapequa. More info: 516-589-2523, mikesofamityville.com
(1950 Middle Country Rd., Centereach): Joe Strada had a revelation visiting family in Italy five years ago when he tasted “pizza al taglio,” the feather-light-crusted pan pie sold by the square slice there. His day job was building restaurants with his father; now he decided to build one of his own, recruiting chef John Ioannou to be his pizza guru. Their pizza al taglio, made with a pre-fermented, very wet dough, comes topped with four cheese, mushrooms and truffle oil; fried eggplant, burrata and roasted peppers — and whatever strikes the chefs’ fancy. Classic New York pies are made with the same care following these rules: the air is pushed to the edge of the pie so the outer crust is puffy, the cheese is cut thick so it doesn’t burn, toppings are added midway through the cooking and pies are cooked until they are well done. More info: 631-467-1111, mozzafiatopizzeria.com
Naples Street Food
(2905 Long Beach Rd., Oceanside): Naples-born pizzaiolo Gianluca Chiarolanza has been a standard-bearer for unapologetically Neapolitan pies, bordered by a puffy rim ( "cornicione" in Italian) whose texture — pillowy but chewy — is the result of a long, cold fermentation and superfine "tipo 00" flour. , though his crust is crisper and the toppings less soupy than is traditional in Italy. The menu also features the Neapolitan panozzo, a hot sandwich whose bread is a freshly baked length of pizza dough. More info: 516-442-1692
The Onion Tree
(242 Sea Cliff Ave., Sea Cliff): Since Jay and Raquel Wolf Jadeja opened The Onion Tree in 2019, it has become a destination for New American, authentic Indian...and pizza. In October, Jay took first prize in the Neapolitan division of the Pizza and Pasta Northeast 2022 Competition in Atlantic City. Of course you can’t go wrong with the Margherita, quattro formaggi or the luxuriant "Funghi" with wild mushrooms, Taleggio, Fontina, thyme and truffle oil, but The Onion tree does just as well with its know-no-borders innovative pies such as the "Palek Paneer," topped with spinach, fresh cheese, tomatoes, ginger and garlic, or the one made with Darjeeling-inspired short ribs, tamari, Gorgonzola and onions. More info: 516-916-5353, theoniontree.com
(55 Middle Rd., Mattituck): Jeff Marrone’s four-year-old strip mall eatery is only open Thursday through Sunday (and sometimes not even then — call to make sure that Marrone is not catering a party or has run out of dough). But this is the very definition of a pizzeria worth the drive. Marrone bakes pies with just-short-of-over-the-top toppings that never overshadow their supernal crusts in a wood-burning oven that he lovingly tiled with broken crockery. New pies are posted on Instagram, which is how I learned about the "Carmen," topped with broccoli rabe pesto, fennel sausage and buffalo mozzarella. More info: 631-315-5557, pizzarita.org
(929 N. Broadway, North Massapequa): Sam and Emily Cataldo’s enterprise has grown from an oven-and-counter-sized space carved out of their venerable A & S Pork Store to a proper pizzeria where people can enjoy the family atmosphere and Sam’s wood-fired pizzas, many of which recall great Italian pasta dishes — alla vodka, broccoli rabe and sausage, or the "Mom’s Pie" featuring onion-rich Genovese sauce. The restless pizzaiolo was recently inspired by the Detroit’s style to create his own "Depequa" pie whose top and sides are crisp with a hardened matrix of mozzarella, Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses. More info: 516-799-0091, saveriospizza.com
Salvatore’s Coal Oven Pizzeria
(124 Shore Rd., Port Washington): The only pizzeria that has been on every one of my best-pizza lists, Salvatore's, which opened in 1996, had Long Island’s first coal-burning oven. The pies from Salvatore’s 900-degree oven are a soulful combination of char and creaminess. The crust is a dream, crisp but pliant, the topping is a balanced meld of fresh, milky mozzarella and chunky chopped tomatoes. No designer pies here, just your choice of classic toppings to be enjoyed in a retro room where the soundtrack is 50% Sinatra. More info: 516-883-8457, salvatorescoalovenpizzeria.com
(7 Sintsink Dr. E., Port Washington): NYC chef Jesse Olson moved to Port Washington in 2020 and shortly began channeling all his skills into this out-of-the-way pizzeria-marketplace. His particular passion is small-production wheat flour, the basis for both his housemade pasta and the pizza he bakes in a wood-burning oven. Olson’s Margherita uses both low-moisture and fresh mozzarella, the latter added at the end of the baking so that it retains its blobby creaminess. A new creation, the “Sotto Sopra,” has a base of ricotta and mozzarella that is topped with dollops of tomato sauce and more ricotta. There are also pies with spicy soppressata; onions and fennel sausage; stracciatella and Parmesan cheeses and an “Amatriciana” made with the shop’s own jarred sauce. More info: 516-321-9393, serraprovisions.com
(768 W Beech St., Long Beach): The last few years have been full of changes for Sorrento’s: Anthony Alesia and partners bought the pizzeria-pork store in 2019; the following year it was destroyed by fire and, after a summer 2020 pizza pop-up at a local beach club, a much smaller shop opened in Long Beach’s West End in 2021. What hasn’t changed is the dedication to quality. Alesia said that his new electric PizzaMaster electric is able to mimic the old wood burning oven and his team is still making their own sauce, mozzarella, sausage, meatballs and virtually everything else that could top the 16-inch round and 27-inch oval pies. New “specialty” pan pizzas are topped with vodka sauce, fresh spinach and artichoke and whatever strikes the pizzaioli’s fancy. More info: 516-889-4800, sorrentosoflb.com
(85 Mineola Blvd., Mineola):Inspired by the cult Roman pizzeria, Bonci, Rob Cervoni uses a high-hydration dough that gets a long, slow rise. The result is a crust whose texture is both structured and airy; delicious on its own but heightened with such toppings as mortadella and pistachio, or roast potato and rosemary. His new partner, Mimmo Tolomeo, another accomplished pizzaiolo, is moving in another direction, using traditional pre-fermented dough and imported tomatoes to build a better 18-inch, 8-slice pie, what he calls a “Neo New York.” The edge of his crust is pronounced, with marvelous, airy texture. The pie itself is topped with four types of cheese: Shredded low-moisture mozzarella, blobs of fresh mozzarella, Pecorino Romano and an American-made grana. More info: 516-741-0379, tagliopizzany.com
(633 Jericho Tpke,, New Hyde Park): Founded by brothers Umberto and Carlo Corteo in 1965, Umberto’s is the very model of a modern major pizza chain. The original New Hyde Park shop is now a vast operation encompassing a pizzeria, restaurant and catering hall and locations all over the Island. But underlying everything are pies that never rest on their success. The great Long island grandma pie was invented here and Umberto’s has become a byword for great pizza for more than half a century. More info: 516-437-7698, umbertosfamily.com
Pizza terms you need to know
As our pizza horizons broaden, the terms we use to describe pizza have become more confusing, starting with the meaning of “Neapolitan.” In the New York area, the two standard styles of pizza have always been referred to as Neapolitan and Sicilian. The former is big, round, thin, and sliced into wedges for serving (or reheating); the latter is big, square, thick and cut into squares. Both are pretty well covered with tomato sauce and shredded, low-moisture mozzarella, and neither has much to do, historically, with the region of Italy for which it is named. Another familiar specimen on Long Island is the grandma, which is baked in the same square pan as Sicilian but has a thinner crust and is topped more sparingly with crushed canned tomatoes and shredded mozzarella. All three of these Italian-American pies are made in a gas-fired deck oven, the most common pizza oven in the United States, as are deep-dish Detroit-style pies, which are made in a rectangular pan and covered with shredded cheese that is encouraged to drip down the sides and burn.
Pizza was born in the Italian city of Naples where the classic pie is an individual affair, about 12 inches in diameter, and baked in a dome-shaped, wood-burning oven, a forno a legna. The pizza Napoletana, or Naples-style Neapolitan, pie is bordered by a thick but puffy rim, the cornicione, and the crust itself is floppy enough for the point to be folded back toward the rim for consumption. In fact, Americans who visit Naples invariably complain that the pizza is too soft, underbaked. For this reason, many Neapolitan-style pizzerias in the United States try to strike a balance between authenticity and crispness. Many local pizzaioli (pizza makers) call this the Neo-Neapolitan style
There is a Roman tradition (spread throughout Italy) of pizza al metro (pizza by the meter), a rectangular pie sold by the square slice (taglio). Popularized by the great Roman Pizzarium Bonci, these pies are typically made with a high-hydration (wet) dough that rises over a long period of time (up to three days) in a cool environment using only a small amount of commercial yeast and, often a pre-fermented starter called a biga. This results in a thicker crust that is bouncy, airy and crisp. When such a pie is baked not in a pan but on the floor of the oven it’s called pizza alla pala; the pala is the long-handled peel (paddle) used to move pizzas in and out of the oven.