A corner slice of "Metro West" pizza at Dough & Co....

A corner slice of "Metro West" pizza at Dough & Co. in Huntington. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Pizza prodigy isn’t too strong a term to describe Danny Rocca. At 23, he is the proud owner of Dough & Co. Pizza, which opened in February. At the sleek new store, a former Gino’s that he renovated himself, you’ll find a menu that reflects a career that has occupied more than a third of his life.

With grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts in the pizza business, Rocca knew from a young age that he wanted to be a pizzaiolo. He applied for a job at Umberto’s in Plainview when he was 14 and got hired as soon as he turned 15. He started at the counter, reheating slices and ringing up customers. Then he advanced from dishwasher, to prep cook, to pizza man until, at the age of 19, he became the shop’s general manager.

Wanting to learn more about artisanal pies, in 2021 Rocca moved to Huntington’s 1653 Pizza Company, where chef-partner Michael Vigliotti taught him about high-hydration doughs and high-end toppings.

"When the Gino’s space came up," he said, "I figured now is my time."

At Dough & Co., Rocca takes a middle path between classic and artisanal pizza. His regular dough, which he uses for Neapolitan, Sicilian and grandma pies, has an unusual degree of hydration "to keep it light and airy."

He recalls a day when he was still 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."

Rocca uses a heavier hand on toppings toward the outside of the pie so they don’t weigh the center down. "You want the point to stick out," he said, "you want it to fold and also to crunch."

Dough & Co.’s "pizza al metro," rectangular pies sold by the square, are influenced not only by Vigliotti but also by John Cesarano at King Umberto in Elmont. "I’m going for that Italian feel," Rocca said, "with a super-high hydration dough and toppings like fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions."

The menu also features wings, meatballs, salads, pasta, heros and calzones. Regular pies range between $20 and $30; metro pies, between $32 and $36.

Rocca said he never gets bored of making pizza. "Every pie you make is unique," he said. "I might say, ‘this is going to be the roundest pie ever,’ then I see there’s this little bubble on the crust and that’s great too — the dough is a living organism. Then when it’s cooked and you cut into it and hear that crunch, it’s such a good feeling."

He foresees a lifetime perfecting his craft. "I know this isn’t my last stop," he said. "I’m so grateful to be here, but I’m going to continue to learn and grow."

Dough & Co. is at 318 Main St., Huntington; 631-213-2426, thedoughandco.com

Top Stories

Newsday LogoCritical LI Information You NeedDigital Access$1 for 5 months