The Hungry Man meat & potato pie at Joanne’s Gourmet Pizza...

The Hungry Man meat & potato pie at Joanne’s Gourmet Pizza in Roslyn. Credit: Linda Rosier

The iconic Long Island slice shop Joanne's Gourmet Pizza, which claims to have invented the Buffalo chicken pizza, has closed in Roslyn after 32 years. The restaurant was a pioneer in the creative slice movement, and was reportedly visited by celebrities such as Bella Hadid, LL Cool J and Jennifer Lopez.

Rino DiMaria, who owned the pizzeria with his brother Louis, said closing was a good business decision that allowed the two to retire and spend more time with their families. After their last day of business Thursday, he flew directly to Cancun, Mexico, for a spiritual retreat.

DiMaria said that the two were initially planning to sell to another pizzeria, but between the labor costs and high-profile Roslyn space, they were potentially setting up the new business owner to fail. So instead, they worked with a broker to find a corporate tenant that would rent from them. 

“We decided to forgo a sale and put it out there with a national company and collect a real nice rent,” he said. 

The DiMarias continued the legacy left by their mother and father Joanne and Frank, immigrants from Sicily who had been running pizzerias across New York since 1958. Rino opened the Roslyn shop with his father in 1992 just three weeks after graduating from Hofstra University. His brother Louis joined a few years later after he graduated from Penn State. They named the store after their mother Joanne, who died in 2017.

Rino said he was the one to invent honey Dijon chicken pizza, which led the shop to experiment with Buffalo chicken pizza and other “meals on top of crusts.” 

“We moved into a neighborhood that I knew was so well-traveled. And a neighborhood with the kind of affluence there, I just felt like there was more for them to have,” he said. He emerged from the kitchen with a honey Dijon chicken pizza — his father was not amused but it “literally flew off the shelves” selling 10 to 12 pizzas the first day.

“And it became my calling. It started the gourmet pizza revolution. We literally invented it,” Rino said. 

This attracted the East Coast rapper Busta Rhymes, who immortalized the honey Dijon pizza in his song “Turn It Up,” answering a challenge from Rino.

Rino realized that if you could put an entire meal on the pizza, people would pay more for it. So today the menu boasts toppings like bacon cheeseburger, General Tso's shrimp and baked clam pizza. Now Buffalo chicken is ubiquitous on slice shop menus as well as national chains such as Pizza Hut, Domino's and Papa John's. 

The DiMaria brothers also owned Willy Parkers American Bar & Grill in Williston Park from 2010 to 2013. But the Roslyn shop has been the mainstay.

Their closing announcement on Facebook was accompanied by dozens of comments from fans, lamenting the loss. 

“I'm crushed,” wrote one poster using the name Lauren Elizabeth. “I would’ve come out for one last buffalo pie to bring back to Jersey … you guys put your soul into that business and deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labor.” 

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