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Pizza Smackdown semifinals: All in the families

The Margherita pizza at Grimaldi's in Garden City.

The Margherita pizza at Grimaldi's in Garden City. Credit: Alessandro Vecchi

We're getting down to the wire here, the semifinals of Newsday's Pizza Smackdown. It's Massa's vs. Grimaldi's, Prince Umberto's vs. King Umberto.

Interestingly (at least to pizza scholars like me), the four remaining contenders are descended from two exalted pizza dynasties. Readers, get out your flow charts. We're heading deep into the annals of Long Island pizza history.

Both Grimaldi's and Massa's trace their roots to the great Patsy Grimaldi, the coal-oven pizza apostle who opened Patsy Grimaldi's under the Brooklyn Bridge in 1990. In 2001 Patsy sold the pizzeria and his name to Frank Ciolli, whose family subsequently opened Grimaldi's pizzerias all over the country. In 2004, Frank's son Russell Ciolli and his wife, Jennifer, opened Grimaldi's in Garden City. That same year, Patsy's nephew, Bill Massa, opened the original Massa's Pizzeria in Huntington Station, which moved to Huntington Village in 2014.

You still with me? On to the Umberto family of pizzerias. Umberto's of New Hyde Park was founded in 1965 by Umberto Corteo. He and his brothers, Carlo and Joe, opened a satellite pizzeria in Elmont, King Umberto, and in 1976, after Joe moved to Florida, the restaurant was sold to two Umberto's employees, brothers Rosario and Sal Fuschetto.

Also in 1976, Umberto invited an old friend of his, Joe Caliendo, to open Prince Umberto's in Franklin Square. Joe died in 1985; the restaurant is now owned by his daughters Pina and Maria, and his brother Anthony.

There. You are now a certified Long Island Pizza Historian. Go vote!

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