Margherita pizza at Tony & Luigi's in Merrick.

Margherita pizza at Tony & Luigi's in Merrick. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

In the 13 years that cousins Lou Neglia and Anthony St. George have been in business together, they’ve opened La Bottega franchises in Syosset, Merrick and East Meadow. Having mastered the enormous takeout-friendly menu, they set their sights on a loftier goal: wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and a full-service bar.

When the corner storefront next to their Merrick La Bottega became available, they gutted it,  to create a rustic space with exposed brick, reclaimed wine barrels and lots of vintage touches.

The back of the long, narrow room is dominated by a wood-fired oven commanded by Lorenzo Montesanto, an accomplished Italian-born pizzaiolo who worked at Eataly and launched Charred Brick Oven in Seaford, among many other gigs.

Montesanto puts out more than 20 classic 12-inch Naples-style pies including reds such as Margherita, marinara, diavola, capricciosa and the Norma with eggplant and ricotta salata; whites like quattro formaggio, cacio è pepe, porcini è Speck and the Rosemaria with scamorza, sausage, potatoes and rosemary. New York-influenced toppings include Margherita alla vodka (a sauce rarely seen in Italy) and pepperoni (the American version of sopressata). There’s also large-format “pizza al tegamino,” pan pizza similar to Sicilian, and “pizza alla pala,” a large, rectangular pie baked directly on the floor of the oven. Individual pies top out at $21, big pies, which feed four to six, at $30.

Montesanto and his crew use that same long-fermented dough to make panuozzi, freshly baked rolls stuffed with various combinations of meats, cheeses and vegetables ($16 to $20).

There are also calzones, salads, antipasti and oven-baked pastas. Some of the more unusual items are a Neapolitan salad with cured tuna served over friselle (bread rusks), Sicilian caponata, carpaccio of beef and salmon. Nothing on the menu tops $21.

Lou Neglia, left, and Anthony St. George own Tony &...

Lou Neglia, left, and Anthony St. George own Tony & Luigi's in Merrick. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

The bar at Tony & Luigi’s makes 11 signature cocktails and has a good selection of reasonably priced Italian wines such as Vermentino from Sardinia and a Nero d’Avola from Sicily.

It’s a big menu, but still less than half the size of the one next door at La Bottega. The challenge facing Neglia and St. George has less to do with cooking the food than with serving it in the style of a proper trattoria. “People are ordering drinks, a couple of courses, dessert — we are learning how to ‘course out’ the meal."

Tony & Luigi's, 2008 Merrick Rd., Merrick, 516-440-2699, Open Tuesday to Thursday 4 to 9 p.m., Friday noon to 3 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m., Saturday noon to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 8 p.m. Closed Monday.

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