In this season of restaurant tragedies, Vincent’s New York Wood-Fired Pizza is a rare success story. Winter’s chill doesn’t keep the crowds away from this trailer in the parking lot of Long Island Health & Racquet; in particularly inclement weather, folks wait in their cars until they hear their names called over the loudspeaker to come and collect their pies.
In March, as pandemic regulations descended on Long Island, Vincent DeMarzo found himself with a worst-case-restaurant scenario: his health-food cafe, Juiced Up, was located inside World Gym (now Long Island Health & Racquet) which stayed closed until September. Throughout the spring and summer he continued to produce takeout meals for their customers, as well as for local front-line workers and the homeless, but he knew that the business could not sustain him for long.
And so Vincent returned to his first love: pizza. He’d started working at Rocco’s in St. James in 2003, when he was 14. At first he was responsible for reheating and serving slices at the counter, but he soon realized that "the guy who makes the pizza always makes more money." Vincent began coming to work on his day off to learn how to make pizza and he never looked back. He was with Rocco’s, first in St. James and then in Patchogue, pretty much until he started making plans to open Juiced Up in 2018.
Casting about for a pandemic-proof concept, Vincent "pulled the trigger" on a long-deferred dream of owning a pizza truck. He found a 22-foot-long food trailer in Georgia, bought a wood-fired oven in California and had it shipped there and hooked up. "We basically made the thing through FaceTime," he said.
While the trailer was being built, the master needed to perfect a new dough that would work with the wood-fired oven, one that had a higher proportion of water and that gained better flavor and texture through a 48-hour fermentation. Luckily, "during the pandemic, I had a lot of off time to watch YouTube videos and practice."
In August, the trailer was delivered and Vincent towed it out to a lay-by along Route 347 in East Setauket. At first there were only a few customers and a few pies. It didn’t take long before he developed a following. "We got so busy," he recalled, "I had to recruit my wife. She’d been working the register and one day she said, ‘what can I do to help you?’ I said, ‘get your butt over here and I’ll show you how to make pizza.’ She’s a marine biologist but now she is by my side working every hour until we are done for the day. I am blessed to have her."
The location on 347 "was great for publicity," he said, "but it was terrible for parking — just a dirt lot that got muddy in the rain. People started rubbernecking on 347, there were a few bumper taps. I didn’t want to see my pizza cause an accident."
And so, in November, he moved the trailer to the parking lot of the gym on Mark Tree Road where his juice bar was. There was plenty of parking and also plenty of lights at night. What there wasn’t, for the first few weeks, was business. "Going from a highway to a parking lot on a side street — people had no idea where we went," Vincent said. But he kept posting on Facebook and Instagram, and asked customers to do the same. And then, "it was like someone flipped a switch and we were mobbed again."
Vincent’s menu features 10 specialty pies ($14 to $20) such as the restrained "Queens" pie (with crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil), the exuberant "Brooklyn" (crumbled sausage, broccoli rabe, hot cherry peppers, fresh mozzarella and red sauce), the out-there "Suffolk" (blue cheese, Buffalo-chicken bites and mozzarella), the even-further-out-there Nassau (chicken bites tossed in homemade barbecue sauce topped with melted Cheddar and Jack cheeses and pickled red onions) and the only-on-Long Island "L.I.B.E.C.," that’s right, a bacon, egg and cheese pizza with, wait for it, an everything-bagel crust.
You can also get a plain cheese or Margherita with your choice of toppings, as well as Caesar salad and pasta e fagioli.
Vincent's New York Wood-Fired Pizza is at 384 Mark Tree Rd., East Setauket, 631-991-5766, vincentspizzatrailer.com