"Singing and making pizza go together. There are just some elements that go together," said Carmelo Raccuglia, 48, who has worked at Stage Door East Deli and Pizzeria for five years. "If you cook Italian food, you have to sing. The food comes out more delicious."
The Sicilian-born father of five boys was already renowned locally for crooning Italian classics to customers, but his serenade of a birthday girl on Jan. 20 catapulted him onto the national stage.
A YouTube clip of Raccuglia belting a heartfelt "O Sole Mio" across the room to the diner has registered more than 441,000 hits. The Holtsville resident appeared on "Good Morning America" last week and is the subject of a Facebook page called "Pizza dude sings his heart out, O Sole Mio."
While Raccuglia's powerful tenor seems made for opera, he said his favorite songs to sing tend more toward "Neapolitan classic" than operatic.
"All the songs I sing, Grandma used to sing to me," he said, adding that she was a professional singer in Italy during the 1950s and '60s. "She'd be proud of me."
It doesn't matter to Raccuglia whether anyone's listening. He just keeps singing.
"I sing everywhere -- in the shower, in the car, wherever I am," he said. "I love the meaning of every song I sing, and I love the melody. For people I sing to, even if they don't understand it [the Italian lyrics], they still feel it."
Raccuglia, who immigrated to New York when he was 13 and learned to make pizza at his father's Queens business at 16, said he hopes his YouTube fame will strike a chord with industry pros.
"I'm just hoping that someone will take this thing really serious, and I can get a record deal and get a manager and agent," he said at Stage Door East. "I'm having a lot of fun, but it [the attention] doesn't change the person I am."
Regular customers of the eatery said Raccuglia deserves a shot at the big time because his singing enhances the dining experience.
"Usually everybody claps," said Gary Walz, 47, of Farmingville.
Added Ross Martell, 42, of East Setauket: "They should throw roses at him."