When my husband, Billy, and I moved from Nassau County to an age-55-plus development in Sussex County, Delaware, we chose the area for attributes that we loved about Long Island: beautiful beaches, great restaurants, art centers, lots of golf courses and plenty of parks to bike and hike around. What we didn’t realize was that along with our Long Island tastes, we were taking our ’tude.
Our community comprises transplants from New Jersey; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania; Connecticut, and New York -- mostly Long Islanders, a sizable demographic and a distinct bunch.
“Oh, the pizza drama!” said my girlfriend after hosting her wine group. Originally from Ohio, she finds it daunting ordering pizza when Long Islanders are present, including Gene, formerly of Amityville. Gene misses Mama’s pizzeria in Copiague and has deemed most local pizza unworthy. When it comes to these pies, Long Islanders are accustomed to excellence and an abundance of choices. Having lived in Bellmore for 30 years, I had plenty of go-to pizzerias, but my favorite was Prince Umberto in Wantagh. Billy, who lived a couple of years in Massapizza – as Massapequa is sometimes known – liked Savierio’s.
Here in southern Delaware, a vacation destination for the D.C. crowd and surrounding areas, there’s a popular pizza chain that originated in Rehoboth Beach in 1960. When locals and other non-New Yorkers start boasting about it being the best, Billy and I just smile and attribute their big-bowl-of-wrong thinking to the nostalgia of childhood comfort food. They don’t know any better. Are Long Islanders pizza snobs? Absolutely. Do we eat well? Hell, yeah!
Then there’s the accent that others claim to hear when listening to people from “Lawnguyland.”
The topic came up at a dinner party the other night, when our friend Jackie, who hails from Pennsylvania, asked Linda, formerly of Ronkonkoma, to say “idea” and “father.”
“You insert R’s where there aren’t any and leave off R’s that are there!” Jackie laughed.
All of us were laughing, those from New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New York.
Linda and I have similar backgrounds. We were both raised in Queens and spent our adult lives on Long Island.
I chimed in about the accent, saying, "I'm not sure if it's from growing up in Queens or living on the Island.”
“That’s another thing,” Jackie said, “THE Island!” And she struck a pose, as if putting on airs.
Another round of laughter erupted from the table, with all four Long Islanders nodding their heads in agreement.
Similar to the way “the city” means Manhattan (even though New York City comprises five boroughs, including Manhattan), “the Island” refers to Long Island. Some Staten Islanders will argue that their island is “the” island, but that’s only understood within Staten Island. If anyone in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan or the Bronx said to a driver, “Take me to the Island,” they’d be heading toward Montauk.
Among the Long Island transplants, we often reminisce about life on the Island, discussions bolstered by recent visits, though we're thrilled with the lives we've made for ourselves here.
Billy and I have been living in Delaware since March 13, 2020, when the pandemic switch was flipped on and the world changed overnight. In one of our earliest takeout experiences in our new hometown, we discovered Two Meatballs. It’s part pizza place, part deli, selling homemade pasta and sauce. The first time we ordered, I sensed we'd found a home away from home.
“Where are you from?” I asked the woman behind the counter.
“We’re from the Island," she replied. "Massapequa.”
Reader Paula Ganzi McGloin lives in Millsboro, Delaware.