Archive for the tag 'totonnos pizzeria'

Photo by Robert Fernandez

Photo by Robert Fernandez

THE BITE: I’m going to dive into the great pizza debate that rages over Brooklyn.

Here in Southern Brooklyn, we are lucky to have two of the best pizza parlors in the world. Di Fara, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s personal favorite, and Totonno’s, labeled best by one of my favorite food writers, Robert Sietsema. But, there’s one other, a recent arrival to the neighborhood who in its original location vied for the crown, called Grimaldi’s.

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I suppose it hardly ranks as news anymore when Midwood’s Di Fara Pizza and Coney Island’s Totonno’s make a New York City top-10 pizza list, but it’s still worth a mention here anyway.

Village Voice is the latest to dub the two Southern Brooklyn pizzeria’s the first and second best, respectively, pies in town, with a top 10 list published on Tuesday.

Of Di Fara (1424 Avenue J), they write:

The Big Apple’s patron saint of basil sprinkling, Dom DeMarco has presided over this Midwood dough shrine since 1964 turning out gorgeous, imperfect rounds that are occasionally on the burnt side. No matter, even burnt this stuff is better than most. Whatever gruesome rituals had to be performed to achieve pizza this ethereal, we’ll gladly look the other way. Some folks will tell you to get there early, but we prefer to double down on delicious by placing an order at Di Fara and then walking around the corner to split one of the Italian comfort food dishes served at sister restaurant MD Kitchen. What’s better than a two-hour wait (most things)? A two-hour wait with shrimp parmigiana.

Of Totonno’s (1524 Neptune Avenue):

A beloved slice of historic New York City, Totonno’s has risen from the ashes twice in the past five years; first from a 2009 fire and then from Hurricane Sandy. Then again, half a decade is a drop in the bucket for the Coney Island pizzeria, which opened in 1924. Thanks to one of the most seasoned coal-fired ovens in town, the pizzas all bear puffed, char-speckled crusts sturdy enough to support generous layers of sweet, herbal tomato sauce and melted fresh mozzarella. The pizzeria is as busy as ever post-storm reconstruction. With any luck, it’ll stay that way well into the future.

Reps from Di Fara’s took to Facebook to express their gratitude to their patrons, writing simply, “Thank you again and again !!”

Of course, the news vindicates mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio somewhat, after he was blasted by the Daily News for choosing Di Fara’s as his favorite joint, a decision that they said shows he’s in bed with the one percent.

It doesn’t do much for his rival Joe Lhota, though. Of the top 10 pizzerias named by Village Voice, seven were in Brooklyn, two were in Manhattan, and one was in Staten Island. Queens, where he said he gets his favorite slice from a pizzeria of which he couldn’t remember the name, has no good pizza. And certainly no good buffalo chicken pizza. Because there’s no such thing as good buffalo chicken pizza.

What the hell, Joe. What the hell.

The celebrated and beloved Totonno’s Pizzeria (1524 Neptune Avenue) has had a rough couple years in keeping its doors open. First they were hit by a fire in 2009, and more recently they were knocked out of commission by Superstorm Sandy. Still closed months after the storm struck, owners Cookie Cimineri and Antoinette Balzano have struggled to acquire the loans needed to reopen, according to a report by Serious Eats.

(UPDATE [January 17, 2013]: Totonno’s told New York Daily News that they vow to reopen, no matter what the odds.)

Apparently, Totonno’s is the victim of bad timing when it came to the loan application process. Totonno’s is still paying off the $200,000 in loans they took on from their 2009 fire, and because of this, the NYC Business Development Corporation’s denied the pizzeria’s $25,ooo loan request.

“They have to go by the last year,” Antoinette explained to Serious Eats, speaking of financial records and the loan application process. “For the last 2 years, we’ve been paying off the $200,000 loan from the fire.”

Totonno’s also applied for a $150,000 loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA), but have yet to hear back from them.

All hope for Totonno’s hasn’t been lost yet, as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz took it upon himself to get the pizzeria’s NYCBDC loan request re-reviewed.

Still, the path to reopening Totonno’s again is not easy. Antoinette lamented to Serious Eats about her dealings with unreliable mold inspectors and contractors who are draining her money but not her will.

“The last [contractor], he was a con artist. My sister didn’t get 3 cents for 11 months. How do you live when you have bills to pay? A family to feed?Totonno’s doesn’t make a lot of money. It’s about passion.”

Here’s hoping the pizza gods do all they can to keeping the city’s best pizza coming out of the oven.

Arbuz on Sheepshead Bay Road

The past week or so has seen a couple of major New York City papers snooping around Sheepshead Bay’s restaurants, including a pretty hefty score for a newly-opened Manhattan location of a Sheepshead Bay original.

That’d be the New York Times talking about Treat Petite, the Greenwich Village spinoff of Arbuz (1706 Sheepshead Bay Road). A while back we broke the story of Arbuz’s expansion. Treat Petite (61 Grove Street) is now open, specializing in frozen kefir, and appear to have impressed the Times.

“Their soft serve, called Treat Petite, is refreshing and not as sweet as many brands of frozen yogurt. The store offers six varieties: plain, and five others subtly flavored with fruit purées, including pomegranate and caramelized pineapple. There are also smoothies and concoctions with various toppings, as well as coffee, crepes, waffles and some pastries.”

It seems to me that the wider world is finally waking up to the wealth of tastes and flavors our corner of the city has to offer, and what’s even better is that those business pioneers that took risks to start here in Sheepshead are finding success and expanding outward.

In addition to the New York Times story, local restaurants are also getting a huge shoutout in the Daily News. The paper launched a series – which we’ll say is inspired by The Bite, since they’re all in our coverage area anyway – showing off great restaurants along the Q line. So far they’ve covered:

  • Tatiana’s in Brighton Beach
  • Varenichnaya in Brighton Beach
  • Coney Island Taste Peruvian Restaurant in Sheepshead Bay
  • Randazzo’s Clam Bar in Sheepshead Bay
  • Totonno’s Pizzeria in Coney Island

Sorry Local Broker. Sorry BrooklynQ. Sorry Arthur. I cheated on all of you.

Without a peep to any of you, I slunk off to Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano (1524 Neptune Avenue) Friday afternoon – Totonno’s first day open since their fire last March. I went with my brother. Neither of us had been there before.

It. Was. Delish.

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After many a fakeout, Totonno’s is finally reopening on February 10th, according to Slice pizza blog. Totonno’s, which many pizza aficionados agree is one of the best slices in New York (and thus, the world) closed down after a fire devastated the storefront back in March. In September, Slice reported that the famed Coney Island pizzeria would begin welcoming customers again in late-September or early-October. Then it became November. Then December. You can guess where we’re going with this.

Slice wrote the following quick post on their site yesterday:

Our man Ed Levine just got off the phone with Totonno’s owner Lawrence Ciminieri, who tells us that Totonno’s is reopening next Wednesday, February 10 at noon.

Ciminieri says he himself will be making the pies that day.

We’re confident that this is the real deal this time. Ciminieri says he’s got all the permits now and the pizzeria is ready to go.

We hope it’s for real this time. I had planned to go for my first visit right before it burned down, and all this waiting has got me seriously hungry!

Slice, the pizza blogger over at Serious Eats, has been doing a heck of a job keeping track of Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano since a fire destroyed the legendary pie-tosser in March. After initial updates saying the pizzeria would be open in June, then July, then August, the site is now reporting that it will reopen in late-September or early-October.

Why the delay? After the fire, [Owner Lawrence] Ciminieri said, his family had two choices: rebuild from scratch or salvage what was there. The initial reports from the architect Ciminieri consulted with indicated that the building was sound enough to salvage, but once crews started renovation, city inspectors found more damage than expected. It turns out that the building needs to be shored up to support the weight of the oven and the coal used to fire it.

“It would have been easier to just knock the place down and start over,” Ciminieri said, “but we’re already in the middle of this [renovation] and just have to finish now.”

This time, he said, it’ll definitely be no later than October.

I can’t wait to have a slice of Totonno’s. Despite being so close to home, I’ve never made the trip there and had planned one right before it burned down. Come on, Totonno’s, we’re all rooting for you!

Fire Destroys Totonno’s

(NBC News Coverage from Saturday, March 14, 2009)

A Saturday morning fire rushed through the legendary Totonno’s Pizzeria. The restaurant was a mainstay in the Coney Island community and people traveled from far and wide to get a taste of the Napolitano style pizza with ingredients imported from Italy. For 85 years, the pizzeria had been serving the pizza by the pie in its old-style dining room located at 1524 Neptune Ave near West 14 St.

Members of the community spoke to NBC news reporters on the scene and expressed the devastation they feel at the loss of Totonno’s. Based on the damage, there is no talk at the moment of rebuilding the famed establishment.

This is a very sad day for original Brooklyn-pizza lovers and we offer our sympathy to the owners and workers of Totonno’s, because while no one was hurt in the blaze, watching the building go down with all of the memorabilia and original decor must have been heartbreaking.