THIS TWO LOCATION RESTAURANT AND PIZZERIA DRAWS CULINARY INSPIRATION FROM CHILDHOOD MEMORIES OF THE DINNER TABLE
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENCH
When brothers Vince and Brandon Carrabba, owners of Millie’s Old World Pizza and Meatballs in New Jersey and Staten Island (typically shortened to just “Millie’s”), set out to open an authentic Italian pizzeria and restaurant, they were quickly presented with a conundrum: what type of oven would be used to sizzle their scratch made pies? Both had fond childhood memories of dining at the iconic Totonno’s pizzeria in Coney Island (still there and going strong after 93 years), and vividly recall the aromas of mozzarella and tomatoes from its coal fired oven. But the Italian/American brothers also had an affinity for the bubble and char of Neapolitan style pies from a wood fired variant. After much deliberation, the duo reached a unanimous decision: they would utilize both, dubbing them the “dueling ovens.”
“They make our pizza unique, as diners can choose one or both styles…pick their favorite,” explained Vince Carrabba. “The coal oven burns over 650°F and can produce pies in five minutes.
The Neapolitan wood oven, hand built by Italy’s celebrated Ferrara family and imported from Naples, cooks pizzas in just 90 seconds, thanks to its 800°F plus heat.”
The concept, which first took root in Morristown in 2013 before expanding to Staten Island in June of 2018, is an ode to generations of family tradition. The owners’ grandmother, Millie, filled her kitchen every Sunday with aromas of sizzling garlic, homemade tomato sauce, and rising dough. When designing the menu, the brothers went back to her recipes, from the signature marinara and vodka sauces to the scratch made mozzarella that tops every pie.
“We wanted to share our passion for Italian food and culture with the local community,” explained Carrabba, a native of the borough’s Annadale area.
Millie’s famed fried meatballs, comprised of premium beef, Pecorino Romano cheese, and secret spices, have amassed a cult following in both locations. Patrons can feast on them on site and/ or take a few dozen home. And, while the brothers have entrusted a number of family recipes to Chef Peter Martinez, their mother, Marlene, still comes in to make meatballs on most days. (This recipe, after all, must remain “top secret.”) The char grilled oysters are also a fan favorite, which arrive sizzling in a bath of herb butter sauce and topped with a blend of Italian cheeses. There are more than 40 varieties of pizzas and calzones on hand, and it takes 700 pounds of mozzarella per week to keep up with orders.
When asked what he recommends for first time diners, Carrabba encouraged patrons to first, arrive hungry, as meals are typically multi course… and very much like dining at the Carrabba family dinner table on a Sunday afternoon.
“We recommend starting with char grilled oysters and meatballs. Then order the Arcadian salad with Applewood smoked bacon, house candied walnuts, and homemade apricot vinaigrette. It really is too hard to choose favorites, but a few of our most popular pies are the coal fired Signature Pie (tomatoes sautéed with garlic, fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkling of Parmesan), the wood fired White Truffle and Prosciutto Pie or our Meatball Vodka Pie.”
To wash it all down, there are 20 beers and five wines on tap, along with an extensive wine list from Italy and other noteworthy regions. If diners want to experience the full Carrabba family tradition, the brothers recommend ending the meal on a sweet note with a wood fired Nutella pie.
Millie’s Old World Pizza and Meatballs
185 Bricktown Way / 929.284.4004 / milliesoldworld.com