Community, quality, and killer sausage are a combo platter at this Amboy road Pizza parlor & Café
By Marisa Procopio • Photos By premier digital
Pizza in Staten Island is as easy to come by as Friday afternoon traffic (or any traffic, for that matter). Much less common is pizza that isn’t mailed in—in which every ingredient is carefully considered.
The benefactors of this particular latter category pie are Mike Paccione, Ronnie Bartiromo, and Carl Benfante, owners and operators of Reggiano’s Pizza & Café since August of 2012.
“We always had this idea; we all live in Tottenville. We said
‘This store’s coming up,’ and ‘Why not?’ and it ended up snowballing… bigger than we ever expected,” Pacciano said.
The co-owner started out, as it happened, in wholesale.
“Me and Ronnie have been in this business for our whole lives,” he said. “Ever since I was old enough to lift a box. I would deliver to places like this.”
He and Bartiromo make the pizza and run front of house; Pacciano also handles the business end. Benfante is head chef.
The starting point here is the wood-burning, brick oven.
“This is all wood…no gas,” emphasized Pacciano. “You can taste it in the dough. And we use ‘00’ flour imported from Italy.” Matt Ligotti, another colleague, built the oven on site, from scratch, around the existing oven.
On to the toppings. “They’re fresh. Never old,” Pacciano explained. “We use $10-a-pound Parmigiano-Reggiano…and fresh basil. My produce guy is five doors down, and delivers nearly every day. The sausage and cured meats are from A&S Pork Store, which provides gorgeous fresh handmade sausage and sopressata. It’s crazy, as though there’s wine in it.”
Twice a week Joe Mozz, Inc. delivers homemade cheese— fresh mozzarella, ricotta, and burrata (an ambrosial combination of mozzarella, ricotta, and buttermilk).
“We have one small freezer that we use for French fries and chicken fingers. That’s it,” Pacciano said, visibly chuffed.
The owner is driven to do business with his neighbors for as many ingredients as he can; the big boys in the food conglomerates don’t interest him.
“I always felt I’ve grown up around the industry my whole life….I think of this as doing my due diligence, supporting local people,” he said. “It’s like a circle. These people are also customers of mine.”
Pies are made with San Marzano tomatoes (considered the best in the world for their intense fruitiness) and extra virgin olive oil. Traditional favorites are there, as well as others that make the most of ingredients in the area. (“Most of the stuff is Carl’s recipes,” Pacciano said.) A recent addiction: the Reggiano Wings—fried, then sautéed in butter, garlic, and lemon juice. “Then they get handfuls of Parmigiano-Reggiano.”
The toughest part of running the restaurant? “When I have 20 people standing outside waiting for a table and I can’t turn the tables,” he laughed. “That’s really it…pretty stress-free. It helps to have three people running the place.”
Recently, Reggiano’s opened a new wing for dining and private parties. Party food is “always family style,” with bowls and platters brought out to the table to pass and share. Customers report that the family-like feel is something that doesn’t go amiss. “We remember everybody, we make people feel like they’re coming to our house,” said Pacciano. “We cook the same way we cook at home.”
“We dug in our feet early, got a nice following, and everyone took to us,” he said with pride, and a side of gratitude. •
7339 Amboy Rd., Tottenville / 718.966.6610