These are just a few of the multitude of answers I've heard over the past year in regards to the question asked incessantly by everyone in New York, "When the hell is Totonno's going to re-open?" After nearly a year behind the metal shutters, Coney Islands's greatest pizzeria finally re-opened its doors to the public on Friday, February 12.
Don't let me mislead you, I wasn't there for it. Totally lame, I know, but had they opened when they said they would two days earlier, I was ready to trek through the gnarly blizzard to get my first taste of the place.
After fixing the place up following the fire that forced Totonno's to close its doors last March, it was fully restored to its small, quaint, original style. Quick primer: Anthony "Totonno" Pero made his first American pizzas at Lombardi's, America's oldest pizzeria.
(courtesy of Passion-4-Pizza)
That's Perro on the left and Lombardi on the right. Supposedly, Anthony did most of the pizza-making at Lombardi's (it's hard to see, but there's flour on Perro's shoes and none on Lombardi's) and was sick of Gennaro getting all the credit, so he bought a place on Neptune Ave. in Coney Island in 1924 and named it after himself.
Totonno's, along with Lombardi's, Patsy's, and John's, comprises the four pizza forefathers of New York, and ultimately, America. With three locations now (two in Manhattan), the joint is now run by Cookie, her husband Joel, and son/pizzaiolo Lawrence Cimineri, which despite the difference in last name makes Totonno's the longest family-owned and operated pizzeria in America.
I showed up the following weekend and had no problem grabbing a table, which is surprising considering there's only about 10 in the whole place. As soon as I was able to, I ordered a traditional Margherita (one size; no slices).
This pizza is the embodiment of a year of anticipation. It's beautiful, isn't it?
The sauce is naturally sweet from the Italian tomatoes, the cheese is stretchy and fresh, and the crust is nicely toasted and crispy-
The cornicione was bready and fluffy with a great chew to it. For some reason, it seems much darker than end-crusts at any other pizzeria. I suppose this can be attributed to the placement and length of time the pie is in the coal-fired oven, but it almost looks like rye bread, am I rye-ght?
Ultimately, and I know I'm going to catch some coal-fired heat for this, I wasn't blown away. Great pizza? Definitely. Legendary? Not so much, at least in the way of taste and flavor. Maybe my expectations were set too high, maybe they were having an off day, but I just wasn't knocked out.
Would I go again? Absolutely, if not just to pay tribute to one of our forefathers.