|Tufino's Margherita pie, with organic Italian tomatoes, fior di latte, parmigiano reggiano, and basil|
Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana | 36-08 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria | (718) 278-4800 | www.tufinopizzeria.com
Ever since 1905, when Lombardi's applied to the city for the first license to make and sell pizza in the U.S., New York has been synonymous with some of the best rounds, squares, rectangles, and slices in the country. Although the Big Apple has been longtime associated with its own thin-crust version, a recent surge in pizzerias devoted to the original style born in Naples has led to a revitalized fanaticism for classic, artisan pizzas.
|The oven warms up to over 1,000 degree Fahrenheit, cooking pies in under two minutes.|
|A sign on the Ditmars Blvd storefront announces an official opening Tuesday, December 18th.|
|Co-Owner and pizzaiolo Stephen Menna pulls a pizza from the wood-fired oven.|
|A nod to the Greek neighborhood, the kalamata-studded Il Greco gets a squeeze of fresh lemon after baking.|
|Menna describes the San Gennaro as "a sausage and pepper hero on a pie" -- the drizzle of picante honey is a nice touch|
|Husband and wife co-owners Maria and Stephen Menna|
Storefront window art also identifies the pizzeria as a 'frigittoria', which means they will be crisping up some fried treats—or ‘dolci fritti’—including arancini, prosciutto croquettes, and deep-fried calzones. The opening menu is just a teaser, as other treats are planned down the road, including a dish that uses hand-scooped spheres of chilled angel hair and a blend of cheeses, rolled in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried with a crispy golden coating. Beverage service will include a carefully edited selection of craft beers, along with 7 red and 7 white “pizza wines.” Ciabatta and crostini for the sandwiches come from neighborhood favorite, Gianpiero Bakery.
|The Trio of Cannoli dessert|
|Tirami Choux and espresso|
So an exquisite dough is gently hand-stretched like a dopey dwarf cap that falls loosely down the pizzaiolo's forearms as it twirls. A shallow layer of choice toppings are meticulously applied (Menna places mozzarella crumbles as if setting jewels in a crown). He then gently places the pie in the flickering dome opposite the embers in indirect heat, and the flames and pie have a staredown. The pie rises slowly as if posturing, then gently blisters in the heat, as charred bubbles of condensed flavor arise on the outer crust. And then just before succumbing completely to the heat, Menna retrieves the pie at its most vulnerable stage, carefully checking its underside with a long wooden peel before sliding it onto a metal disc to serve steaming to the table.
The addition of fontina to the Greek added an earthiness I loved, with those tangy (and pitted, thank goodness!) kalamata olives, but the sprinkle of oregano with the chilled mist of lemon juice added post-oven really makes the pie special, with flavors that pop. On the San Gennaro, the drizzle of a playfully spicy picante honey makes the pie particularly special. It's like what the street festival in Little Italy might taste like in a dream. But there is always something to be said about an excellent margherita, which is the standard by which I gauge any pizzeria. Although I now feel compelled to return until I have tried several other pies, I will most likely intermittently order the excellent margherita--whose simple, bright, satisfying flavors and scents are what we think of as pizza when we crave it most.
|Stephen Menna, Junior and Senior|
Lunch and dinner will be served Tuesday through Sunday beginning at noon daily. Tufino is closed on Mondays. Welcome to the neighborhood, Stephen (Junior and Senior), Maria, and the whole Tufino crew!