A Slice of History
Local Restaurateurs and Their Favorite Pizza Memories
It ain’t fancy, but Larchmont’s Villa Maria Pizza has big fans in Adam Kaye and his son.
Adam Kaye, Chef/Kitchen Director of Blue Hill at Stone Barns (on Villa Maria Pizza, Larchmont)
It is a really delicious and consistent slice. Is it the best out there? Probably not, but they nail it every time. Their crust is perfect for a pizzeria slice—flavorful with a good amount of chewiness. And, although they are just using a deck oven (no wood-burning anything at Villa Maria), they seem to get some nice charred bubbles on the crust, which is always a plus for me. I also loved it as a place to walk to with my son when we lived in Larchmont—about a five-minute walk away, which was perfect (and dangerous given how much I love pizza!). Now we live a five-minute drive away, which is still incredibly convenient. I have great memories from the past few years eating there with my family and friends.
Photo by Anthony Petrozza
David DiBari, Chef/Owner of The Cookery (on the Paradise Restaurant, Verplanck)
My most fond memories of Paradise pie-eating were at the dining room table among family. The general discussion would be trying to decipher which one of Lucy and Jerry Margiotta’s 10 children made the pie. Was the pie thin enough? Who made the sauce? And, most important, how much cornmeal was on the bottom? Though the pies were mostly consistent, I think Victor’s pies had the edge. My Grandma (Mima) was best of friends with the Paradise’s crew and generally initiated ordering the pie. If she wasn’t going to cook, which was rare, she was going to eat something worthy of feeding the family.
Pizza nostalgia sets in when I think about dinner breaks at the Paradise. See, I washed dishes there in my early years, having no idea that at 33 I would own a restaurant serving everything from nose to tail and blasting Pearl Jam and Jay-Z (after 9:30 pm, of course). As a growing boy, I waited (sometimes impatiently) for the moment I could sit down at the small table in the middle of the kitchen for a couple of slices of the same pie that eager customers lined up at the bar to pay for. All day, I could smell the sweet tomato sauce, along with the toasting cornmeal on the bottom of the oven. I could eat about two whole pies at that time because the dough was so thin—I mean, paper-thin. In fact, I challenge any pizzeria to match the thinness of that pizza.
Washing dishes at the Paradise was one of my best career moves. I took a few shots at making the pizza when I was allowed, but it always turned out to be some doughy mess that stuck to the bottom of the pizza oven. Even though I worked in the kitchen, there are some secrets I will never know. How does Jerry make the sauce? Or the dough? These are the keys to the Pie Gate.
The Paradise itself is located on Broadway in Verplanck. I don’t think they have a website, and you probably won’t find them on Facebook. But $#%^ it...that’s not who they are. If you die in Verplanck, you already know where you will be having your funeral party, and most people wouldn’t have it any other way.
Peter Kelly, Chef/Owner of X2O, Xaviars, Freelance Café & Wine Bar, and Restaurant X (on Sal’s Pizzeria, Yonkers)
Sal’s closed about 10 years ago, but I remember very well going there on Friday nights during Lent. Sal’s was old-school Italian, but the pizza was the best and the Coke was always too sweet (just the way we liked it). Sal’s had table service with middle-aged Italian waitresses who served the Coke in glass, not paper or plastic. The pizza was old-school, not thin-crust but not thick-crust, just a chewy, medium crust that always had a little char on the underside—and it always had a hint of dried oregano on top.
Randall Restiano, Operating Partner of Diana Restaurant Group and Wine Director of Haiku Asian Bistros (on A-1 and “Mrs. Antolino’s pizza,” Yonkers)
When I was in high school, every Friday we would go to a small pizzeria on a side street in the hills of South Yonkers. There was nothing but houses on this block, and there, in the middle of the street, was a pizzeria sticking out of some guy’s house. It was takeout only, and we would sit in the park nearby and eat what was, for me, the greatest slice of pizza ever made. It was huge, with soft, airy dough and typical mozzarella that looked like wax on the top. It had a place in my heart since I spent about a year eating pizza there.
Another fond memory was when I was a kid and we lived on Merriam Place, a block with many neighbors and where the children were all around the same age. Almost every Sunday in the summer, Mrs. Antolino from up the block made us her Sicilian-style pizza. When the smell of the baked dough would reach us playing in the street, we all would run up, and she would cut a slice of pizza for us. The taste was out of this world. The pizza was thick and fluffy, but light. The mozzarella was fresh and melted as you ate it. I even remember all our parents coming out and getting a slice. Even to this day, when I talk to friends from the neighborhood, they all remember “Mrs. Antolino’s pizza.” It was the best.