Pizza pies and pasta cakes

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Photos by Bradley Hawks
Photos by Bradley Hawks

At Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana, each pie has its own personal story. One is inspired by chef and owner Stephen Menna’s grandmother’s meatballs, another by his favorite festival as a kid and yet another by his neighbor, who suggested adding raisins to a prosciutto pie.

Naturally leavened dough is gently hand-stretched and falls loosely down the pizzaiolo’s forearms as it twirls. A shallow layer of choice toppings is meticulously applied. Menna places mozzarella crumbles as if setting jewels in a crown.

The addition of fontina to Greek cheese adds a subtle earthiness when coupled with tangy kalamata olives. A sprinkle of oregano with lemon juice added post-oven really makes the pie special. The flavors simply pop. On the San Gennaro, a drizzle of playfully picante honey makes the pie particularly good.

“We have weekly specials including several gluten-free options,” Menna said. “I probably have around 40 different pies in my head right now.”

All of them are browned to bubbling bronze beauty in a Stefano Ferrara wood-fired oven made from volcanic ash of Mt. Vesuvius. The oven was an anniversary gift from Menna’s wife.

Pizzas range from $9 to $16 per 12-inch personal pie. Daily specials also include a few pastas, salads, panini and crostini. Sunday brunch features a pancetta pizza with a fried egg.

Storefront window art identifies the pizzeria as a “frigittoria,” which means they also make fried treats, or “dolci fritti.” These include jumbo arancini, prosciutto croquettes and deep-fried calzones. On weekdays, guests can even indulge in a cappellini cake – angel hair tossed with a blend of cheeses, rolled in breadcrumbs, fried and served with a moat of alfredo sauce.

Desserts include a fresh seasonal fruit tart (the current pignoli tart with basil cream is sublime), a cannoli sampler, the “Tirami Choux” (a cocoa pastry puff with Kahlua mascarpone cream) and Menna’s take on a Nutella pizza.

Menna, who makes his own dough every morning, intends to make pizza as long as he can.

“Detail is everything… and staying true to what I believe in,” he said.

Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana
36-08 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria
718-278-4800
Open at noon daily (closed Mondays)

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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