People remembering the $5.50 slices of Cascarino’s pizza they bought at Shea Stadium are in for a real surprise when they visit Cascarino’s Pizzeria and Ristorante in Bayside.
In addition to superb thin-crust pizza which stands up to delivery (it’s cooked the traditional way, on the oven stone rather than on a steel screen, for crispier crust) there’s an extensive selection of truly traditional dishes from all parts of Italy, and more.
Owner Jimmy Coady (a Fazzalari on his mother’s side) grew up as the rare freckled Sicilian kid in Harlem, Astoria and College Point, having known the Cascarinos “since we were kids.”
He now owns the Whitestone and Bayside locations and employs many of his grandmother’s recipes in the restaurants. “Still, I like to eat other foods, so we also fuse new ingredients and styles,” he said.
Coady is the master of understatement. The extensive menu of standards and specials is a treasure trove of tastes and textures.
From the stalwarts, like the delicately fried calamari, eggplant rollatini, stuffed mushrooms or peppers and a perfectly dressed Caesar salad, to the totally unexpected pan seared sesame crusted Ahi tuna in a ginger-soy sauce, Coady and his staff excel.
“Most people won’t order food in a pizzeria because they expect it to be inferior,” he said. “I only use the best ingredients, and if my regular supplier is out, I go someplace else to get what I need rather than change the ingredient.”
In recent years he has changed a couple of things. He abandoned peanut oil out of concern for food allergies, opting for a grape seed/safflower/canola fry-oil blend.
Coady is both an innovator and a purist. The menu describes the dish because the names have often lost their meanings. Some dishes have roasted whole cloves of garlic, others saut/ sliced or chopped garlic and some have none.
For pasta, the Bolognese sauce contains ground pork, veal and beef, cooked with finely chopped celery and carrots, with just enough tomato to color the oil orange. “I’ve had to offer to put tomato sauce on the side, because so many people think Bolognese is just meat sauce.”
Likewise, the vodka sauce is really made with vodka, as well as the prosciutto, tomatoes and a bit of smoked bacon for subtlety, finished with cream.
They’re serious about their sauces here. The pizza sauce is not the same as the “gravy” which cooks for hours; the Marinara is made with a shorter cooking period (like the World War I Italian Navy cooks made it) with basil, oregano and garlic - fresh, and Agita free.
Dishes (you can choose veal or chicken) include the Scarpariello (whole roasted garlic cloves, potatoes and sausage in a white wine rosemary sauce) and Staiano, (the chef’s choice, fan fried with prosciutto mushrooms and fresh mozzarella in a red Marsala sauce.
One of the experiments they’re trying out is the half-portion, as an appeal to healthier-eating patrons and a way to have people order what they want rather than sharing.
Coady is also adding “healthy” selections like wraps and more salads, including selections with fruits, nuts and other unexpected pleasures. “Who ever heard of a strawberry-spinach salad with a fruit-based dressing in a pizzeria,” he asked.
With a second floor dining-room and well stocked bar, this isn’t your grandmother’s pizzeria. Cascarino’s is an epicurean homerun.
CASCARINO’S PIZZERIA AND RISTORANTE
39-17 Bell Boulevard in Bayside
Web site: www.cascarinos.com
Hours: Sundays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to midnight
Delivery to Bayside-Flushing ($10 minimum)
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express
Muni-meter parking until 7 p.m. except Sundays Q13 or Q31 bus