Zagat once claimed of Totonno Pizzeria Napolitana (totonnos.com), “Only Godmakes better pizza.” And this legendary pizzeria has certainly received its shareof cult-like worship since its beginnings in 1924, when Anthony “Totonno” Peroopened his own pizzeria in Brooklyn’s Coney Island (he had trained for yearsas a pizzaiolo at the legendary Lombardi’s in Manhattan and had a place acrossthe street before moving to the current location). An Italian immigrant whowas a baker in Italy, he developed his own pizza recipe, which is still followedtoday: “imported Italian tomatoes; a dry mozzarella that’s made especially forus, with very little salt; and olive oil,” says Louise Ceminieri, granddaughter ofAnthony, who co-owns the shop with her brother and sister, Frank Ceminieriand Annette Balzano. “The recipe, combined with the coal-fired brick oven weuse, creates its own unique taste.”
This recipe remains unchanged even despite wildly fluctuatingprices (Louise recalls paying up to $127 for four cans of olive oiland $90 for a bag of flour), and she prides herself on not cuttingcorners—easier since the family owns the building and, accordingto Louise, “never spent five cents on advertising.” She also partiallycredits Americans’ insatiable desire for pizza. “Pizza is goingto make money, no matter what kind you make, because peoplelove it so much,” she says. It doesn’t hurt, however, that Totonnoappears in dozens of cookbooks and guidebooks the world over—the pizzeria even won an America’s Classics award from the JamesBeard Foundation in 2009.
In the ’90s, the pizzeria began expansion, opening two locationsin Manhattan by licensing with partners, but the original locationsuffered a setback in 2009 when a fire destroyed part of the restaurant.However, the family persevered and reopened in February2010, much to the relief of fans worldwide, and the pizzeriaremains the longest-operating in one location in the United States.“We had to rebrick and reinsulate the oven,and I was really afraid that the pizza wouldn’ttaste the same,” Louise remembers. “But we made some testpizzas before we opened, and I said, ‘Could it be possiblethat it tastes even better?’”