One of the country’s most iconic pizza restaurants is up for sale after a full 100 years in business.

The New York Times reported today that the family behind Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana is seeking an investor or buyer to take it over. The Brooklyn shop has occupied the same building, used the same pizza recipe and fired its pies in the same coal-burning oven since Antonio (Totonno) Pero, an immigrant from Naples, Italy, founded it in 1924. 

A longtime member of PMQ’s Pizza Hall of Fame, Totonno’s is perched on a prime spot near the beach on Coney Island. And as Zagat once said, “Only God makes better pizza.” But after a century in the hands of Pero’s capable descendants, this paragon of American pizza tradition faces an uncertain future.

Related: PMQ’s Pizza Power Forum: Start building the pizza business of your dreams 

A note posted Wednesday on Totonno’s website states, “For business investment/purchase inquiries, please contact”

Antoinette Balzano is a current co-owner of the restaurant along with her sister, Louise Ciminieri, and their brother, Frank Balzano. They’re all Pero’s grandchildren.

Talk about the end of an era. Totonno’s has surmounted nearly every imaginable challenge, from the Great Depression and WWII rationing to the Great Recession in the early 2000s, a devastating fire in 2009 that closed the business for a year and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

But the COVID-19 pandemic took a crueler toll. Totonno’s never reopened for in-house dining and currently offers delivery and carryout on Saturdays and Sundays only.

“We’re coming up in age, and we don’t have the manpower to continue,” Ciminieri explained to the Times.

It’s unclear how Totonno’s business has fared since limiting its hours so drastically in recent years. But Ciminieri said that prospective buyers “can’t go by numbers. They have to understand the potential, and they have to understand my blood, sweat and tears in that place for 45 years.”

The Totonno’s name alone certainly has cachet. “There’s something about the Totonno’s experience that can’t be replicated anywhere,” Ed Levine, founder of Serious Eats, once told NPR. “Not just in New York but anywhere in the world.”

The little shop has been honored in dozens of books, magazines, cookbooks and travel guides and won the James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classic award in 2009. Famous fans have included former New York mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani; U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY); actors Marisa Tomei, Danny DeVito and Michael Imperioli; pop icon Cindy Lauper; and actor/director Rob Reiner.

Totonno Pero trained as a pizza maker for 20 years at that other New York icon, Lombardi’s in Manhattan, before leaving to open his namesake restaurant. He devised his own simple yet memorable recipe, which Ciminieri once described to PMQ as consisting of “imported Italian tomatoes, a dry mozzarella that’s made especially for us with very little salt, and olive oil. The recipe, combined with the coal-fired brick oven we use, creates its own unique taste.”

Sure, you can request additional toppings if you really want to, but not many—pepperoni, anchovies, red onions, garlic, fresh mushrooms and basil. That’s it.

“Everything is exactly the same, the way our grandfather made it,” Ciminieri told the New York Times. “People come in all the time and say, ‘I’ll give you a better price on cheese.’ No.”

And whoever buys Totonno’s will need to respect the traditions that Pero’s descendants hold so dear. “We’ve got to keep our grandfather’s name and his pizza alive,” Antoinette Balzano said. “We can’t let it go.”

But Scott Wiener, owner of Scott’s Pizza Tours and a living repository of New York City pizza knowledge, expressed his concerns about “the slimness of the possibility that the right person gets in there and preserves [Totonno’s].” He added that if the new owner “has chicken wings on that menu, we will know that the sun has set.”

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