Long Island’s Oldest Pizzerias

By Arthur Bovino
June 6, 2018

I do this to myself all the time, have a project that I’m working on that sends me down a rabbit hole (pizza rabbit hole? pizza hole? black pizza hole? pizza whirpool? pizza spiral?) that’s related, tangential, not what I should be spending my time on, but too interesting to let go. In this case, I’ve been left wondering about the oldest pizzerias in Long Island. What are they?

How has this not been a topic that’s been definitively resolved? If it has, I can’t find it online. Considering the proximity to Pizza City, the number of Italian-Americans who have lived there over the decades and the strong pizza culture that exists, you’d think someone would have asked and tried to answer this question. According to the Census, of the 2,832,882 residents of Long Island living there today, 669,639 of them are Italian-American. That’s nearly 25 percent!

According to Stony Brook University’s Long Island History Journal, “By 1930, Italian immigrants had flourishing populations in Port Washington, Glen Cove, Patchogue, and many smaller, recently formed neighborhoods, like San Remo, on Riviera Drive in Kings Park, or Marconiville, a small ethnic enclave in Copiague.”

Those were good locations to start looking. And look I did, noting Long Island’s most famous spots as I went (fair to say those would be what, Umberto’s for grandma pies, Eddie’s for bar pies, Gino’s, and Little Vincent’s for the cold cheese slice?). While far from definitive, here’s a timeline of some of the area’s most well-known pizzerias and, toward the bottom of the list (let’s say the Original Umberto’s on down), a stab at naming some of the oldest. It omits all pizzerias in Brooklyn and Queens, which, while technically Long Island, don’t count for the purposes of this game—Nassau and Suffolk counties only. Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with Long Island’s best pizzerias (though a few of my favorites are there).

Funny, I grew up going to Umberto’s (grandpa John Tortorello’s favorite place) and Borrelli’s, though most frequently there for their manicotti.

If you have any suggestions for places that should be added to the list, please hit me up at pizza@best-pizza.nyc (Erica Marcus, I’m looking at you!). — 🍕🤠

1980 Sal’s Pizza (Sayville)
1980 Emilio’s (Commack)
1980 Carlo’s Pizza Oven (Port Jefferson)
1979 Piccolo (Bellmore)
1976 Prince Umberto (Franklin Square)
1976 Mamma Lombardi’s Restaurant (Holbrook)
1976 King Umberto (Elmont)
1974 La Scala (Commack)
1974 Aegean Pizza & Italian Restaurant (Holbrook)
1974 Ancona Pizzeria & Heroes (Valley Stream)
1971 Little Vincent’s (Ronkhonoma)
1970 Baby Moon (Westhampton Beach)**
1969 Mario’s Pizzeria (Oyster Bay)
1965 Original Umberto’s (New Hyde Park)
1965 Agnoletto (New Hyde Park)
1962 Gino’s of Long Beach (Long Beach)
1958 Pizza Supreme (Garden City)
1957 Albert’s Pizza (Copiague)*
1955 Borrelli’s (East Meadow)
1947 Sam’s Bar & Restaurant (East Hampton)
1931 Eddie’s (New Hyde Park)

*Shoutout to Porter Francis
**Credit Matthew Hyland of Emily Pizza

Bocce Club Pizza to Open New Downtown Buffalo Location

By Arthur Bovino
February 8, 2018

Bocce Club Pizza is probably the most iconic pizzeria in Buffalo. Some folks might debate that and call out La Nova. It’d be a clean fight—above the belt. Regardless, The Buffalo News reported some big Bocce-related news. Food Editor Andrew Galarneau notes that owner Jim Pacciotti is reopening on the corner of Clinton and Adams where Bocce once served Buffalo for half a century.

Bocce got its start on Hickory Street in 1946 after Dino Pacciotti returned from World War II. The business was a members-only bocce ball court. (“You needed a membership to come in,” his son Jim Pacciotti told me. “You had your card, you played some bocce, and had a meal.”) Dino, a bartender, bought Bocce and decided to start making pizza. “The other bartenders thought he was crazy,” Jim told me last year, “but he found a Blodgett oven in the basement and started experimenting with a recipe.”

The Hickory location closed in 1958. “People were skipping out on mass for pizza and liquor and the priest wasn’t happy about it,”  Jim told me. They opened a new location on Clinton Street the same year, and followed that in 1959, with a new location on Bailey in the town of Amherst on the outskirts of the city. The Bailey location, owned by Jim, has gone on to become one of the most beloved pizzerias in Western New York, but the Clinton Street spot closed in 2011 after its operator, Rudy Sacco died. By all accounts, Rudy must have been quite the character. Jim told me Rudy, his cousin, used to carry two guns.

Jim Pacciotti is reopening Bocce Club Pizza on the corner of Clinton and Adams where Bocce once served Buffalo for half a century.

Pacciotti told The News that he bought the building at 630 Clinton Street five years ago. “I’m using the bones of the building, which are good,” he was reported saying. “There’s lots of work to do.”

The idea that a new Bocce will be opening in an original Bocce location a five-minute drive east of downtown Buffalo is another sign that the city is on the rise. But by all indications, it still may be some time before it opens. When I talked with Jim in February 2017, he told me they were hoping to open a downtown location in July or August. This is that same location, and the goal now is three to nine months.

Whenever it opens, it will be a significant date to add to a list of other important milestones in Bocce’s history. — 🍕🤠

1942 Dino Pacciotti goes off to war.
1945 When he gets back, Dino works part-time for Bocce Club and gets a job at General Mills as an accountant.
1946 Dino Pacciotti and his sister Melvina Sacco purchase the Bocce Club and start developing pizza.
1955 Dino Pacciotti takes a risk and quits a job at General Mills to work full-time at Bocce
1958 The Hickory Street Bocce closes and the Clinton Bocce opens.
1959 The Bailey Avenue Bocce location opens.
1959 The Bailey Avenue Bocce location opens.
1978 Dino Pacciotti dies. The Pacciotti family continues to run the Bailey location. The Sacco family runs the Clinton Street spot.
1983 The Bailey store remodels with wood front
1988 The Pacciotti family opens a Bocce location on Hopkins Road.
1996 Bocce Club Pizza turns 50 years old.
2009 Bocce celebrates 50 years on Bailey Avenue with a new stucco facade.

Bocce Club Pizza (Downtown)
630 Clinton Street
bocceclubpizza.com