"Only God Makes Better Pizza"
The quote in the title comes from an old Zagat's review, and we'd find
it difficult to argue the point - still, we're hoping that we have to
good long time to taste God's pizza.
In fact, we've waited a good long time to write this piece - having
in Coney Island several times. Maybe we've just been awestruck
how much we love the pizza this place has been turning out since
If you skipped the link above (to our NY Pizza History page), we'll
recap here: Antonio (Totonno) Pero worked for Gennaro Lombardi at
America's first pizzeria. He left to open Totonno's in 1924,
right where it
stands today on Neptune Avenue in Coney Island. His son, Jerry
ran the place from the early 1950's until 1991. His pizza was great,
his personality was... eccentric. You can read a lot of Totonno's
history in Ed Levine's classic
Pizza: A Slice of Heaven: The Ultimate Pizza Guide and Companion.
After Jerry, Louise "Cookie" Ciminieri and her husband Joel took over
the place, and Louise and son Lawrence run it today.
Louise has been there every time we have, greeting and serving the
customers and guarding the secrets with a smile and an iron first.
Louise (we still have not yet called her "Cookie") wouldn't even tell
us that it was Romano cheese sprinkled on post-bake, although that's
hardly a secret once you smell and taste their paradisical pizza.
In March of 2009, Totonno's suffered a devastating fire that kept them
closed for almost a year - to tell the truth it felt like two years.
When they reopened, everything looked (and tasted) the same as it
always had. New paint job.
Totonno's had a couple of locations in Manhattan, but they have since
closed. And though we know that Manhattanites don't like going to
Brooklyn, some of them would surely make the trip for this.
Like many of the early New York pizzerias,
Totonno's only sells pies. The aforementioned Jerry Pero
would throw people out of the place for even asking about slices, but
the current staff is much kinder. And there's a sign.
The atmosphere is white walls, a beautiful old tin ceiling, and the
sound of pure Brooklyn. We don't recall hearing any music playing -
just the music of Brooklynites talking at each other.
"getoutaheah", "fuggedaboudit" "whaddayou, serious?" We love it. It
goes with pizza better than doo-wop.
We like to sit in the back, near that big hot old coal-fired oven and
watch the pizzaiolo do his work. We''ve never had a pie made by
Lawrence - when we've been there, it's always been Mike working the
stick, his porkpie hat squarely atop his head, his mastery of the oven
belying his remark that he's "just part of the foiniture."
We have a thing for coal-fired pizza in general, and for us Totonno's is the
favorite. As always, the dough's the thing, and we wish we knew what
their secret is, but Louise won't tell, and when we asked Mike what
flour they use, he just shook his head and pointed at Louise.
We are swept away by the balance of the flavors - the char and perfect
texture of the crust, the creaminess of handmade fresh mozzarella (not
chewy!), bright, flavorful but not acidic tomatoes - and the sharpness
of that sprinkle of romano - okay, it's more than a sprinkle but it's
We just realized why it's taken us so long to write this page. We
usually have to head for Coney Island by the time we start looking at
And until we do taste God's pizza, Totonno's
will do just fine.
1524 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224
to the New York Pizzerias
to the passion-4-pizza