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A New Breed of Pizzeria Comes to Long Island

By: Red Tomato

Any pizzeria worth its weight in mozzarella should have the spirit of a family kitchen–festive, warm-hearted, filled with irresistible aromas. Of course, we grown-ups also desire a dining experience of sophistication and taste reflective of our own lifestyles. An awkward disconnect between the two qualities haunts the pizza business.

One fortuitous Long Island partnership, however, intends to bridge that gap with The Red Tomato. Slated to open this spring, it will offer a fresh take on the pizzeria that is authentic to the way we live and dine here–and the way we wish we could there!

A bona fide agent of the burgeoning Neapolitan pizza fever piquing the appetites of Manhattanites, the Red Tomato’s inspired menu is a tribute to the foodie culture that demands nothing but the best‚ even when it comes to something as workaday as pizza. But don’t be fooled by the dish’s implication of the culinarily commonplace–artful, modern interiors of downtown design spiked with Milanese moxie are just the beginning of what differentiates the Red Tomato from its pizzeria peers. From elegantly simple, yet highly curated, wine and beer lists to expressive, handcrafted pizzas of the choicest organic ingredients, you will find aesthetic and gastronomic verve like no other on Long Island.

I had the special pleasure of being treated to a preview of the Red Tomato’s artisanal offerings by co-owner and beloved Long Island baker Raffaele “Lello” Messina. The experience was a delectable and merry affair.

Like the Neapolitan pies dazzling New Yorkers’ palates to the west, the Red Tomato’s pizzas don’t look like the ones most Americans are used to, and they take a particularly sophisticated leap away from what we consider “New York style” pizza. Because they are made entirely by hand, from the kneading of the dough to the shaping of the pie, each pizza has its own unique character, lending every pie the quality of an artwork unto itself.

An old world-style dough is among the most notable features differentiating the Red Tomato’s artisanal pizzas from the everyday pie. The fluffy, soft cornicione (or outer lip) rings a delicate interior crust, imbued with a heart-warming wood-fired aroma. The rapid, ultra-hot baking process (at an infernal 900° F) produces a crust that is never leathery, cakey, or cracker-like and toppings that retain all the lively and subtle elements of their flavors. Simple, unpretentious, and most of all: Delicious!

The greatest thing about those Red Tomato’s pizzas? There is truly something to please every taste.Traditionalist? Their Margherita is a pure celebration of the soul of a pizza– buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and intoxicatingly aromatic basil. Crust lover? The exquisitely supple, lightly salted dough possesses a flavor and texture good enough to be gobbled up by itself with nary a single topping. Unrepentant foodie? Juxtaposing the traditional with the contemporary, the highly cultivated flavors and ingredients– from the ultra-subtle Patate e Porcini to the spirited veg-splosion of the Verdure–will find approval on even the most discriminating of palates.

As a third-generation master baker, gifted businessman, and native Napolitano, Lello Messina’s fate as a pizza-preneur would seem to be written in the stars. His first family business, Dortoni Bakery, has become one of Long Island’s most prized establishments. The Red Tomato was born of the shared dreams of Messina, his sons Corey and Donnie, and longtime friend Chuck Berg, jazz club owner and wild-eyed cucina di Italia enthusiast. After Chuck’s lifelong dream to own a pizza parlor developed into a full-blown case of what is known in Italy as pizzamania (pronounced pizza-ma-NEE-ah), a condition that’s been known to cause Chuck to drive 200 miles to seek out the handiwork of lauded pizzaiolos, it was understood that their family friendship was destined to bloom into a partnership.

Veteran culinary businessmen (they began their careers as pre-teens in the Dortoni Bakery kitchen), Corey and Donnie are the architects of Dortoni offshoot La Bonne Boulangerie, an award-winning pan-European bakery with two locations, as well as the gourmet paradise Messina Market & Caterers. Donnie and Corey provide the combustion behind this new, visionary establishment and aim to light up the Red Tomato with the energy and spirit of their own growing families.

For the Messinas, as for the Red Tomato, a zeal for cuisine and passion for sharing it with others are integral values, in business and in life. Long Island (and surely pilgrims from further afar) can expect to heartily enjoy the fruits of that philosophy when the Red Tomato opens
its doors this spring.