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Forcella Opens in Manhattan, Serves Zeppole Pizza

Forcella Opens in Manhattan, Serves Zeppole Pizza

I was a little intimidated, but excited, to be going to the pre-opening last night of the Bowery Street flagship of the newest addition to the New York Neapolitan pizza scene: Forcella. I have been critical of the presumptuous nature of the Vera Pizza Napoletana Association (“VPN”), the self-appointed pizza police, if you will, dictating what “true” Neapolitan pizza is and, by extension, dismissing all other pizza, including local “New Yawk” pizza as being, well, inauthentic. Giulio Adriani, the owner/chef of Forcella, is the inspector for the VPN.

Charming, with a heavy Italian accent and sporting the soul patch equivalent of a ZZ Top beard, I asked Giulio which part of Italy he came from. “Napoli, of course,” he answered, with what I may have imagined as a strong implication that one needs to have their birth certificate checked before being allowed near a pizza oven. And what an oven! Gorgeous black and white tiles brought in and lovingly reassembled from the mother country. (Photo courtesy GutterGourmet)

Of course, the VPN and their Neapolitan ilk are not new to the city. Before Kesté, Donatella, Una Pizza Napoletana (now out in San Francisco), Motorino, Rossopomodoro (located in Eataly, no less) and Olio (where Giulio worked before opening Forcella in Williamsburg and Manhattan), New York City pizzerias like Pizza Fresca and Naples 45 claimed their superiority as card-carrying members of the VPN. Naples 45 went so far as to claim that they sourced local spring water to mix with their dough that more nearly matched the chemical and mineral content of the streams flowing through the compagna surrounding Naples than New York City tap water (which I still prefer to Evian).

Forcella, which is a neighborhood of Naples and a word that incidentally means wishbone and fork, clearly seeks to import Naples to New York. The appetizers include small crocchetti, arancini, bruschetti, and even zuppa di fagioli. All delicious. At the door, I noticed some of New York’s pizza royalty on the guest list, including Adam Kuban and Scott Wiener, and spotted Paulie Gee in the restaurant. Then I sat down and the pizzas (which Giulio informed take a maximum of 75 seconds to cook, per the VPN), starting rolling out.

The Margherita, named for the Queen of Italy, was very nice. The Marinara, with heavy garlic, oregano, and just a hint of pecorino in lieu of mozzarella was marvelous. The pizze (spelled “pizze” per the VPN, I suppose) bianche were represented by the Decumani, a luxurious, all white, no-tomato-sauce beauty covered with homemade mozzarella, arugula, pecorino, and (joy!) truffles.

We would all be forever indebted to Naples if it merely invented pizza. But there was another miraculous invention in that city just south of Rome that has, thankfully, also been adopted by New York as one of its own. You see it at every street fair and carnival in the city; so much so that, like pizza, you’d swear that we New Yawkers must have invented it: the zeppole.

It's sheer genius: Simple fried dough covered with powdered sugar. Indeed, Forcella makes good use of the fryer by taking bits of dough and showering them not only with powdered sugar but also Nutella (invented in Alba, not Naples). Even better was the millefoglie, which was like a French Napoleon, which is derived from the gateau Napolitain, invented in, you guessed it.

But the highlight of the evening was the pizze fritte. Imagine, if you can, a giant flat zeppole, first lightly flash-fried after which, instead of sugar, it's covered with San Marzano (a small town near, yes, Naples) tomato sauce and mozzarella di bufala (which is a DOC designated trademark of the Italian region of Campania, the capital city of which is… don’t make me say it again). It’s then finished briefly in the wood-burning oven. Called the Montanara, it has an entirely unique, zeppole-like texture. Based upon my research, it is not the same as the two-sided completely deep-fried pizza fritta found on the streets of Naples. While this might have the VPN up in arms, I’d like to think that maybe this is something that one can only find in that other pizza-making, great-tap-water-producing city of New Yawk.


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Can this Italian pizza master cut it in NYC?

On a brisk night in late November, top pizza makers from around the country, members of the food media and even Mayor de Blasio gathered at a new pizzeria on the Bowery, preparing to taste the sublime. The renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo, perhaps the most famous pie maker in Naples — the birthplace of pizza — was celebrating the opening of his long-awaited, eponymous restaurant. As a procession of steaming hot pies passed among the partiers, there were the usual press-friendly praises … but also a quiet rumbling of criticism about “soupy” toppings and “chewy,” “wet” dough.

Can the reigning king of Neapolitan pizza make it in the Big Apple? Right now, mixed reviews are just one of his challenges.

In Italy, the 43-year-old Sorbillo has a larger-than-Vesuvius reputation as a pizza maker and TV personality. While tourists and locals alike endure hour-plus lines at his locations in Naples and Milan, it seems New York City’s decade-old craze for the Neapolitan trend has cooled off — making way for new obsessions such as the square-shaped, deep-dish Detroit style that’s been a huge hit at joints like Emmy Squared, as well as a revitalization of the grandma slice.

Gino Sorbillo is ready to take on New York. Liz Clayman

Before the November event, pizza aficionados had been predicting Sorbillo could stoke the wood-burning fires once again for puffy-crusted pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But his first NYC venture, the fried-calzone-and-pizza eatery Zia Esterina, which opened in Little Italy in April, has already shuttered. (Sorbillo’s publicist Shari Bayer said the closure was caused by damage from next-door construction and is temporary.)

The new Bowery spot comes with its own issues. Sorbillo’s friend and fellow pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani has helmed a number of restaurants at the location: Forcella, A Slice of Naples and the pizza-speakeasy, SRO. Adriani says he closed in early 2016 after uneven business and a large rent increase. (The Williamsburg Forcella is still open.)

“It’s a tough area, but the biggest problem is the [lack of a] liquor license,” says Adriani, who went on to help launch the Neapolitan Express pizza trucks and is debuting a new fast-casual venture, the Local Pizzaiolo, in Atlanta in January.

Back when he arrived in NYC in 2010, to open Olio e Piú, Adriani says you could name all the city’s authentic Neapolitan pizzerias on one hand: Kesté and Motorino, which were soon followed by Paulie Gee’s. Now, he laments, “there are too many to name.”

“When I opened [Kesté] 10 years ago, it was easy to do a good job,” says Roberto Caporuscio, who recently expanded his original pizzeria to locations in Williamsburg and the Financial District, where he has also built a pizza school. “It’s [even] changed a lot from five years ago when I opened Don Antonio. Today, you need to be very precise and careful.”

There is no doubt that Sorbillo has icon status in his home country.

“His family is 100 percent pizza — real lineage there, multiple generations,” says Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours.

“Pizza is my life — my daily food, my profession and my history,” says Sorbillo (via a translator), who was taught to make pizzas by his aunt, Zia Esterina, and his father, Salvatore, who is the 19th of 21 children — all pizzaioli. “When I was a child, my friends were able to travel, and all I did was make pizza and go to school.”

But that kind of history doesn’t hold much stock with New Yorkers.

“New York City is not an easy market,” says Ribalta executive chef Pasquale Cozzolino, who moved to New York from Naples in 2011. “There’s a lot of Michelin-star chefs, but New Yorkers don’t care if you’re famous somewhere else in the world. They want to see you here, working hard. They want to see you prove you are right for them.”

Although Sorbillo plans to be in New York frequently, his home base will be Naples, where he has already conquered intense pizza competition. He stood up to the Mafia by refusing to purchase their food products and quickly rebounded from a 2012 arson attack suspected to be the Mafia’s doing.

In Sorbillo’s place by the oven on Bowery are three of his trusted pizza makers, all whom have worked a minimum of three years at his shops in Naples. His menu is decidedly Italian, from the classic Margherita to the Nduja pie made with spicy Calabrian spreadable salami. And he uses the same organic flour and 20-hour dough fermentation as he does in all his locations. But that detail to quality might not please American taste buds.

According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the most widely ordered Neapolitan pie is the Margherita (topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) — a strict recipe that falls under the European Union’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status. For unfamiliar American palates, Adriani says Sorbillo will have to deal with customers who complain that the pizza is soggy.

“We [Neapolitan makers in New York] all have had the same problem … and we each decided how to handle it,” says Adriani of the textural difference. For instance, he adjusted his recipe to use less sauce and ingredients that release less water, such as pre-roasted mushrooms and fresh mozzarella that’s been drained overnight.

Sorbillo says he does not plan to change any of his recipes — his pies are his pies.

His pizza is larger than typical Neapolitan pies seen in the city thus far, with a smaller crust — a style called “ruota di carretto” or wagon wheel. “Our goal is equilibrium around the border with ingredients well-distributed,” Sorbillo says. “Otherwise when you fold it, it’s too [cumbersome] and hard to eat.”

Paul Giannone, better known as the man behind Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s, which serves Neapolitan-inspired pies, is optimistic about Sorbillo’s chances.

“It’s not just somebody opening a Neapolitan pizzeria — it’s the most respected Neapolitan pizza maker in Naples, and it’s a great honor to have him,” says Giannone, who is on the brink of opening his first slice joint near his original whole-pies-only location.

No matter what happens in Manhattan, Sorbillo is not afraid.

“I am very stubborn,” he says, “and moving forward with my focus, which is the pizza: tradition, innovation and heritage of place.”


Watch the video: AUTHENTIC NYC ITALIAN ZEPPOLE RECIPE. Easy Italian-American Donut YOU Can Make Perfect First Try (November 2021).