Last week I visited Totonno's for the first time since it's February 12 reopening (after a March 2009 practically destroyed the place). The owners restored Totonno's previous decor with, thankfully, no unnecessary "improvements."
The pizza was 100% top notch.
Totonno's crust is simply masterful. When you fold it, it cracks on the outside, but the inside, despite its thinness, holds together and stretches, conveying a perfect bread flavor and chewy flexibility.
I had the white pizza and the standard cheese and tomato. I tried the sautéed peppers and onions on half of each type. Both styles were incredible: the simplicity of the excellent ingredients shined through with every bite. The Totonno's white pizza, unlike a ricotta white (which is the New York standard when it comes to white), is prepared with fresh garlic, mozzarella, and olive oil. I like it much more than ricotta white variation.
In fact, I'd say I'm addicted to Totonno's white pizza and can still taste it, almost a week later!
Totonno's is the oldest family owned pizzeria in the country. The operating-owner, Louise "Cookie" Ciminieri, commented on how in the 1950s, the invention of the gas-powered pizza oven and an increased demand for pizza resulted in the opening-up of pizzerias everywhere. She said, rather bluntly-but-truthfully, "But it all stems back to us."
Well, Totonno's does not simply exist because of its history: the pizza it's serving in the present day provides every reason one needs to justify a trip to Coney Island.
There have been fewer than half a dozen pizzaioli (pizza-makers) at Totonno's during its 86 year history. All have been family. That is, until recently. Today, native Coney Islander Michael Gammone makes the pies. But he is not related to the owners.
When asked how this came to be, Cookie says, "Well, we ran out of family, so we adopted him!"
Click the photo above to view an short audio slideshow featuring Gammone making pizza at Totonno's. Assisting him is Totonno's server Jami-Lee Galati.
Map Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano (call ahead for days/hours).