Back in April, as I worked on an article for Edible Queens about women who make pizza, I began to wonder: how many pizza-making women are there? I had my three for the story ― Lillian Calabrese of Lillian Pizzeria in Forest Hills, Rose and Susan Bagali of John’s Pizza in Elmhurst, and Gianna Cerbone-Teoli of Manducatis Rustica in Long Island City (above photo) ― but how many were out there who I didn’t even know about?
Years ago, when I lived in the East Village I sometimes went to Five Rose’s. I liked their pizza ― not too cheesy; thin, pliable crust ― and it was often along the way to where I was going. But the main reason I stopped there was that the owner (and primary pizza-making person) was a woman. That was novel. Unlike Stromboli (1st and St. Marks), Nino’s (Avenue A), and even the alt-art-Louisiana pizza shop Two Boots To Go (down near 2nd Street), Five Roses was less hustle bustle, and molto mellow. (Five Rose’s closed in 2008 ― here’s a story from the Vanishing New York Blog.
I cannot recall any other Manhattan places I went to during the ‘90s or ‘00s that crossed gender lines ― and even today within the five boroughs, I know of only a few. And so, as part of my “research” for the story I was writing I picked up a copy of the 2006-07 Queens Yellow Pages and called all of the pizzerias listed under “Restaurants -------> Pizza.”
Here’s how it went:
“Hello, so-and-so pizzeria, how can I help you?”
“Hi. I’m writing a story for a magazine about women who make pizza and I’m wondering if there are any women who work there who regularly make pizza.”
“Huh?” most of them replied, at which point I tried to clarify the question by substituting the word “ladies” for “women.” That helped.
“Honestly, I never heard about any women making pizza,” said the guy at Luigi’s in Bayside.
“No, sir. It would be hard to find a woman who makes pizza,” said the guy at La Vita Mia in Astoria.
“No, if I had any women working over here my guys wouldn’t do their job,” said the guy at Jack’s (maybe Jack himself) in Bayside.
“No, we don’t. I wish we did,” said the guy at Pizza Classica in Flushing.
“ ... leave it up to a man to think that a woman can’t make pizza,” said the owner of Il Gusto in Ridgewood. "That's not what I think," I replied, a bit defensively.
But despite the surprise and/or cynicism I garnered from many of the calls, I discovered 19 Queens pizzerias (out of the 205 pizzerias I called) that do have a female pizza-maker. Nearly 10% ― wow!
A few of those 19 shared with me their thoughts on the topic.
Josephine at Josephine’s in Ozone Park: “I don’t make pizza all the time but I can make pizza. It’s hard work. It’s not easy ― [and you’ll get] really huge shoulders and strong arms. I think women are more cautious about the food they serve. A woman has more inclination to feed the family and keep the household going so whatever she does [it] is more with love and [it tastes] better.
Rosa at Alfie’s in Richmond Hill: “It’s a family business. For me, that’s how I got into it. It used to be a man’s job but I was bred into it. This business ― it’s in my blood. And I love it. It makes people happy ― especially our old-school customers. If you make something with love, it comes out much better.” “The work itself [is not appealing]. You need strength. It’s more of a manual kind of work. You need power to put into the dough. Women have small fingers [compared to men]. But it’s a stereotype that it’s a man’s job.”
Sara at Martiniello’s in Maspeth: “I like cooking but I don’t really like making pizza ― in particular, stretching the dough. It’s a lot of hours (15-16/day) and [you need] a lot of stamina.”
Lume at Neron’s in Queens Village: “It’s a hard job. You have to have the touch and a love to make pizza. Ladies are better [at it] than men but people get surprised to see a woman making pizza.”
Sandro at M&G in Whitestone: “My wife Theresa makes pizza every day. It’s in her blood: her father owned a pizzeria and she taught me how to make pizza. We both have a different style.”
Owner at Woodside Pizza in Woodside: “I have an employee who’s been here 2½ years. Her pizzas are exactly the same as those made by men. She opens a good pie.”
Info on the three pizzerias featured in Edible Queens story:
John's Pizza in Elmhurst. Open Tues - Sun 12 pm - 10 pm (Closed Monday). Map John's. Rose and Susan Bagali make all of the pizzas.
Lillian Pizzeria in Forest Hills. Open Tues - Thurs & Sat - Sun 11 am - 9 pm, Fri 11 am - 9:30 pm (Closed Monday). Map Lillian's. Lillian makes the salad pizza.
Manducatis Rustica in Long Island City. Open Tues - Fri 10 am - 10 pm, Sat 1 pm - 10:30 pm, Sun 1 pm - 8:30 pm (Closed Monday). Map Manducatis Rustica. A restaurant with pizza and more on the menu. Gianna spends most of her time in the kitchen and, along with her employees, does make pizza.
The Yellow Pages book I used is outdated and thus, this list is incomplete. Contact me with info on others and I'll add them:
Alfie's Pizza in Richmond Hill. 86-08 117th Street. (718) 849-8701
Atana Pizza Corp in Long Island City. 21-07 Broadway. (718) 545-5304
Friend's Too Pizzeria in Ozone Park. 93-12 Liberty Avenue. (718) 843-1233
Il Gusto in Ridgewood. 62-98 Ridgewood Avenue. (718) 418-1112
Josephine's Pizza in Ozone Park. 132-04 Cross Bay Boulevard. (718) 641-2775
M&G Pizza in Clearview. 19-05 Utopia Parkway. (718) 352-6140
Martiniello's Pizzeria in Jackson Heights. 95-06 Roosevelt Avenue. (718) 779-4733
Neron's Pizza and Restaurant in Queens Village. 215-32 Hillside Avenue. (718) 776-6056
Pizza Bella in Elmhurst. 81-30 Broadway. (718) 507-1009
Romano Famous Pizza in Astoria. 32-21 Broadway. (718) 626-5292
Steve's' Pizza Place in Middle Village. 82-18 Eliot Avenue. (718) 899-4751
Tommy's Pizza in Rockaway Beach. 915 Cross Bay Boulevard. (718) 945-6054
Tommy's Pizza in South Richmond Hill. 93-12 Liberty Avenue. (718) 835-4408
Venice Pizza in Flushing. 41-94 Bowne Street. (718) 537-0104
Victoria's Pizzeria Restaurante in Corona. 111-17 Roosevelt Avenue. (718) 803-8408
Vito's Restaurant & Pizzeria in Bayside. 78-37 Springfield Boulevard. (718) 465-3855
Woodside Pizza & Catering in Woodslide. 44-06 60th Street. (718) 533-8888