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Jun132012

« pizzawomen of queens »

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.” 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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    Neat page, Carry on the great job. thnx.
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    John Mills
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    If we take out from our houses then we can see the many women which work in the various fields. Some girls take cooking as their profession and made many tasty things. There are many pizza lovers so they make this dish with their own ingredients for the customers.
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