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 theirpizza ― 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