1653 Pizza Co. opens in Huntington
There may be decades of hospitality experience behind the team that opened 1653 Pizza Co. this week in Huntington, but owners find themselves flexing muscles they haven’t exercised in years.
Frank Antonetti and his cocktail-centric Rust & Gold partners (Jay Janawksy, Lou Cohen and Claudio Sottile) focus on food and wine for the new two-door business which, despite its name, is truly a contemporary Italian restaurant. . And partner executive chef Michael Vigliotti, one of LI’s leading pizzaioli, has dug much deeper into the Italian repertoire to create a menu that’s just a third pizza.
1653 takes over the space of the old Massa opposite the parking lot on rue Gérard, which means that Vigliotti inherited the enormous charcoal oven of the pizzeria. Problem is, he was a wood– hot guy, arriving on LI’s pizza scene when he opened Vulcano 081 in Rockville Center in 2015 and achieving cult status a few years later when he and Eddie Macari started throwing Neapolitan pies in the truck pizza oven at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck.
You can ask, “wood, charcoal, what’s the difference?” That’s a question Vigliotti spent almost two years answering. “It’s a good thing this place has been delayed for so long,” he joked, “it gave me plenty of time to figure out pizza.”
Coal, the original fuel for New York City pizza, burns hot – up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit – while the traditional Neapolitan domed oven typically burns wood at around 800 degrees. It is the heat of the oven that determines how wet or dry the pizza dough should be, the thickness or delicacy of the pie, the richness or retention of the toppings, because in the time it takes to pizza to cook, all of these must reach the peak delight.
Vigliotti and his partners had decided that their target pizza would have the light, puffy edge of a classic Neapolitan pie, but with a stiffer crust. His breakthrough came when he realized that a cooler furnace was the way to achieve this, and that meant learning how to starve his coal fire of oxygen to keep it low and slow – at 600 degrees, her 12-inch pies take about five minutes. In another break with Neapolitan tradition, 1653 also makes 18-inch pies. But no slices. Small pies range from $ 14 to $ 22; large pies from $ 30 to $ 45.
The 13 pizzas on the menu range from the classics Margherita, bianca (with mozzarella, pecorino, Fontina, scamorza and stracciatella) and wild mushrooms (mozzarella, scamorza, maitake, royal trumpet, pioppino, truffle paste and porcini powder) to more creations whimsical like pie with fresh and smoky mozzarella, bacon jam and minced red onions. Pies topped with mortadella and pistachio cream are all the rage on Long Island right now; Vigliotti says he started making one at Vulcano 081 in 2015; here it’s topped with stracciatella and pistachio powder.
This New Haven-raised reporter is both a fierce critic and vocal promoter of clam pizza. Vigliotti came up with an unorthodox method involving a clam infused cream (don’t worry, it bakes in the crust), lemon zest, and pickled banana peppers that give Frank Pepe, the world’s leading supplier of pizza to the clams, a race for its money.
As a starter, 1653 offers a refined “pizzeria salad” with Trevisano radicchio, small romaine and lemon-mustard vinaigrette; Romaine-style rice balls made with pork sugo or cheese and pepper; charcoal charred octopus with mashed peas, guanciale and spicy sautéed potatoes; Fried calamari and shrimp served in a cone with parsley and lemon aioli. There are six pastas (among them, lasagna with pesto, tonarelli carbonara and tagliatelle Bolognese) and three dishes (roast chicken in a charcoal oven, monkfish piccata and a seared sirloin in butter. Entries range from $ 10 to $ 15 $; the dishes end at $ 45 for the steak.
The liquid part of the 1653 list is the domain of Frank Antonetti, who made Rust & Gold one of the best cocktail bars on the island. There are also handcrafted cocktails and spirits, but Antonetti is more enthusiastic about its wine list which features lesser-known Italian varieties such as Gavi from Piedmont, Catarratto from Sottile’s native Sicily and Lambrusco, a red sparkler from Emilia Romagna. Italian craft beers too.
Antonetti coined the name of the 49-seat restaurant: 1653 refers to the year the Matinecock Indians sold what was then Huntington to three English settlers from Oyster Bay. He and his partners collaborated on the clean, contemporary design which, in particular, avoids Edison lights, reclaimed wood and mason jars.
1653 Pizza Co. is located at 80 Gerard St., Huntington, 631-824-6070.