By: Robert Intelisano
The Queens Chamber of Commerce works in magical ways! I received an intro email in early November from Chris Pershad, owner of B&S Bookkeeping Service and a new member of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Chris reached out to introduce himself as he was referred to me by Shahriar Hossain, from the Chamber.
As it often does, the conversation moved towards food. Chris mentioned meeting one of his clients, Sal Romano, owner of Luigi’s Pizza. Luigi’s Pizza is a hidden gem tucked into the corner parking lot at 104-02 Atlantic Avenue (directly across the street on Atlantic from the Mobile gas station) in Ozone Park.
I mentioned to Chris I had driven past “Luigi’s Pizza Restaurant” numerous times and Luigi’s has been on my radar to try and see if it measures up as “A SLICE of Queens” Pizza column material. The answer is an emphatic YES!!!
The Romano Family is originally from Borgetto, a small mountain town on the border of Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, which is also my homeland! Borgetto is where Sal’s Father Luigi learned many family recipes passed down from previous generations. Their first family restaurant was also called Luigi’s on 54th street and 8th avenue in Manhattan (they have since closed during Covid-19). This is where Sal and his younger brother Luigi learned their work ethic and how to craft delicious pizza as boys and young men. Sal’s younger brother Luigi owns Luigi’s in Bayside, where Sal resides.
We met the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving when they were just opening. I knew I was in a good place as soon as I walked in as it was spotless, and the aroma of fresh homemade sauce was wafting throughout the air! Sal and Chris met while they were both attending BMCC (Borough of Manhattan Community College) with Sal majoring in Hospitality and Chris, bookkeeping.
They were looking forward to their upcoming December 3rd anniversary which commemorates their grand opening 21 years ago on 12/3/2002, as well as Sal’s son Nick’s 21st birthday! Sal’s family and pizza passion really beamed when talking about both of his sons being “ALL IN’ at the restaurant.
Being in the insurance advisory business for many years, I have seen many businesses over the years fail when being passed on to the second or third generation for a variety of reasons. Often, the next generation don’t share their parent’s work ethic or passion for the business.
This situation could be the opposite as Sal’s kids could be even more fired up than Sal about their family pizza shop! In fact, Sal decided to close for 6 weeks and do a full renovation, giving his two sons Nick & Sal Jr., ages 21 and 19 respectively, leeway to redesign the shop and walls in pop (art) culture. Everything was upgraded except their Baker’s Pride old-school deck ovens, where the magic happens!
We tried multiple slices. Their regular thin-crust New-York-Style slice was solid as was their buffalo chicken slice. It was Luigi’s Grandma Slice that was the showstopper, in my opinion and in the conversation for the best Grandma slice in Queens! They use both mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano (only raw milk made from grass or hay fed cows in Parma, Emilia, Modena, Mantua or Bologna) cheeses and the Reggiano cheese must be produced and packaged in that region as well. The Grandma slice had a fabulous crunch and aftertaste.
Open 7 days from 10:30am to 10pm, Luigi’s Pizza on Atlantic Avenue is the real deal! It sits on the corner in a small accessible parking lot. They have seating for about 40 people and it’s a cool scene with music (not too loud) and positive neighborhood vibes. They recently partnered with nearby P.S. 254 on an anti-bullying program, as giving back to the community is important to Sal.
They deliver and have a catering menu for parties. For first timers, Luigi’s is not far, nestled 4.6 miles from JFK airport. Give them a try, you will thank me later!