After months of false starts, Brooklyn pizza lovers can chew on this: Totonno’s has reopened.
The 86-year-old Coney Island stalwart — long lauded as one of the best pizzerias in the city — started cranking out coal-oven-fired pies last Friday for the first time since a nearly devastating fire on March 14, 2009.
Owner Louise “Cookie” Ciminieri had vowed from the start to reopen. But no one thought it would take this long.
“There was just so much damage,” Ciminieri said.
You can’t tell from the look of the Neptune Avenue joint now. The same walls are covered by the same newspaper clippings from publications worldwide. The tin roof is the same. The oven is the same.
Or is it? The 900-degree coal-fueled oven has been completely re-lined, and may take a few days before it’s churning out perfection, but our initial sampling proved to be extremely satisfying.
And at least one newcomer was impressed.
“It really is fantastic pizza,” said customer Katie Lazarowicz.
Of course, Lazarowicz had never been to the original Totonno’s, which was almost destroyed after coal embers ignited part of the century-old wood building.
“We always dumped the hot coals into a metal box under the oven,” Ciminieri explained. “Apparently, over the decades, the box got thinner and thinner and finally had holes in it. Who knew?”
The fire had taken place on the anniversary of the death of Ciminieri’s father.
“We were at the church and I look at my phone and there’s 20 messages from Louise,” said Ciminieri’s sister, and Totonno’s co-owner, Antoinette Balzano. “I said to [brother and co-owner] Frank, ‘Something’s wrong at the store.’ ”
All three siblings were on hand at Friday’s opening.
Totonno’s [1524 Neptune Ave. between W. 15th and W. 16th streets in Coney Island, (718) 372-8606].