March 15, 2009
There was a near miss at Totonno’s pizza joint on Coney Island. A fire – apparently originating in the coal used to fire the oven – has shut the place down, but word is that it will reopen. This place has been in the same location and operated by the same family since 1924. It’s the only pizza place in the States that can make that claim. The family has a few more locations, but this is the original. We went there last year, just before Memorial Day. It’s a kick. You can’t park around there when the beach is busy – as it was that day – and when you finally do arrive, you have to wait outside until someone tells you to come in. It’s that small; it can accommodate only a few people at a time. The interior looks as it should. In other words, nothing has changed there since the first Coolidge administration. The pizza is out of this world, and I don’t say that about most pizza. It’s at least as important that this place has lasted all this time, that it’s a tourist attraction but also a mainstay of its neighborhood. A story like Totonno’s can be told more and more rarely in this country. Having grown up frequenting such institutions – Doc Pawlek’s drug store, Izzy Kaufman’s appliance store, Old Mr. Birkmeier’s delicatessen, Louie Grossi’s shoe repair shop, and my own grandfather’s grocery store, virtually all of which are long gone – I treasure such spots where I can find still find them. Va bene, Totonno!