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The New York Slice that Slices Through Tradition, at Mama’s Too

Category: Food & Drink,Lifestyle

Mr. Tuttolomondo does not fetishize the past. Perhaps this is because he lived it. For almost 60 years his family has owned a series of old-school slice joints in the neighborhood. The current incarnation is literally on a street corner, at the intersection of 106th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. It is called Mama’s Pizza. He didn’t open Mama’s Too a block away to outdo his parents; he’s bringing their product into a new era. If the neoclassicists are like the folk revivalists who collected old acoustic 78s, he is Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

When Mama’s Too opened in December, it also served housemade pasta. It’s still on the menu board that hangs on one wall, but Mr. Tuttolomondo has stopped serving it to concentrate on pizza. Besides the house slice, he also makes squares that he sees as a marriage of rectangular Sicilian pizza with Roman pizza al taglio. The crust is much taller than the Roman style, and taller than some Sicilians, too, but it is airy and chewy. On the bottom it has the bronze color, the cratered surface and the pan-fried crunch of the bread on a grilled cheese sandwich. The edges, where the dough meets the pan, have a gold fringe of browned cheese, known among students of pizza styles as a “frico crust.” This fringe is, of course, crunchy and delicious.

The most impressive square is, I think, the pepperoni. Unlike most of the others, it incorporates tomato sauce. The mozzarella is baked until it begins to brown. The pepperoni slices are small and concave, like contact lenses made of meat. Crunchy around the rims, these little cups are half-filled with spicy red oil.

It may sound as if I approached this slice with cool, analytical detachment. The truth is I ripped into it like a pack of hyenas.

The other squares tend to be white pies with toppings. Again, tomato sauce is one of the toppings. In one case it’s a thick and creamy layer of vodka sauce, one of the ideas that separates Mama’s Too from the neoclassicists. Mr. Tuttolomondo also makes a cacio e pepe Sicilian pie, essentially a four-cheese pizza in which one of the cheeses is pecorino; the whole slice hums with black pepper. The square topped with Gorgonzola dolce and pears works in a way that combination often doesn’t, although half a slice was enough for me.

The shop is small, and if you sit at one of the handful of red counter stools you will share the small tiled floor up front with neighbors waiting for takeout and delivery guys. There are no vintage soda refrigerators or letterboard signs, but there is a small photograph of Robert De Niro eating pizza and a much bigger one of John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever,” biting into his double-decker slice. The picture is in black and white except for the pizza. Tinted orange and red, it glows like a beacon.


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