By Claudie Benjamin

If you go to Little Italy Pizza at 2476 Broadway on 92nd Street, you’ll see a big photo of a very small boy eating a slice. That would be Delano, son of the owner Tommy Guerselli. Delano’s great-grandmother, on his mother’s side, was Rose. She came to New York City from Sorrento, a town in southeastern Italy overlooking the bay of Naples and she started the first of the family’s pizzerias.

Originally the business was named Rose’s. Over time newer shops were called Little Italy Pizza. The newer name actually highlights the New York connection to a New York City neighborhood. However, two of the family’s pizzerias are still named Rose’s including the one in Penn Station that was recently opened and welcomed as a very big deal. Another Rose’s Pizza is on Eighth Avenue. Now, there are seven pizzerias in the business, all in Manhattan. Does Delano, (who is now six), still like pizza? Yes, says his father, noting that his son doesn’t like cheese “We have to take it off before he’ll eat it.”

That being said, fresh cheese and homemade sauce made of plum tomatoes are essential to Rose’s recipe, that’s been handed down over the years in this family business and celebrated as the real New York pizza. It’s the genuine article here with shakers of grated cheese, hot pepper flakes, and oregano at close hand so as per the New York experience, you can customize your slice just the way you like it.

The popularity of pizza in New York is widely familiar. Early immigrants from Italy brought their recipes with them, and the popularity of this tasty, relatively affordable comfort food surged when WWII Military Veterans returned from combat in Italy to the metropolitan area with a love for pizza. Asked to explain what element makes New York pizza distinctive, Tommy says it’s the crispy crust that looks dark when the pie is set on the counter. A crispy crust ensures that you can fold the slice inward, hold it in one hand and take bite after delicious bite.

This formula accommodates an endless variety of meat or vegetarian toppings. To go right along with a couple of slices or a whole pie, you might order a spinach and cheese roll or garlic knots on a menu that also offers a variety of salads as well as items that can be catered for large groups.

Tommy worked in an Italian restaurant where he first got into pizza making. He and his wife Raquel Pierro married about a decade ago. “We took our wedding money and started the shop on 92nd Street,” Tommy says. “We stay open until 2:00 am on weekdays and until 5:00 am on Saturdays—later than anyone around.” It’s a non-stop enterprise for Tommy between making pizza, supervising ordering ingredients, and overseeing operations in the stores spread around Manhattan.

So, if you’re looking for the real New York Pizza, go for Rose’s time-tested recipe at Little Italy Pizza and while you look out on Broadway, think about how a very simple Italian snack became one of America’s most popular foods sold frozen in any supermarket, steaming hot from the oven and on special pizza days in schools; a snack that New York City claims as its own.

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