Friday, August 2, 2013

Umberto's Pizza and Restaurant in New Hyde Park, NY (Long Island)

Me and my grandpa with our "Grandma" style pizza - half cheese and half sausage broccoli rabe

Disclaimer: I am a fourth generation lover of Umberto's.

My great Aunt Millie introduced her parents and her brother (my grandfather) to Umberto's pizzeria in the late 1970's and our family has been in love ever since.  Even after my grandfather moved his family to Maryland, Umberto's is still the first place we visit when we go to New York.

Since 1965 when Umberto's opened its doors, the secret to its success has been to use fresh, homemade ingredients with NO shortcuts - just like the owner's family, Umberto Corteo, made food in his Italian hometown near Naples.
 Umberto's founder Umberto Corteo with me in the kitchen
of his flagship pizzeria and restaurant in New Hyde Park


That means mozzarella made by hand, daily baked artisan breads, home made sausage and tomato sauce cooked with the sweetest, ripe Italian tomatoes and basil. Nicknamed the "Pope of pizza" Corteo invented the now famous "grandma pizza" - a thin curst pizza cooked in a Sicilian square pan - that can now be found in many New York pizzerias. In addition, the restaurant serves traditional New York style pizza and Sicilian style pizza with a variety of topping combinations.

This attention to detail extends to the entire Umberto's menu.  Whether you're eating a pasta dish or a Italian dessert, its all made with love from the staff, many who have been with Corteo for decades.

Over the years, the New Hyde Park restaurant has grown from a small pizzeria to a full service cafe, exquisite dinning room and banquet facilities. You can even eat at an Umberto's restaurant in Florida now. Corteo's brother opened several Umberto's there.

The flagship restaurant in New Hyde Park is so famous that Food Network star and chef  Rocco DiSpirito filmed an episode of the show there citing Umberto's as the place he would go for his last meal. Watch the video here. 

"Grandma" style pizza - half cheese and half sausage & broccoli rabe
On a recent visit with my Aunt Mille and family, we ordered a whole grandma pizza pie - half cheese and half sausage with broccoli rabe. The luscious melted cheese, thin crust, made this grandma pizza fit for a king.

We also ordered N.Y. style pizza with chicken cutlet, roasted red peppers and cheese toppings. The tender chicken cutlets and succulent red peppers complimented the thick fresh-made mozzarella cheese. This was ridiculously AWESOME!  Like a slice of heaven. 
Can you tell how happy I am? 
Baked Clams

My Uncle Dominic recommended we try the Baked Clams.  They were stuffed with seasoned  bread crumb, olive oil and fresh herbs- these clams were stupendous. 
The hanging prosciutto 

After we ate, Umberto came to our table to talk. He offered to take me and my mom on a kitchen tour!!! Of course we said yes! Who in their right mind wouldn't say yes to a behind the scenes tour of Umberto's!

Here's what I saw: All of Umberto's bread is freshly baked inside gargantuan bakery ovens. I felt like the bakery itself was one underground city!

In the kitchen, I spotted the largest pot of tomatoes I've ever seen. The fragrance of the fresh basil, sweet Italian plum tomatoes, olive oil and garlic all blending together was overwhelmingly amazing.

We visited three different levels of cooking and baking space on the tour.  Each held an area for something homemade - mozzarella, sausage, breads, desserts etc..  Each area was nicely decorated and extremely neat and clean. The staff, whom Umberto knew by name, were  so welcoming and happy to show us what they do. The restaurant's kitchen and prep areas are so nice I wouldn't mind having my dinner there just to watch all the action.  It was INCREDIBLE.

Before we left, Umberto gave us a giflt - several loafs of bread to take home. They were literally hot out of the ovens. For the next week, we ate sandwiches. 

Here's some of the sandwiches we made at home with Umberto's bread.

If you are anywhere near Umberto's you should stop by for a taste.  It's even worth a looooong trip to eat there.

BRAVO Umberto!

- Charles

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