Metro

Century-old NYC pizza icon Totonno’s looks for someone to take over with just one condition: No pineapple

The family behind a historic pizzeria that has been serving Coney Island for 100 years is looking for a buyer or partner to help to keep their grandfather’s legacy alive.

But whatever the future holds for Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana, the family says the goal is to stay true to founder Antonio Pero’s classic recipe.

“My grandfather would turn in his grave to hear pineapples,” Antoinette Balzano, Pero’s granddaughter, told The Post. “Clams? Oh my God.”

Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana is looking for a buyer or a partner. Aristide Economopoulos

Balzano and her sister, Louise “Cookie” Ciminieri, recently put out a public call for an investing partner or buyer to take over the family business that is widely hailed as one of the Big Apple’s best pizza spots and one of the few left in the city that uses a coal-fired oven.

Balzano, 73, explained that while she and her two siblings are proud owners of Totonno’s, they’re way past the age of retiring and lack the necessary manpower to keep things going.

Pero lived the American dream after he emigrated from Italy and opened the pizzeria in 1924, his granddaughter said.

“To come here with no money, no family and people are still talking about him 100 years later: How many people can say that unless you’re a movie star or Mozart?” Balzano said.

The pizzeria opened in 1924 in Brooklyn. Aristide Economopoulos

Pero arrived in New York City in 1903 at 22-years-old, finding employment as a baker at Lombardi’s in Little Italy, which was then a grocery but became a pizzeria that makes the claim to be America’s first pizze shop.

Pero’s family claim that he inspired Gennaro Lombardi to make pizza, then set out on his own after two years to open his own restaurant on Coney Island.

The restaurant has stood in the same location for 100 years, surviving a fire, flooding from Superstorm Sandy, and the coronavirus pandemic, all while cementing itself as a favorite of thousands, including actor Danny Devito and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Diners grabbing a slice at the pizzeria, which is only open on weekends, told The Post they were hoping the little slice of New York would keep going.

The famed Coney Island eatery is only opened on the weekend. Aristide Economopoulos

Famed pizzeria restaurateur Paulie Gee, 70, cited the Coney Island restaurant as the source of his inspiration.

“I had a pizza-piphany,” Gee told The Post of the first time he ate at Totonno’s. “Up until I came here, I just knew NY-style pizza. Then i found out about this place, and they said it was a coal burning oven pizza and I really loved it.”

Teddy Davis, 65, who lived in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighborhood, said he’s been coming to Totonno’s since he was just 10 years old, remaining a loyal customer even after moving to New Jersey.

“I have been coming here for 55 years, do I need to say anything else?” Davis said as he enjoyed a Totonno’s slice during a recent visit with his son, Hunter.

Laura Dornstein, 61, another loyal customer, had heard the news that Totonno’s could be changing ownership soon, so she and her partner, Hugh Pastrana, made the trek from Forest Hills to get an original slice before it’s too late.

“I love this pizza,” Dornstein said “because of bad transportation options, we come here very very rarely, but we wanted to make sure we got one more in.”

Antoinette Balzano, 73, explained that while she and her two siblings are proud owners of Totonno’s, they’re way past the age of retiring and lack the necessary manpower to keep things going. Aristide Economopoulos
Hugh Pastrana and his partner made the trek from Forest Hills to get an original slice before it’s too late. Aristide Economopoulos

Laura Rubin, 50. a Ukrainian immigrant who has been coming to Totonno’s since 1992, added that nothing comes close in America to the pizza served at the restaurant, which served as the spot of one of her first dates in the US.

“I came on a date here with a guy, and it was the best pizza,” Rubin recalled. “I don’t remember the name of the guy, but I have been coming ever since for the pizza.”

Ciminieri, who has been working at the restaurant for 47 years, said she doesn’t mind selling the pizzeria so long as the new owners “keep everything the same.”

Even if Totonno’s changes hands, Ciminieri said she can’t imagine herself being far away from the restaurant.

“I’ll probably still be here,” she said. “We’re still looking, but I’ll probably still be here until I’m a hundred.”