Home Food Una Pizza Napoletana Is Back

Una Pizza Napoletana Is Back

by Atlanta Business Journal

MARK WEINBERG

Anthony Mangieri went back to Jersey and planned on staying there for good. It was 2019. The year before, the latest incarnation of his seminal Una Pizza Napoletana had opened on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to much fanfare, but was ultimately panned. Struggling to pay the rent, noose around his neck, Mangieri zeroed in on a space with big hydraulic windows near the ocean in Point Pleasant, the area where more than three decades earlier he had decided to devote his life to dough, a young kid with limited social skills and, in retrospect, all the makings of an Italian-American shokunin.

“Two years after I graduated high school,” Mangieri recalls, “I opened a little one-man bakery in Red Bank, forty-five minutes from our home. Five days a week, my mom would drive me over at 10 at night, I’d make dough until 8 AM, open the bakery, serve people until 2 PM, and then she would pick me up and we’d do it all over again.” Mangieri’s friends had all gone off to college. To stay awake during shifts, he ate bread. He started getting puffy. He began to think he was making some bad choices. But he stuck it out, serving thick-crusted country bread that many locals thought was burnt, before eventually moving his operation to a location nearby where he could finally make pizza.

d

Mark Weinberg

“I was gonna get a job in A.C., maybe as a janitor, since my dad worked for the electrical union and had connections,” Mangieri says. “I was ready to give up, but I realized that if I didn’t at least give this pizza thing a try, I would regret it for the rest of my life.”

That’s one clue to understanding why Mangieri plowed ahead with the Jersey retreat, even after the New York Times’s food critic Pete Wells re-reviewed Una, calling it the city’s best sit-down pizzeria: a triumphant reminder that Mangieri was one of the first people to introduce America to the Neapolitan style at the second incarnation of Una in the East Village, which opened in 2004. There, Mangieri again carried out almost every single task by himself, with the occasional help of servers whom he could train by uttering a single dictum: “If a customer doesn’t like something, tell them to get the hell out.” Diners were banned from drinking tap water because Mangieri thought the flavor clashed with his pizza. Among the various proscriptions he printed on the menu and hung on the walls was “PIZZA IS A SPECIALTY. GOOD SERVICE IS NOT.”

d

Mark Weinberg

Covid only accelerated the move to Jersey. Working side by side with a childhood friend, Mangieri relished the isolation. It was a chance to serve the community that first took an interest in his work, while having the freedom to tinker with recipes for the first time in years. Soon, though, he found himself sleeping in the hallway of the pizzeria on most evenings: the symptom of a painful divorce. The dream of bringing his wife and daughter, Apollonia, from New York City to Jersey had evaporated.

“I’m a single dad and that is not a responsibility I take lightly, and it is beautiful,” Mangieri says, employing one of his favorite adjectives. “I also felt deep down, which is something that has happened at a few crucial moments in my career, that there was a limit to what I could do where I had landed, and that New York City still needed to be the place.”

Mangieri debuted version 5.0 of Una last week. With two starters, a handful of pizzas, and a tight selection of wines, the vision marks a return to the simplicity with which Mangieri has always felt most comfortable: a few things done as well as possible; an argument for restraint. “For years, I’ve heard people comment on how similar the topping combinations of the pizzas can be,” Mangieri says. “That’s what we are about: the nuances. We’ll do a margherita and then run a special that’s basically the same thing on paper, with smoked mozzarella instead of fresh, and oregano in place of basil. It will be a completely different experience.”

d

Mark Weinberg

Reflecting on the state of the food world, Mangieri says that “somewhere along the way this idea of subtlety is getting lost when it comes to pizza.”

He now owns the space outright, after parting ways with chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske, the Michelin-starred partners who originally joined forces with him on Orchard Street in 2019. The short-lived trio served several appetizers and desserts that drew on Stone and von Hauske’s strengths.

Going forward, if Mangieri has his way, Una will only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. He is trying to work things out so he can run a viable business while spending all of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday with his daughter.

“Two decades ago, my plan was to show the world the best pizza and I was so egotistical about it,” he says. “And after so many years it comes full circle and you get to a place where you question everything. It’s kind of sad.”

d

Mark Weinberg

He fleshed out the sentiment in a letter sent out to friends, longtime regulars, and members of the media in advance of the reopening:

After over 25 years serving customers, I’ve learned that every day is a chance to redeem yourself, give more, focus harder, push past your own fears and limitations and – ultimately – to spread love and goodness.

My small and incredibly talented team and I have put our hearts and souls into this newest version of Una Pizza Napoletana. Every detail has been considered with love and focus and everything serves a purpose. I hope that you visit, find happiness while dining with us and feel inspired to pursue (or continue to pursue) your passions fiercely.

Love,

Anthony Mangieri

This content is imported from OpenWeb. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Related Articles