There are meatballs on the pizza, baked ziti in the oven and capicola hot ham, salami and pepperoni in the deli case. But the most essential ingredient that makes those morsels and DeMarco’s New York-Style Pizzeria go is its soothing Italian nostalgia.
You can hear the New York Italian in the voice of restaurant creator Steve DeMarco. You can see it in the red-checkered table cloths, Frank Sinatra framed pictures, the clean red-white-and-green color scheme.
And you can taste it in the pizza.
Which is precisely what DeMarco knew he needed after moving here to help his sister start her own business.
His definition of good pizza is as much about genetics as it is thickness. He was born and raised near Albany, New York.
“I grew up in the kitchen, hands on,” he says. “I learned everything from my mom and pop.”
When pressed for a definition of the “decent pizza” he says he couldn’t find here, first he gets philosophical: “Putting in all your heart and soul and love,” he says. Then he gets specific: “New York style, a large wide slice, with a thin crust, that you can fold up – a meal in itself.”
His old-school sensibility appears throughout the menu, with mozzarella sticks ($5), grandma’s garlic knots ($4) and an antipasto salad ($5-$8) up top and homemade pastas ($12-$14), minestrone ($5-$8) and Rat Pack deli sandwiches on hoagie rolls ($5/5-inch, $10/10-inch) below. On the other side come the calzones and pizzas (and the De Niro burger).
THIS PLACE WILL CHUB ME UP. “WE’RE NOT RUNNING A HEALTH SPA HERE.”
The stuffed calzones ($9) include mozzarella, Parmesan, chopped onions, tomatoes, basil, tomato sauce, fresh garlic and one of three meats (pepperoni, sausage or meatballs). If they are as authentic as the pepperoni-olive pizza and meatballs I tried, this place will chub me up. “We’re not running a health spa here,” DeMarco says.
Pizzas start at $6 for a personal, $18 for a large with $1 per topping. Some of the specialties ($20 each): The Soprano supreme with bell peppers, onion, pepperoni, mushroom, Italian sausage; the Godfather with the calzone meats; and the Marilyn Monroe with white sauce, fresh basil and Parmesan.
Best of all, pepperoni, cheese and other rotating specials come by the slice ($4), something unseen outside of Del Monte Center’s Pizza My Heart.
English Ales will be one of four taps. Buckets of beer will run $12ish. (“Then you stick around a little,” DeMarco says.) All-you-can-eat-spaghetti nights will also involve buckets. “Empty it and we fill it back up,” he says.
With Ferdi’s and its dusty bulletin board, watermelon shakes and blackened chicken next door, Goodwill and a pawn shop across the street, lower Broadway is now the regional HQ for throwback style.
That’s what one visitor to April 11’s soft opening brought with him. (The official opening day was April 15.)
Terry Teplitzky runs one of the more popular restaurants in Marina (Wild Thyme Deli & Cafe) and successful catering houses in the area (Michael’s Catering). Now he wants to bring an Atlantic City-authentic Boardwalk Sub Shop to downtown Monterey. His brothers, who also grew up on the signature East Coast subs and Tastykake pies, are leaving their jobs in casinos to collaborate. Like DeMarco, they’re betting on blue-collar value, family-run charm and loyalty to the tastes they grew up with. I bet it works.
• The owners of Thai Bistro II (372-8700) on Central Avenue are retiring, and insiders tell me they’re training the new owners of what will become a Japanese restaurant. The cute converted house won for Best Thai Food in our annual readers poll a whopping 15 times.
• You never want to see a friend get catastrophically hurt in a car accident, receive a diagnosis of cancer or lose a leg. But you do want to help when it does. Find out how friends are helping resilient heroes like Heather Ream, Rachael Short and Chris Fowler do well the face of intense obstacles on the blog.
• A delicious development on Castroville’s main drag: Birrieria & Restaurant Estilo Coalcoman is now open.
• Big Sur Roadhouse has a streamlined menu by new Exec Chef Brendan Esons. Get more on the blog soon.
• The winner of the Cima Collina Trashion Show, aka the “Dumpster Diva,” is Stephanie Barajas for her “Artic Crystals” with white plastic, paper and tissue dress inspired by ice crystals and snow. Honorable mention went to my best in show, Weekly photo intern Merve Girgin Yanar, who dressed like a daisy. (Check out the field on the blog.)
• Mama Chula’s superb Mexican dishes pair with Don Julio tequilas at Lopez Restaurante Y Cantina ($45, 324-4260) 6:30pm Thursday, April 16 – anticipate tandems like mole de olla with Don Julio 70 Anejo Claro.
• The first 22 at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley get a free wine tasting in honor of Earth Day (Wednesday, April 22).
• Rancho Cielo’s Drummond Culinary Academy students prepare a menu of dishes like butternut squash ravioli, creole prawns, roasted baby beets with arugula salad and the ranch steak for a wine dinner 6pm Friday, April 24. Cima Collina and Manzoni Vineyards provide the pairings ($85, 444-3521).
• Tax relief special: In honor of the IRS tax filing deadline (Wednesday, April 15), Salinas City Barbecue paid the sales tax all day and poured Stone Brewing’s IRS (Imperial Russian Stout) for $5. Ask them for an extension.
• Tuesdays and Thursdays 3-6:30pm are wine time at McIntyre tasting room: the price for a glass of red, white or sparkling is set by the clock. So at 3:45pm the charge is $3.45.
• The California Rodeo has a new partner: Oregon’s Pendleton Whisky. They celebrate with a Passport to Pendleton tasting event 6-9pm Friday, April 24, at the Salinas Sports Complex. Patrons sample Pendleton and other Hood River Distillers spirits like Brokers Gin and 44 North vodkas. Dinner provided by Grower’s Pub ($75, RSVP to 775-3100).
• Olana Sullivan of Pour Girl Bartending mobile services makes a rare public appearance as an exhibitor at MEarth Day April 25, shaking up organic mocktails. Sullivan recently founded her bartending company, using organic and local herbs to produce handcrafted specialty cocktails.
• Favaloro’s Big Night Bistro hosts four-course winemaker dinner with Rich Tanguay of Heller Estate Organic Vineyards 6pm Wednesday, April 22. That’s only appropriate for Earth Day because Heller is the wine region’s organic pioneer. Dishes include orecchiette pasta with house-made chicken sausage and a rotini di pollo stuffed with caramelized leeks, asiago and prosciutto. RSVP to 373-8523.
• Follow @MontereyMCA on Twitter.
• Monterey Bacon Festival returns with a rock-solid music lineup June 27-29 and little mention of bacon on the website.
• In honor of landmark Little Napoli’s 25th anniversary, owner Rich Pèpe offers a 25-percent discount to newsletter subscribers.
• Savvy tip from Christopher Kimball: Fry bacon with a touch of water and it cooks more evenly without losing crispness. Get more curated tips on the blog.
• Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”