By Connor Adams Sheets
California love landed in Queens last week for some New York-style pizza.
Rocco DiNardo, owner of DiNardo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria in Whitestone, received a call Oct. 12 from Joe Staab, assistant coach for the University of San Diego Toreros football team.
The team was playing Marist College in Poughkeepsie Oct. 16 and they wanted to stop by his restaurant on the way to the school.
“He goes, ‘I’m a coach with the University of San Diego college football team.’ I say, ‘OK, how can I help you?’” DiNardo said. “He said, ‘I’d like to order 50 pies from you because we’re coming in to Kennedy Airport for a game with Marist College upstate, and we’d like to stop by and pick up the pies — 25 pepperoni and 25 cheese.’”
So DiNardo took the $800 order and planned to coordinate when exactly their flight arrived in order to ensure the pizza was piping hot when the hungry athletes and coaches arrived.
DiNardo said he was pleased to feed them, but that before he could hang up he had to ask how a Californian knew about his pizza joint.
“I said, ‘Not for nothing, but how did you hear about us?’” DiNardo said. “He says, ‘My uncle lives out in Long Island and he has a construction company, and he said your pizza’s really good. He’s picked up some pies for his guys before.’ That’s how I got the phone call.”
Two days later, Staab and the boys arrived at the shop at 145-16 14th Ave. in two large charter buses at 9:45 p.m., just as DiNardo was taking the last few pies out of the oven. He threw in three cases of water — the team turned down sodas — for free.
Staab, whose parents are from Long Island, said the Toreros enjoyed the pizza and the service they got at DiNardo’s.
“When we got there, they had a bunch of pizzas hot and ready and cases of water ready to go, all that good old stuff,” he said. “It was great. Everyone enjoyed the pizza. It made the two-hour ride up to Poughkeepsie better. It was a great treat for our guys to get some good old New York-style pizza.”
Turning out 50 pies in two hours was no sweat for DiNardo, who said he learned the trade as a pizza cook at the original Famous Ray’s Pizza in the Village, where he estimates he made 1,000 pizzas per eight-hour shift.
“I had both ovens on and cranked ’em up all the way, and I just banged ’em out,” he explained.
DiNardo said it was a great time and that he was glad to serve the players, but he is still most proud that he was able to attract customers from thousands of miles away.
“For DiNardo’s to go all the way out to the West Coast, that’s amazing. For word of mouth to get all the way out to the West Coast — that’s the opposite side of the United States! I was thrilled,” he said.
The pies may have given the Toreros the edge they needed to prevail at Marist College, as they beat the school’s Red Foxes 14-10 on a 7-yard touchdown pass with just 30 seconds left on the clock.
“It was good food, good pizza, good times and a good win in New York,” Staab said. “It was a great trip for our guys.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.