Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

Steven Menna has been making pizza ever since he was young, but it was a trip to Naples in 2006 that led him to become the owner of Tufino, a new Astoria restaurant that makes pizza like it is done in the Italian city.

“Everyone loves it,” Menna said. “I’m really pleased.”

Menna, who is 30 and lives in Nassau County, opened his restaurant, at 36-08 Ditmars Blvd., in December. Tufino specializes in Neapolitan-style pizza created in a wood-burning oven from Naples. Unlike New York-style pizza, the pies at Tufino are cooked at a higher heat for a shorter period of time and are naturally leavened without yeast.

“The difference is in the ingredients, especially the dough,” Menna said. “It’s a much softer, slightly charred sourdough.”

Menna started cooking pizza on English muffins as a kid, but a trip to his grandparents’ home country led him to trying the pizza there. Since he was so transfixed by the taste of the pie and the wood-burning oven it was made in, his wife bought him an oven for his backyard. Family members who tried the pizza said it was the best they ever tasted.

So far, diners from Astoria and beyond have told Menna the same. After six months of preparation, he opened Tufino, which is named after a town in the province of Naples where his grandparents are from.

“We haven’t done any advertising and we’re busy every night for dinner,” Menna said, “so it’s been good.”

Tufino’s pizzas are about 12 to 13 inches in diameter and can serve two people or one hungry person. There are about 20 different varieties that cost anywhere from $9 to $16.

In addition to being a pizzeria, Tufino is a friggitoria, serving fried food such as rice balls, croquettes and calzones.

“I don’t know too many places in New York City you can get stuff like that,” Menna said, “high-quality stuff like that.”

The restaurant also serves salads, paninis, desserts, beer and wine, and the Lurisia brand Italian soda. Tufino does not have a freezer and all of the ingredients are fresh.

Menna said he is hoping to open up additional locations in the future.

Menna’s father, also named Steve, described his son’s pizzas as “a work of art.”

“He always loved to cook, my son,” the elder Steve Menna said. “He had a passion for it, to make the best pizza in New York.”

Tufino is open from noon to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit tufinopizzeria.com.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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