Ah, the North Fork. A must-visit destination for beaches, wineries, pumpkins and, I would argue, pizza. I’ve eaten pizza all over Italy and the U.S. and believe the North Fork’s variety of pizza spots make it a must when visiting the area or just figuring out your family dinner. From gourmet to traditional, local standby to newcomer, these spots make the case for establishing an official North Fork Pizza Trail.
Back in 2014 when the Rolling in Dough pizza truck expanded to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, 1943 Pizza Bar, the concept of pizza on the North Fork changed for the better. With unique pies, like the ones featuring toppings like mashed potato and bacon or my personal favorite, Italian Scallion (now called the red pie with mozzarella spinach, cherry peppers, and scallions), 1943 elevated what locals thought of as great pizza. Matt Michel and his team have continued slinging gourmet pies while new pizza restaurants have opened and old stalwarts have stepped up their game. Heck, even Dave Portnoy from Barstool Sports has come to the North Fork to taste the best of what we have to offer. Talking to friends and neighbors, I’ve learned that everyone has a favorite spot — or a few. Some like one place for their specialty pies and another for a killer slice. Whatever your preference, the North Fork has something for you. Mangia!
Starting in Jamesport, the neighborhood stalwart, Lenny’s has been making Brooklyn-style pizza for over 30 years. Norine Penacchia of Southold says Lenny’s mushroom and caramelized onion pizza is “so decadent and delicious.” Lenny’s offers a great mix of traditional pizza with a slightly sweet sauce and lots of oregano on their classic cheese pizza. Having tried many pizza spots I agree with Norine about the mushroom slice — definitely unique!
Also in Jamesport, just a short distance from Lenny’s, Grana makes their version of “Neapolitan with a twist,” as chef/co-owner David Plath calls it. The Margherita pizza features fresh homemade mozzarella, organic sauce, and fresh basil. Plath notes that the Margherita is Grana’s most popular pie and for good reason: “With a Margherita, there’s nowhere to hide.” It’s just three ingredients: cheese, sauce, crust (well, and fresh basil, too). When those ingredients are great, the pizza is great. Plath also praises the North Fork as a unique pizza destination, noting that local farms provide the ingredients for their rotating specialty pies. He’s excited about eggplant season and after discussing his recipes, so am I. Grana has been pumping out wood-fired pizzas and homemade pasta since 2010 and quickly became a destination for amazing food. With such a strong following, the staff sometimes stops answering the phone for takeout orders. It took me a few days of trying to snag some pizza but it was well worth it. Claire Wilke of Mattituck praises Grana for being “inventive,” and indeed they are. Some non-traditional pies are topped with figs, potatoes or clams. My family’s personal favorite was the L.I. clam pie, which had just the right amount of garlic and perfectly cooked clams.
Heading east into Mattituck puts you in prime pizza territory, with a handful of places to try including Primavera, Lombardi’s Love Lane Market, AMano, and Pizza Rita. New to the neighborhood, chef Enzo of Primavera brought his classic recipe from Montauk to Mattituck to enjoy a more year-round business and to be closer to family. His house special pizza and classic pepperoni were standouts; even my kids agreed it’s the best pepperoni slice they’ve had on the North Fork.
Just North of Primavera, pizzas from Lombardi’s Love Lane Market have the perfect balance of acid and sweetness. Their classic Margherita is fantastic but they also offer unique pies like the Love Lane, which is topped with sausage, sauteed broccoli rabe, and cherry peppers. On a sunny afternoon, owner Lauren Lombardi and I discussed what makes North Fork pizza so special. Being surrounded by farms, she said, gives pizza makers on the North Fork a leg up on the freshest ingredients. It is “farm to pizza.” Lombardi shared that one of her market’s most popular pies is the Northforker, featuring fresh house-made fresh mozzarella, basil pesto using basil from Jamesport Farmstead, and broccoli rabe. One of her personal favorites is a white pie topped with chive blossoms, also from Jamesport Farmstead. Beyond their Neopolitan-style round pies, Lombardi’s Nonna slice is very popular as well. It features the family-recipe sauce, garlic, and their fresh mozzarella. Lombardi notes that it’s not only delicious but also gorgeous to look at. Given that Lombardi’s is also a gourmet market, she has noticed that customers have been taking on the pandemic project of getting their own pizza ovens at home. For that reason, the pizza chefs at the market make extra dough each day for people who prefer their pies DIY. With a variety of canned specialty tomatoes and a selection of local veggies available for purchase, Lombardi’s Love Lane Market is the perfect spot to order takeout or curate your own farm-to-table pizza.
Up on Sound Avenue Mattituck, Pizza Rita is a nod to classic Old-World Neapolitan pizza. Pizzaiolo Jeffrey Marrone started with a pizza truck before expanding to the Mattituck location, which also now features pasta and salads. Marrone holds true to the classic and specific Neapolitan recipe for pizza by using double 00 flour, DOP San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil. Don’t ask for toppings like pepperoni here; they stick strictly to what’s on the menu, and for good reason — it’s delicious. Their Margherita Verace is a religious experience. Even my Neopolitan in-laws would be impressed. As Mattituck summer resident Tom Goydan notes, “Pizza Rita has my favorite pizza”.
If you’re looking for a spot to enjoy a bar pie, head to AMano on Main Road in Mattituck. Their brick-oven pizza is the perfect complement to happy hour, which starts every day at 5 p.m. The unique flavor combo of their goat cheese pizza makes it pizza fancy enough for a date night.
In Southold, make sure to stop at Michelangelo’s. Many local North Fork locals specifically mentioned this as their go-to neighborhood pizza spot. It was also my kids’ favorite “plain” pizza — although there is nothing boring about this slice.
There are many pizza choices in Greenport Village, but they include two must-stops. For an excellent slice, head to Claudio’s Pizza, or as we refer to it in my house, Pirate Pizza. The neon pirate decor is a playful nod to the maritime village but the pizza here is no joke. The cheese slice is superb and the rotating availability of their specialty slices provides something for everyone. Of those, the spicy Diavola slice with Calabrian chiles and hot honey is my favorite, with just the right blend of spice and indulgence.
But even after all the pizza we’ve tasted heading east, my overall favorite spot is 1943 and my very nonscientific poll of online friends concurs. Whether it’s the fun of sitting outside in Sterling Square or enjoying the pizza downstairs at Brix & Rye cocktail bar, 1943 Pizza Bar is the perfect place to end a day on the North Fork Pizza Trail.