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New Ditmars Boulevard Pizzeria Dishes Out Wood-Fired Pies

By Jeanmarie Evelly | December 20, 2012 11:13am

ASTORIA — An upscale pizzeria that opened this week on Ditmars Boulevard is hoping to bring a touch of the old country to the neighborhood's culinary choices.

Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana debuted at 36-08 Ditmars Blvd on Tuesday, turning out 13-inch Neapolitan-style pizzas cooked in a brick oven that was hand built in Naples, Italy. Fired by wood, the oven is something owner Stephen Menna says sets his pies apart from others in the neighborhood.

"Usually it's coal, and most brick ovens are gas," Menna said, adding that his custom Stefano Ferrara oven can reach temperatures as high as 1,000-degrees and cooks pies in as little as two minutes. "You get a very soft, airy, pillowy crust, and a little char on the outside."

Menna, 30, has been making pizza for most of his life.

"Growing up in an Italian family, it's kind of a staple," he said.

He was inspired to open his own place after visiting family in the old country a few years back, where one of his cousin's taught him the trade of Neapolitan — a style of pizza made with a simple yeast and flour dough, topped with quality Italian ingredients and cooked in high-temperature ovens.

"That's where I first saw one of these ovens and fell in love with it," said Menna, who named the restaurant, Tufino, after the town in Italy where his family has its roots.

Menna bought the Ditmars Boulevard space, a former furniture store, in June and renovated this summer.

Menu offerings include a range of pie options, from the classic Margherita ($11) — organic Italian tomatoes, Fior di latte mozzarella and basil — to heavier topped choices like the Patatine ($15), which boasts sliced Yukon Gold potatoes, provolone, leeks and bacon.

Appetizers include "Dolcetti Fritti," or fried treats, like fried mozzarella stuffed with soppresata picante and porcini mushrooms ($8) or calzones filled with ricotta, Fior di latte, prosciutto cotto and black pepper ($12).

"We like to put out high-quality stuff, and everything is of the freshest variety," said Menna, who added that there is no freezer on the premises.

Pastry chef Savvas Ioannou's menu offers a cannoli trio (traditional, orange cream and pistachio cream), buttermilk doughnuts served with anglaise hazelnut creme and a spicy chocolate sauce, and the Tirami Choux — a traditional cream puff pastry, but made with the flavors of Tiramisu.

Tufino will begin serving beer and wine sometime next week, Menna said.