RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Naples, Italy, thrives on the outskirts of downtown Ridgewood in a pizzeria where everything is made A Mano — by hand.
Butternut squash, pistachio pesto and truffled cheese spreads might make A Mano’s menu seem overwhelming at first glance. So general manager John Lugano suggests newcomers ease in with a familiar margherita pie.
“The idea of Neapolitan style is basic and simple,” said Lugano, whose restaurant is at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Chestnut Street. “Margherita is the basic pizza, and then they get more adventurous."
A Mano is the only pizzeria in New Jersey and one of three in the U.S. certified by both Neapolitan pizza associations — Versace Pizza Napoletana and Association of Neapolitan Pizzaiuoili — which ensure the true tradition of Neapolitan pizza continues, he said.
Every pie is made exactly the same way it was in 1889, when mozzarella was put on top of a flatbread for the first time and served to Queen Regina Margherita.
“I can always tell when people are here for the first time because they ask for a large pepperoni,” Lugano said. “We don’t use pepperoni, we use sopressata … and all my pizzas are personal size —12 inches cut into four slices.”
Mount Vesuvio’s San Marzano tomatoes, fine Caputo flour and homemade mozzarella are the main ingredients for every pie, made systematically in A Mano about two minutes before being served.
After the dough is stretched out and coated with sauce and toppings, it’s loaded into the 1,000-degree, oak-fired oven for 90 seconds — no more, no less.
"You'll see once (the pizza chefs) put a pizza in the oven, they won't turn their backs on it," Lugano said.
The inside dome and the floor of the ovens are constructed from Mount Vesuvio’s ash so they can withstand the high temperatures.
A Mano is the only pizza place in town 10-year-old customer Maryn knows. "It just tastes fresh," she said.
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