Saturday, June 19, 2010

Coney Island...Baby

With apologies to the Excellents and Lou Reed too, I took a quick drive out to Coney the other day, for the sights and for the pizza. Yes, the pizza; after all, it's Coney that's home to the highly lauded Totonno's, at one time or another considered to be one of the top pizzerias in of the New York style, that is.

Surprisingly, Coney Island and the boardwalk were kinda hopping, especially for a Thursday afternoon. I think school's out, so that probably had something to do with it, and a new amusement area called Luna Park (which is what one of the old amusement areas was called) has opened, all clean and spiffy. But I don't necessarily head out to Coney for the new - I always liked the rundown shabbiness of the place. Ghosts of fun houses and Fascination parlors past, if you get my drift. Like this one, a place where my high-school buddies and I wasted many an evening, I have to confess...

If you never played Fascination, I'm sorry for you. You don't know what you missed. Nat Faber had Fascination parlors in Coney Island, Times Square and out in the Rockaways. Those were the days. And who can forget the Bumper Cars/ Go Karts? Always got a kick out of those when I was a kid, and it looks like the kids still are - as long as they can afford the $6 tariff...

I think the "attraction" I liked the most on this quick trip was one of the shooting galleries, discovered up on the boardwalk between Luna Park and the Wonder Wheel...

Yes, it's Shoot the Freak. With live human targets (he's running around back there somewhere, trust me). Ahhh Coney, we hardly knew you.

But really, we were here for the pizza, my cousin and me. Totonno's. One of the high temples of 'za, all the way out on Neptune Ave. So, what'd we get? Here's our pie being annointed with fresh mozzarella and pepperoni by one of the pizzaioli. Note that the tomato has not yet been added - probably to ensure the crust doesn't get soggy as well as to protect the cheese...

At peak time, when the oven is at its hottest, the pies probably spend 2 minutes or less baking. The oven is fired up to 1,000 degrees at its peak, but we were on the slow side of lunch, and our pie took around 4 minutes. No matter, it emerged blistered and bubbly and hot enough to burn the roof of our mouths on the first bite...

The slices stood up to the fold and eat test, too, with nary a droop...

So how was the pie? Pretty good, with the tomato "sauce" adding the perfect balance of sweet and tart to the mellow cheese, and the pepperoni (on only half the pie) providing a bit of funk and a little kick. The crust was not perfect on this pie, a bit bready and without the puffy, holey texture that I look for. Surely due to the oven being a bit cooler than when it's fully fired. But still, a fine pie nonetheless.

Oh, Lou Reed and his Coney Island baby? Just so happens I was informed by my good friend Miami Danny (a man who spent many an evening palm-rolling the ball at Faber's, btw), Lou and his wife Laurie Anderson are King Neptune and Queen Mermaid at this year's Mermaid Parade. Not to be missed, I'm sure. And neither is Coney, whenever you get the chance.


  1. Beautiful post. The tips of my fingers are tingling. Oh wait, that's because I just got off. Explain that one, doctor :)
    Next time, the cyclone. Call Cliff!

  2. I didn't know that Laurie Anderson is married to Lou Reed. The things you learn on these blogs! I have many a pleasant memory from coney Island and Totonno's. I'm glad they are back up and running!

  3. Mitch, you make me homesick for NY. I recall going to Totonno many years ago when I was checking out all the "best NYC pizzerias". I remember liking the sauce and cheese, and it was definitely thin, but it was sorta droopy. Glad yours held up! Thanks for the nostalgia! Deirdre