"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Slice of Life


It is always the same, the sudden, stomach-dropping, jolt.  Walking along a city block, looking up at a familiar store front or restaurant, a Closed sign hanging in the door way, or a vacant window. Something has happened. Change has come, like it or not.

I gasped last night as I walked past Sal and Carmine’s pizza shop on Broadway between 101st and 102nd (They make a salty but delicious slice.)  The grate was up and a red rose was taped against the metal.  Above it was a small xeroxed obiturary from a New Jersey paper.

Sal died late last week. I’ve been eating their pizza since I was a kid.  Sal and Carmine.  Two short, taciturn men in their seventies, though they look older. I never knew who was Sal and who was Carmine, just that one was slightly less cranky than the other. These are the kind of men that don’t retire but are retired.

The funeral was yesterday; the shop re-opens today.


As I read the obituary, people stopped and registered the news.  They congregated for a few moments, some took pictures with their cell phones, and then slowly walked away, the neighbhorhood taking in the loss.


1 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 2, 2009 11:56 am

The owner of my local pizza joint in my hometown--a native Italian named Tony with a bald pate and a bushy white mustache, a short old man who always dressed in white from head to toe, complete with apron--is likely gone by now. He sold the restaurant some years back, though they've kept the name ("Tony's," of course) and the flavor (also a bit salty, but delicious, with thick, hand-sliced pepperoni). I regret not talking to him more when I was younger (he was always out and about conversing with the customers), I bet he had a great story.

2 mark donelson   ~  Jun 2, 2009 12:38 pm

Wow, I pretty much grew up on Sal & Carmine's pizza, from back when they were around 95th St., before the move slightly uptown.

I never knew which guy was which either. I knew they were getting up there, though--when I was in there a few years back, I was really nervous watching Sal (or was it Carmine?) cut sausage.

Loved their sauce, though. As always with the stuff you grew up on, I can never find a slice that tastes quite like theirs anymore.

3 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 2, 2009 12:42 pm

Dammit ... now I'm gonna have to have a slice (or 3) for lunch .... :-)

4 TheGreenMan   ~  Jun 2, 2009 12:59 pm

I've had a slice or 12 there. That's a shame.

Great NY pizza.

5 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 2, 2009 1:00 pm

[3] I had the same reaction, Diane. And on a day I brought my lunch from home too - c'est la vie.

[0] I've heard this story about pizza places and Italian delis/bakeries back "home" in upstate a lot over the last few years. Its always a surprise when the folks who were always there are suddenly gone - and worse when no one wants to take over the business, and suddenly the business is gone too.

Knowing that such places will someday be gone (or totally different), while sad, does make me appreciate the places I really enjoy a bit more in the present.

6 rbj   ~  Jun 2, 2009 1:03 pm

Have a slice for me.

Having lived in now eight states I can honestly say there is nothing like good honest NY pizza.

7 unmoderated   ~  Jun 2, 2009 1:08 pm

i'm gonna get heckled to all hell, but I believe there are 3 pizza places in my tiny upstate town (less than 10,000 people when the college kids are gone) that are better than anything NYC has to offer.

NYC pizza is good, sometimes great, but terribly overrated.

8 PJ   ~  Jun 2, 2009 1:16 pm

There sure is a lot of love and giving of self in that smile!

R.I.P. Sal...

9 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 2, 2009 1:35 pm

Unmoderated throwing the culinary bolos. Got to love it!

10 thelarmis   ~  Jun 2, 2009 1:52 pm

first thing i thought when i saw that slice was, "damn, i might have to change my dinner plans for tonight." i was gonna cook tonight, 'coz Wed is "pizza night" for me. gonna be a tough choice.

i practically live on pizza and it's pretty much my favorite food. i found a GREAT little chain here in Atlanta that is excellent, believe it or not. We had a Ray's Famous here back in the 90's and it was great, also. the last NYC pizza i had was Famiglia, in Midtown, late last year and it was wonderful. it's esp nice for me to see Yankees stuff on the walls of places. i miss that down here! i also try to grab a giant slice at Caruso's at Penn Station, which is always awesome. i hope i get this right - when i used to go record shopping around St. Marks Place, i'd walk a coupla blocks to 14th and get slices at Amore's. perfect pizza!

Warning: my hometown pizza place story is NOT a good one. this wonderful family owned it and the 2 brothers mainly ran it. Vinnie & Vito. they were in their 30's and had families of their own. Super nice & funny! Vinnie was around more when my brother was in high school, Vito more for my time. their Uncle Pete was around some, but he mainly ran the yogurt shop next door that the family owned. sometimes the youngest brother Tony would be around. he looked different from them - tall, light & skinny, rather than short, stocky, black haired and mustachioed - and was super quiet/shy. anyway, here's the tragedy...

Vinnie was backing out of his driveway and one of his young sons rode his bike past at the same time. it was a brutal accident and the boy got dead. Vinnie couldn't live with it and killed himself. left behind a wife and other kids. Vito was completely devastated and couldn't bare to keep the pizza joint. the fam didn't keep the yogurt place, either.

the pizza place is still there and the slices are unbelievable, but the service is terrible and the new owners are actually mean. what a shame, all the way around.

11 mark donelson   ~  Jun 2, 2009 1:53 pm

NYC pizza is good, sometimes great, but terribly overrated.

I actually agree with this, if you're talking about NYC pizza now. Today there's a huge gap between the great pizza—mostly made by the old famous places—and everything else. Not so many of the quality neighborhood mom-and-pop pizza joints around anymore. And especially in Manhattan, if you pop into a random place for a slice, you're as likely to get an unsatisfying, flavorless, doughy mess as anything else.

Well, that or I'm just getting old and cranky.

12 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 2, 2009 1:59 pm

[7] I've had lots of pizza in lots of places - though never in NYC - and the best ones in my experience were all in upstate. That you find more Sicilian-style pizza upstate likely colors my view, as I prefer a thicker crust.

13 Adam Kuban   ~  Jun 2, 2009 2:00 pm

Thanks for the news, Alex. Sad news, to be sure, but thanks for getting the word out there and for this nice tribute to Sal. I didn't get there often enough. And while this will now prompt me to visit again soon, it won't be the same without both of them. RIP, Sal.

14 Chyll Will   ~  Jun 2, 2009 2:19 pm

Gotta get over there and pay my respects. Good pizza demands good patronage, especially from a guy who is, er, fussy about pizza. Have a good time on the next plane, Sal.

15 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 2, 2009 2:41 pm

[11] Agreed. I grew up in Yonkers (I'm 36) and the pizza was, as I remember it, universally delicious. The Ray's phenomenon in the late eighties, I think, began to kill old school pizza, especially in Manhattan. Tasteless, doughy mess, indeed.

(It's also harder to find good bagels these days, while we're on the subject.)

16 thelarmis   ~  Jun 2, 2009 2:57 pm

[15] yes, it's impossible to find good bagels here in the south. i love visiting the fam in NY and getting great bagels & pizza.

my brother spends the summers on top of the city and there's a great little pizza joint upstate there...

17 unmoderated   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:02 pm

I will totally concede that NYC pizza from the old days was better. I mean, the reputation had to come from somewhere, right?

For what it's worth. the three pizza places I spoke about

1. run by an old-timer straight from sicily
2. run by a greek guy (imagine that!)
3. run by a guy who has a shop in NYC

The real tops in my area is a place called Mama Maria's in Stamford NY. The sauce is super fresh-tasting, like noting I've had before.

I could literally (and have) talk about pizza for hours and hours.

One last thought: why are the in-house slices ALWAYS better than take out?

18 unmoderated   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:05 pm

a tip if you're looking for great pizza in your local area - check out the minimalls. The rent is cheap, so little mom and pops will start there. I looked for good pizza in Portland OR for nearly a year before I found near-NY quality pizza in a crap-looking joint near the airport.

19 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:07 pm

My own little personal Top 5:

1. Grimaldi's
2. L&B Spumoni Gardens
3. John's of Bleecker St.
4. Lombardi's (mostly for the clam pie)
5. Salvatore's of SoHo (even though it's in Riverdale)

20 seamus   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:23 pm

Pittsburgh Pizza completely sucks. :(

21 PJ   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:32 pm

I need [21] moderated for Thelarmis, please...



22 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:34 pm

Speaking of local pizza, I might add that New Haven pizza is (famously) delicious, but it's not the same style as good old-fashioned NY pizza of my yout'.

23 PJ   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:37 pm

[23] That's great news that you get to watch the games at home now Weeping!

: )

24 rbj   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:42 pm

For me, I include the whole state in terms of NY pizza. There was one place where I grew up in Middletown, Tony Boffa's (IIRC) that had the best pizza. There are a couple of Italian restaurants in Newport News VA that come close, but aren't 100% there. Haven't set foot in the city in probably 15-20 years, sad to hear that good bagels are a rarity now as well. What's next, the Disneyification of Times Square?

BTW, at the end of the month I've gotta go to Vermont, anyone know of a good pizza place in Glens Falls (Probably going to stop there overnight) or thereabouts?

25 thelarmis   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:49 pm

[20] head to State College! i know there are like 5 Brother's Pizza's, and somehow, they're all different establishments w/ different owners. but the "main" on College Ave., is unreal!!! if that fan is blowing outside when you walk by, you can't walk past without going in - even if you're on a full stomach!!!

[21] i don't think i get it PJ! : ~ (you have to remember: i'm slow...)

26 Rich   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:51 pm

[3] For some reason, I suddenly have an urge for pizza as well...

27 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 2, 2009 3:53 pm

[23] Thanks, I'm super excited!

28 PJ   ~  Jun 2, 2009 4:31 pm

[26] Try here Thelarmis...


I have another place for you, too...

29 PJ   ~  Jun 2, 2009 4:32 pm

[26] Or here...


They are not Kat's by any means, bur they are good in any event...

: )

30 PJ   ~  Jun 2, 2009 4:34 pm

Sorry Katz's...

Curse the one link minimum!

: /

31 thelarmis   ~  Jun 2, 2009 4:36 pm

PJ - oh yeah man, thanks! i've been to Bagel Palace quite a lot. it's not far from me at all. i'm sure i'll be there for brunch next month when my parents visit me. i used to go there w/ some Yankee fan friends of mine from up north when they lived here. i've passed Goldberg's many times, but haven't been. thanks again!

32 thelarmis   ~  Jun 2, 2009 4:37 pm

[30] i knew what you meant! : )

33 thelarmis   ~  Jun 2, 2009 4:38 pm

i'd rather have Swish in there than Gardner, but otherwise, it's a nice lineup tonight!

Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Matsui DH
Cabrera RF
Gardner CF

34 PJ   ~  Jun 2, 2009 5:01 pm

[32] Any time friend!

: )

35 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 2, 2009 10:53 pm

Unquestionably the thing I miss most from NYC is the pizza...it's just impossible to get a real slice here!

36 mommy2aya   ~  Jun 3, 2009 2:20 pm

Wow, a real loss! i too grew up on sal and carmine's way back to it's 95th st locale. and when it moved uptown, i always faithfully walked uptown past many other pizza joints to get my slice on 102nd. the last time i was there 'bout a year ago Sal was manning the ovens and gave me a smile that made me feel like he remembered me. he was the best and that pizza- nothing better!!!

37 xdancer   ~  Jun 9, 2009 7:38 am

love sal & carmine's. will miss sal.
it is so sad he is gone --

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver