In 1905, an Italian immigrant named Gennaro Lombardi decided to push some pizzas into a coal-fired oven in Manhattan. People gobbled them up, and next thing you know, his grocery store in Little Italy became the first pizzeria in America.
More than a century later, there’s Gennaro’s in Saratoga Springs, a wood-fired pizza parlor named for Signore Lombardi.
Saratoga Springs residents Wayne Cherry and his wife, Kathy, opened the pizzeria in January in the Fresh Market plaza on Marion Place.
Gennaro’s Pizza Parlor
WHERE: 46 Marion Ave., Saratoga Springs. 584-1900, www.gennarospizzaparlor.com, Facebook
WHEN: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
HOW MUCH: $26, including drinks but not tax
MORE INFO: Major credit cards accepted, takeout or dine-in, delivery, parking lot
I first heard about it a few months ago when a Gazette reader fired off an email praising their pies.
My friend Alan, who lives in Saratoga Springs, also recommended Gennaro’s.
“They take their time, keep the food fresh and stick to a limited menu,” he says.
Alan is in love with their Pizza alla Vodka, with fresh mozzarella, tomato cream vodka sauce, mushrooms, peas and prosciutto.
On a recent weekday afternoon, I had lunch at Gennaro’s with my friend Jeanne, a transplanted Manhattanite.
Room to dine
Like any pizzeria, Gennaro’s specializes in takeout, but with 10 tables, there is plenty of room for dining.
Jeanne and I checked out the menu, which is printed on plastic place mats at the tables. We stepped up to the counter and ordered four slices ($2 each for cheese, $3 for gourmet), choosing toppings by pointing at the freshly made pies lined up in the counter window.
We helped ourselves to bottles of Gold Peak tea in a cooler. And then, because we were extra hungry, Jeanne ordered a Caesar salad, $5.99, and I asked for Beans and Greens, $5.95.
A few minutes later, the slices and salad were delivered to our table.
“It’s wonderful. Really, really good,” Jeanne said, as she ripped into the cheesy triangle topped with chicken, tomatoes and basil.
My first slice was ricotta-broccoli-mozzarella, a white pie, and the second was super-veggie, a garlicky melange of eggplant, fresh tomato, onion, broccoli, peppers, zucchini and mushrooms.
Gennaro’s makes its pies with fresh mozzarella, imported Italian tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and pecorino romano.
As a Buffalonian, I’ve gotten used to the thin crusts of eastern New York, but I miss the generous toppings in my hometown. So I like that Gennaro’s is lavish with its veggies and meats, and they are cut small, ensuring flavor in every bite. You can see bits of oregano and other herbs embedded in the cheese. The crust has a pleasant, light smoky taste.
Jeanne’s Caesar salad was big enough to be a meal.
“We make all our own dressings,” said the woman at the counter.
When I asked for Beans and Greens, I was told it would take a few minutes, but the big white bowl of steamy soup was worth waiting for.
The escarole and cannelli beans, bathed in a dreamy broth redolent of garlic, Romano and tendrils of mozzarella, was as good as any you’d make at home, although the greens could have been a bit more tender.
Gennaro’s service is extra-friendly, and the decor is above average for a pizzeria.
My only complaint is the television at the counter, the noise of which blared into the dining room. It made conversation difficult. When we finished our food, we walked across the parking lot to Fresh Market, bought some coffee and concluded our lunch at a quiet outdoor table there.
I hope to return to Gennaro’s for dinner, when maybe the sound on the TV might be turned down, and I can try some linguini, eggplant parm or fettucine.
“I definitely would go back,” Jeanne said. “And I might order delivery to my house sometime soon.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.