It all started in the late 1800’s with the birth of my Italian Great Grandfathers and Grandmothers as they were the first to emigrate to the United States through Ellis Island: Francesco Guiseppe Scerbo (seems there is a square bearing the same name) who hailed from Marcellinara, Catanzaro, Italy and Guiseppe Campanalonga (also spelled Campanalunga in some places) who hailed from Lacedonia, Avellino Province, Italy. Guiseppe married Leonilda Guancione who is my Great Grandmother. Sadly, I never met Guiseppe or Leonilda. Cannistra and Rinaldi are also family names on this side. photo courtesy of delcampe.net
That makes me very Calabrese on one side and Neapolitano on the other. At age 13, Francesco was put on a boat – in steerage or third class, mind you, which arrived at Ellis Island some 6 months later causing his pants to be too short on arrival.. A doctor on the boat and his wife, took him in and insisted they stay in their cabin rather than steerage. He was sent to live with his Father and by age 17, had saved enough money to bring his mother and two siblings over! By the 1920’s, he had moved to the Bronx then eventually settled in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn buying a brownstone that my great Aunt resides in to this day- in her 90’s! My great grandfather was a furniture craftsman from the time he was a young man and started Frank Scerbo & Sons Custom Furniture where all of his sons and daughters worked for many years. In doing research, I found that one of their catalogs is in the Smithsonian!
Well, it took me many years, but I am finally working with my hands and enjoying it. The old men would be proud. The other side of the family is being researched now and are from Madeira Portugal by way of Trinidad and British Guiana(Guyana today). The wild part is my DNA which was tested at Ancestrydna.com says that I’m 69% Italian – those genes appear to be very strong. My grandmother. a Campanalonga, who passed in 2017 at age 97, was a beautiful blone/blue-eyed lady whose photos grace the walls of Antonio’s. Her father, Giuseppe was also put on a boat at age 16 headed for New Jersey where some of his great great great grandchildren reside to this day. Sadly, there was only one boy born to Giuseppe and Leonilda who died of Pneumonia at 9 months old, so the name didn’t carry forward. There were five girls however, all of whom lived into their 80’s and 90’s. What I see in the image below is that almost all of the Campanalongas came from Lacedonia so I am likely related to most of them in the United States. That’s a crazy thought.
Growing up in New York with access to the authentic Italian food of Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island- specifically, pizza, pasta, lasagna, veal parmagiana, chicken marsala, etc., I hadn’t not realized just how lucky we were until moving to Colorado. You want pizza in NY? There are 7 good to excellent pizzerias within a square mile. Long story short, while growing up, every Friday night was pizza night and that pizza came from Mama’s in Copiague, NY. Prior to that it was Gino’s on Dutch Broadway. As for my grandparents, they grew up with L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst and Lombardi’s in Little Italy which was right around the block from our family’s pharmacy back in 1915 on the corner of Broome and Mulberry. My parents moved us out to Amityville where we began having pizza at Mama’s in Copiague. Since 1979, we’ve enjoyed Tommy’s food. After moving to Colorado in 2006, I started making pizza out of necessity. We had driven from Wyoming to near Pueblo in search of something that reminded us of home. It didn’t exist, so I had to make it.
New York style is NOT Real New York. There are a few notable pizzerias like Boriello Brothers in Colorado Springs and Sully’s Pizza on Colfax in downtown Denver whose recipe was brought from NY by a “Big Mike”, but beyond that, nothing was what my mind expected after nearly 40 years of NY pizza. I cannot tell you how many pizzerias our family visited in Colorado only to walk out hungry because the food was less than sub-par. I won’t name names. What happened next was the purchase of a pizza stone and many iterations as I searched for the holy grail. Remember, pizza is very personal. What I like, someone from Kansas may not. After hundreds of attempts, I had honed in on what satisfied my mind’s taste so I shared it with others. When a neighbor – also from NY – screamed from her front door “I LOVE YOU”, I knew that it was close. This is a normally very quiet person who says very little….
Onward and upward! With a huge audience at Summitview Coffee on the other side of town, we began with a modest (read: small) oven. When I say we, I mean Anthony Francher and I. Having two Anthonys in the same place- both from NY – is a blessing. We cranked out many a pizza while introducing locals and people from all over the world to NY sauce(remember, this was a coffee shop, not a pizzeria). The sauce is key to the pizza’s authenticity and it’s taken many tries to get right. You can buy dough and ready made cheese. Sauce out of a can tastes like sauce out of a can. Childhood friend and mentor Chef Chris Gonzalez taught me the basics of sauce then said “fly”. 8 years later, it has taken on a life of its own. My mother’s best dish was pasta bolognese and I have incorporated her tricks into our meat sauce.
Our original location, 552 W Elkhorn Ave was built by a woman whose vision was incredible- Angie Huffman. She envisioned wood fired Neapolitan pizza and picnics in the park. The oven in the building was her idea. We are thankful for that vision for it allowed us a distinct advantage over the rest of the town- Wood fired everything! We still do not have a microwave or a deep fryer. Everything is actually cooked!
Our current location is 1560 Big Thompson Ave., Estes Park, CO 80517. We move from 552 W Elkhorn in early November, 2018.
Our house specialty is the Sicilian Pie from Long Island, NY. It’s a rectangular or square pizza with thicker dough and sauce that has a kick. Authentic Neapolitan, thin crust pizza with fresh mozzarella, basil and virgin olive oil is our second style, then our third is a Real New York round pizza. An 18″ pizza cooked in a brick oven is unheard of, yet we are doing it.
We bake our own bread, make fresh dough and sauce daily, make fresh mozzarella from curd and know the difference between sauce and gravy. Want a meatball parmigiana hero? No problem. San Marzano tomatoes and double zero flour from Italy are featured here.
In 2018, we started making bagels because there is nothing in CO that truly reminds me of NY. My guess is there is a bagel business in our future as well.
Of our full time employees, the top 4 are from New York- born and raised! Coincidence? I think not. There is something about our heritage that brought us together and together we are raising the bar here in Colorado!