An Old School Upper West Side Pizza Joint Strives to Maintain Its Family Legacy

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Founded a slice joint in 1959, Sal and Carmine’s used to refuse to deliver. Now a grandson must do what he can to sustain the business.

This story is part of 1 Minute Meal, a documentary series that uses food to reveal the communities, legacies, dreams, realities, and unseen forces that shape life in New York City.

Sal Malanga, who with his brother Carmine founded a slice joint in 1959, spent his career making every pie by hand, serving customers face to face and refusing to deliver. Even when taking pick-up orders, Sal would be irritated when customers didn’t show up on time to receive their pie at its peak of freshness. Sal and Carmine’s reputation—along with their pizza—was strong enough for the business to sail through the era of Domino’s and Papa John’s, continuing to attract both locals from the Upper West Side and pizza pilgrims.

When Sal passed away in 2009 his grandson Luciano took responsibility for carrying on the family legacy. Faced with higher costs, less foot traffic and the ever-growing expectation that anything in life can be delivered on demand, Lou made the decision to break his grandfather’s golden rule. The day Sal and Carmine’s pizzeria began to deliver was one of many steps that he’s taken towards becoming the full-time owner of the business, a balancing act of preserving the past while respecting the present.

Today, the pizzeria continues to turn out sturdy slices with an especially flavorful crust and a layer of mozz that always seems extra rich. Luciano continues to make most of the pies personally, just as his grandfather did. And for those local die-hards and pizza purists who refuse to eat a pie that’s been delivered in a bath of steam, his unassuming corridor of a storefront is still ready to take your order for a slice, leave it in the oven for an extra minute if you ask for it (always ask for it) and hand you an edible piece of New York history.

Starting July 24, we will be collaborating with Edible Brooklyn, Edible Queens, Edible Bronx, the Staten Island Advance and Narratively to debut 30 new 1 Minute Meals. Subscribe to 1 Minute Meal to see food films from all five boroughs.

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James Boo is a multimedia journalist based in Brooklyn. As Editor-in-Chief of Real Cheap Eats, an independent filmmaker, and a freelance food writer, James has devoted his storytelling career to the intersection of food and culture. You can see more episodes of this web series at oneminutemealfilms.com.