When Roman Grandinetti & Co. opened Regina’s Grocery in 2017, it immediately made some noise in the crowded conversation about Italian combos and chicken parms. It’s the sort of place that feels like it’s been around for a long time, maybe just recently refreshed, if you didn’t know any better. (It might even trick a family member who texts you about this old-school place, leaving you to break the news.) Really, it’s a love letter to Italian delis, one that exudes a nuevo-old-school charm dressed up for a new generation and with hefty sandwiches that deliver. While Regina’s was co-owner Grandinetti’s first formal foray into the food world, he’d actually first been plotting a move into that other crowded, equally sacred corner of the Italian-American food world: the slice shop.
On Saturday, Grandinetti, along with Karoosh Bakhtiar and Nima Garos (who run Raise Hospitality, the company behind JaJaJa), opened Manero’s Pizza, a small Mulberry Street slice shop with a tin ceiling, a Tiffany lamp, and a disco ball. That disco ball is a nod to Saturday Night Fever, whose main character, played by John Travolta, is named Tony Manero and goes to the Bensonhurst pizzeria Lenny’s. That’s the pizzeria the restaurateur grew up frequenting and calls his “after-school” slice shop, though he’s since expanded his horizons.
“I’m a huge fan of Mama’s Too. I don’t think anyone can really touch that kid,” he says. Asked about other pizzerias, he cites L&B — “obviously my second neighborhood place … Spumoni Gardens is where I grew up” — along with new-school places like Williamsburg’s L’Industrie and the Lower East Side’s trendy Scarr’s.
Those are places where Grandinetti likes to eat his pizza, but as for the slices he’ll serve? He describes them as a hybrid of the Neapolitan and New York styles; more specifically, he wants the crust to have the “gumminess” of a Naples pie with the size of a New York slice. The sauce is made with DiNapoli canned tomatoes (“We’re more into the purée,” he says), which are not cooked prior to being ladled onto the crust. The mozzarella comes from some friends in Brooklyn, Grandinetti adds, but he’s not trying to create a mystique around his pizza like others who whisper about secret this, secret that. “There’s no mysteries,” Grandinetti says. “I’m not very big into secrets. I think we use a very limited amount of ingredients. We keep it super-simple and that’s it.”
On the regular menu, they’re keeping it pretty straightforward. There’s a plain slice, along with a margherita and marina, and then a hot sopressata, white, and square. Is it an L&B-style square or perhaps a Mama’s Too style, you might ask? “It’s more of a Manero’s-style square. It’s a bit different. But it’s definitely inspired by L&B,” Grandinetti says. It’s thick, bready, and upside down (with the sauce on top). There’s an optional add-on of burrata, which is added cold before you’re served, and Grandinetti says they’ll do “collaborative” pizza specials and “some nouveau-slice-joint stuff.”
Beyond slices, the menu consists of a few drinks (Coke products and espresso), garlic knots, and pinwheels. The pinwheels will be a special a day, maybe with broccoli rabe cooked by Grandinetti’s mother, a dessert version, or a vegan option. The slice shop itself is small, the same size as Regina’s but with an electric oven taking up half the space, and there’s no seating. But it’s only half of the plan Grandinetti, Bakhtiar, and Garos have for Mulberry Street: Right next door, they’re opening a full-service restaurant that they hope to be bubbling marinara sauce in by December.