What exactly is Sicilian pizza? When we were kids in NY, we used to eat it all the time. Its defining characteristic, to us, was the thick, bready crust, sturdy enough to support every topping in the house (except anchovies). So when we heard about the oxymoronic-sounding thin-crusted Sicilian, we became curious: how is it possible? A little investigation turned up the fact that Sicilian pizza as made in the US is not like pizza in Sicily; it’s an Italian-American invention. There’s no reason Sicilian has to have a thick crust. But there are unique Sicilian characteristics beyond the rectangular dimensions.
A good place for hands-on research is Rizzo’s pizzeria, in NYC near Astoria. Here is definitive thin-crusted Sicilian: yes, it’s baked in a rectangular pan and the crust, while much thinner than regular Sicilian, has the same light and airy texture that the outside crust of regular Sicilian has (without the doughy interior). This pizza crust, whether it’s thick or thin, simply does not resemble round-pie crust.
The sauce speaks louder than the cheese (sliced mozzarella and a dusting of grated cheese). There’s something about this pizza that feels like “home food” compared to the “restaurant food” of round pies, like what your friend’s Italian-American mom might have served if you went over for a quick dinner.
Rizzo’s Sicilian is particularly well-suited to slice purchase; right out of the oven, we find the tomatoes have an acidic bite that mellows as the pie cools, melding beautifully with the grated cheese. Of course, the hot pie has that crisp crust, which begins to soften upon cooling. Why choose? Get a large whole pie, eat some hot and fresh, then bring the rest home and enjoy it at room temperature.
Rizzo’s is precisely typical of a storefront NY pizza place; tight booths in a bright narrow room, beverage cooler in a corner, Shriner’s gumball machine along a wall. The tables afford a good view of the gentle-handed pizza making process. A lot of their business is take-out. The boys who work here are friendly and patient, even with the occasional difficult customer.3013 Steinway Street Astoria NY 11103 718-721-9862 Rizzo’s Fine Pizza’s Website Rizzo’s Fine Pizza on Facebook