I am going to touch on this here, since I plan a better post in the review section, but I did get to A Mano. This pie was thicker than most Neapolitan pizza, and with a gum layer and a fairly watery sauce, but having said that it is still one of the best pizzerias in the New York area. I am confident that it will rise to the top of the zagats survey in no time.
I think part of the reason for the gum layer is that Roberto was kind enough to open the place an hour early when he recognized me from our previous meetings. Since there is no website, and very little info about the place on line I just took a chance that they would be open for lunch on a sunday. They are not, but would have been any other day of the week. Because of my early arrival the oven was literally heated up with a live flame for only 15 minutes by the time my pizza went in. The pizza spent a lot more time held up into the oven's roof than I would have expected, but the pizza still cooked in 1 minute 45 seconds. I suspect that on my next visit ( which will be later in the day) things will be different. A hotter oven could totally transform this pizza into the absolute best the NY/NJ area has to offer. One thing is for sure, even with the cooler than optimal oven the crust texture here is superb, and the calzones especially are to die for. I really think the top of the line fork mixer he is using makes a difference in the crust texture. As far as the watery sauce goes, that is as I have found out........well....... authentic Neapolitan!
A Mano means by hand, and the Gelato which is made on premises is every bit as good as what I had in Sorrento Italy. The antipasto cheeses and salaumi provided by fellow forum member Fred Mortadi are as good as it gets here in the states. Roberto is smart to have these meats and cheeses pop up all over the menu. Way to go Academia/Orlando foods! It is the non pizza items on the menu and the toppings that are really special, and I urge anyone visiting to get apps, and save room for dessert.
Roberto (or maybe just his wait staff) is sort of a pizza Nazi in that I was unable to get Buffalo mozzarella with the topping combinations I wanted, and insisted when we ordered that they absolutely would not give us sauce for our calzone! At first that had me worried about the overall experience, but once the food started arriving my worries were over. Everyone at the table was more than happy. I still would have preferred all the pizzas with Bufala for sure, but I have to say that this place is a must visit pizza destination if you are at all interested in Neapolitan pizza.
The comments on the pizza at the beginning of this post may sound like I am harshing on the pies, but you have to understand that I have issue with every place mentioned in this thread on NY area destinations. For the complete dining experience A Mano gets the Gold medal for the NY area pizzerias in my book. Luzzo's might have a lighter crust, Difara's might have a more flavorful slice, but overall A Mano shines. If you are interested in calzones, go nowhere else! I didn't even have a chance to sample any of the traditional Neapolitan pastries, but I know Roberto's sister (a pastry chef in Italy) came over for three weeks to teach the staff how to make her specialties. If they are anywhere as good as the traditional Neapolitan vegetable samplings from the antipasto platter I can say that it will certainly bring in LOTS of business.