I was talking to Madeline Mastro Ferrentino through PM's on facebook yesterday. I asked Madeline different questions that weren't asked before. Some of the questions were about what kind of tomato sauce was used on NY pizzas, basil and what brand of cheese was used.
Madeline said she really should start writing a book about what she knows about NY pizza for the memory of her mother, dad and brother. Madeline said I could share what she recalls. I don't know of any other person that can recall all that Madeline does about NY pizza. Since Madeline worked with her mother and dad since the beginning of NY pizza that sure would make her information a lot more valuable then what can be read somewhere else. At least that is my opinion.
This is what Madeline said, but not without the questions and comments from me.
Basil was always cooked in the tomato sauce that they used. Tomato sauce was usually cooked ahead of time, a quick sauce, they didn't use tomato sauce out of a can. The cheese pizza topping was tomato sauce , a drizzle of olive oil, mozzarella cheese, dash of Romano cheese and oregano. When it came out of the oven, it was dressed with another drizzle of olive oil, before serving. Usually there was more Romano cheese at the table for anyone who wanted more. In the early fifties when I visited Brooklyn and went to my cousin's restaurant, he said they didn't dress it with olive oil any more because the mozzarella had more fat content in it. Never clarified this with my dad.
You know we supplied the ingredients for the dough as well. I don't remember the supplier but Grande does not ring a bell with me at all.
The mob was not involved with pizza at all in the 30's or forties. In the thirties they had a protection racket going on where they would target individual businesses to pay them for "protection" so that nothing bad would happen to their businesses. Thomas Dewey was the one who cleared up that racket as our district attorney. My uncle who owned an ice and coal business was one of their targets. I really don't think the mob was involved in pizza until the late fifties and early 1960's, when it became apparent that the industry was flourishing.
N.Y. style pizza was christened "Neapolitan" because it is a thin crust pizza. Sicilian was thicker. Traditional Neapolitans were supposed to have made the thin crust pie.
Polly-o certainly proceeded Grande. It was a brand I remember from way back when. New York pizza started before Chicago pizza. It took a while before they had the popularity of pizza in NY. During WWII, my dad went to Detroit and Chicago to speak to customers. By then, NYC had many Italian restaurants that made pizza with our ovens. Bari had the connection to the mobs and didn't come until the 1950's when I was in Missouri and they moved into the center of our stores.
It has to be realized that pizza as shop that only baked pizza and had an oven and the equipment didn't come about until the early fifties. Before then, pizza always accompanied a restaurant and bar. Originally it was something that had to be added to a menu. In the beginning my Dad had success with his bar trade because they took the chance to add it to their menu, because people were still going to bars during the depression but couldn't afford restaurants.
I really should start writing about what I know about pizza. So all this misinformation that's out there does not become part of history. People were able to go to bars with a pail to buy beer, as they did with milk. In the beginning pizza was considered to be an accompaniment to beer. My dad got so many Italian restaurants to get a beer and wine license, all as part of his service.
My mother and dad were such good people, if there is a heaven they deserve to be there. God gave them the strength to sacrifice so much of their young lives to help people while helping themselves. They were both well rounded and creative people and had so many other interests that they would have loved to pursue; fortunately they took great joy in their customers success and their fellow business associates.