Carlo’s Pizzeria in Middle Village, Queens is closing in on nearly 50 years of service, and can be still be found on the same stretch of Metropolitan Avenue, from where it served its first slice.
“My father opened the shop in ’66,” said Frank Caruana, the current head pizzaiolo at the shop. “Myself, I’ve been here for over 30 years.”
Caruana, 52, has three children of his own, two of which have grown up and moved away from the business. His oldest works in corporate and his middle child is now a schoolteacher.
“There’s some hope the youngest might take it over one day but who knows,” Caruana said. “I don’t plan on retiring.”
That’s good news for the Middle Village regulars, many of who have contributed to the pizzeria’s reputation. On the popular local business review website, Yelp, the shop has four and a half stars, a rating more commonly seen on the pages of New York City pizza legends like Di Fara’s or L & B Spumoni Gardens. For a pizzeria like Carlo’s, the rating means a lot given that good pizza and New York City might no longer be synonymous.
“People used to say ‘You can’t get a bad slice in New York,’ but that’s so not true anymore,” said, Ed Levine, author of “Pizza: A Slice of Heaven.”
The proliferation of the dollar pizza shop and the dearth of owner occupied pizzerias have caused the decline, Levine said. “The owner not being there is important. Where is the pride?”
Eventually, if the trend continues, there is a chance that pizza in New York City may lose its cultural ties to Italy, much like the bagel has lost much of its connection to Jewish culture in the city, said Levine.
But, back at Carlo’s, Caruana’s pride shines through.
“It’s good that everybody can make pizza. It’s an opportunity for everybody,” he said.
“But it’ll always be Italian.”