Marinara Pizza tosses up classic Long Island pies with a twist

Marinara Pizza tosses up classic Long Island pies with a twist
Marinara Pizza Roslyn interior. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

Growing up, Gabe Weiser played pretend store-owner and set up shop with neighborhood lemonade stands, an entrepreneur from day one.

Now, at 35 years old, Weiser is the owner of seven Marinara Pizza locations, including the newest one in Roslyn.

Weiser, a Woodmere native, always knew he wanted to own his own store someday.

“I like to hear the register click,” said Weiser.

The Long Islander has been a food junkie since birth, but inspiration first struck when he was studying business at the University of Arizona.

The growth of new-style restaurants, like Chipotle and Chopt Salad Co., that popularized the classics during his college years pushed Weiser to question what voids he felt in the restaurant business.

That train of thought led to his first venture, Saba’s Pizza, a kosher pizzeria that he opened straight out of college.

“I said, why does kosher pizza have to be bad? Why can’t I make it look like every other regular pizzeria, make it look good?” said Weiser. “I’m a gambler. I like to take chances. When I believe in something, I’m gonna go the whole way.”

Weiser himself doesn’t eat a kosher diet, but he enjoyed the challenge of reversing a pizza’s damaged reputation.

And that gambling paid off. The success Weiser experienced from Saba’s Pizza gave him the courage to open his first Marinara Pizza location on 91st St. and Lexington Ave.

“I wanted something classic that’s an everyday item, but I wanted to throw a modern twist on it, and that’s how Marinara was born,” said Weiser. “Took a risk, rolled the dice, and the vision that I had came to life.”

While living and working in New York City, Weiser decided New York’s infamous pizza just wasn’t cutting it for him.

“There were a lot of pizza places coming out [in New York City] that just weren’t right. They weren’t right for me,” said Weiser. “They didn’t have the same style. I always believed that Long Island pizzerias are the best pizzerias.”

That classic, “red saucy” style is what kept Weiser yearning for Long Island pizza. So he decided to bring Long Island pizza to the city — with his own twist on it, of course.

Weiser’s favorite pick from the menu is the stuffed crust Sicilian pie, but he says a best-seller is the signature MVP pie.

The MVP (which has been “ripped off” plenty of times, according to Weiser, which he takes as the sincerest form of flattery) is a combination of homemade pesto, vodka and marinara sauces, creating a green, yellow and red striped effect on a regular or cauliflower crust.

Other standouts include their fresh chopped salads, which are a top seller for the restaurants, and their homemade pink Italian dressing “that people go crazy for.”

But in Weiser’s opinion, the ranking of a pizzeria all boils down to the classic slice.

“You get judged off your regular slice,” said Weiser. “Your regular slice has to be fresh. Perfect. A little char on it. A little burn on it.”

In fact, freshness seems to be somewhat of a mantra for Weiser, who argues that pizzerias have to prioritize the finest ingredients. He doesn’t believe in keeping pizzas on the counter too long, saying that as soon as a pizza is not fresh anymore, it has to be remade.

“You gotta find the best tasting stuff and you worry about the price later,” said Weiser.

Rules make their way into his managerial style as well, with a large focus on keeping the store looking good. It is easy to see this for yourself, as an impeccably clean restaurant greets you as soon as you walk through the door.

“I want the counter to look like a Picasso,” said Weiser. “Like a beautiful painting, nice and clean.”

It is clear that Weiser leaned into customers’ nostalgia for the pizzeria’s décor.

The joint is decked out with black and white tiled floors, bright red pizza boxes and red vinyl booths, like a fantasy 1960s neighborhood hang-out.

In the same way that Weiser believed New York City needed some new life among its pizzerias, he thought the same thing about Roslyn.

A Roslyn resident himself, Weiser noticed an empty storefront across from his neighborhood on his drives into work every day and decided that Roslyn would be home to the next Marinara Pizza.

It turns out it was a good decision, as Weiser says business is booming.

“For Roslyn, we wanted to make [the restaurant] the biggest. The best,” said Weiser. “This store is the flagship, and the biggest and best one, and I feel that the community feels the same way.”

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