Umberto’s joins the Plandome Road ‘pizza war’

Umberto’s joins the Plandome Road ‘pizza war’
Umberto's, a pizzeria chain in Long Island since 1965, opened a restaurant on Plandome Road on Sunday.

Umberto’s, a pizzeria chain with a presence on Long Island that goes back 52 years, opened a restaurant on Plandome Road on Sunday.

The stretch of dining and retail places in the heart of Manhasset already plays host to Italian restaurants like Gino’s, Villa Milano and Randazzo’s.

“Let the great Manhasset pizza war commence,” said the Twitter account @Manhasset on Monday.

Known for its grandma pie, Umberto’s serves specialty pizzas with toppings like broccoli rabe and sausage as well as traditional offerings like margherita or vegetable pizza.

But Mike Di Santolo, 29, operations manager at the new Manhasset store, said customers can expect dishes they’ve never seen.

“I come from a new generation,” he said. “A lot of innovation in the tradition — that’s what I can do over here.”

Di Santolo was born in Naples, Italy, and began cooking with his mother when he was 10 years old, he said. He is a nephew of the woman married to Umberto’s owner, Umberto Corteo.

By age 20, Di Santolo owned a restaurant and pizzeria in Naples called Stuzzico. Three years ago, he came to the United States and began working as a chef at the original Umberto’s restaurant in New Hyde Park.

“I love it,” he said. “When I’m in the kitchen, it’s like magic for me: the smell of the food, the color and the combinations.”

In addition to the chain’s usual menu of pizza, pasta, sandwiches, seafood and assorted appetizers, the Manhasset location will offer two new dishes, said Di Santolo, of New Hyde Park.

The first, spaghetti vongole, is pasta overlayed with white clams; and the second, spaghetti pomodoro, is pasta with fresh tomato, extra virgin olive oil and basil, he said.

The restaurant will serve a wine list made up predominantly of Italian bottles, and will offer both Italian and American beers.

Besides its Manhasset and New Hyde Park locations, the pizza chain has stores in Plainview, Bellmore, Lake Grove and Wantagh.

Di Santolo said the hours of the restaurant at 439 Plandome Road have yet to be determined, but for now will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Asked why diners should choose Umberto’s over the other Italian restaurants on Plandome Road, Di Santolo said, “the ingredient is love.”

“For me this is not a job,” he added. “That’s why they have to come over here. I’m not cooking for money. I’m looking for ‘thank you, the food was delicious.’”

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