Joe Strada would always walk into a typical pizzeria and feel like something was missing — something, breathtaking.
His long-held concept for an ideal pizzeria will now be brought to life with Mozzafiato Pizzeria — which translates to “breathtaking” in Italian — opening at 1950 Middle Country Road in Centereach this fall.
Mozzafiato Pizzeria will offer three kinds of pizza: brick-oven, classic New York style, and pizza al tagio, which is a traditional, square slice commonly served in Italy.
John Ioannou, his head chef and manager, said the brick-oven style will use ingredients all sourced from Italy before hitting the heat of the brick oven, which was imported from Milan.
The classic New York slices — Sicilian, grandma, Buffalo, etc. — will be made with low-moisture cheeses in the traditional pizza oven.
Then there’s the al tagio pizza.
That’s made from a special kind of Italian flour that is fermented longer, non-GMO, and once cooked, has a crispy, airy texture.
“You can eat two or three slices and not feel so stuffed,” Ioannou said.
The al tagio pizza will change seasonally based on the fresh, farmstand ingredients the restaurant gets during each season.
The team at Mozzafiato Pizzeria is planning to do farm-to-table and work with various farms throughout the island, as well as upstate.
Ioannou wants to show support for local farms, especially during these pandemic times, and make pizza using the freshest ingredients possible.
“When it’s in season, use it. When it’s not in season, don’t use it,” Ioannou said. “I think that’s the problem here. We are always trying to make stuff that is not in season and it doesn’t taste the same because we are always mass-producing it — I just want to get it when it’s really authentic.”
Aside from pizza, Strada said there is a full kitchen that will serve pasta, paninis, heroes, salads, and more. Vegetarian, plant-based items will also be available, as well as gluten-free pizzas.
Ioannou was a chef in Manhattan before coming to Long Island.
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One day his good friend Strada called him, told him about his idea for a pizzeria, and he decided he wanted in.
The friends both have traveled to Italy numerous times — Strada has family he visits and Ioannou actually worked in Italy for some time.
“That was a lot of inspiration for the type of pizzas we wanted to bring here that people could experience, especially in Suffolk County,” Ioannou said.
Strada noticed Centereach was now kind of lacking in pizzerias and said he loves the area, so it was a no-brainer to open in that community.
Though seating is limited, Strada wants his team involved in the neighborhood and its events.
“We really do care, so for us, that is a big thing,” Strada said. “Being a part of this neighborhood is really an honor.”
COVID-19 slowed down Mozzafiato’s progress and as of right now, they are looking for people to join their staff as they work out the final details.
Strada’s goal is to eventually open multiple locations. Centereach will be the foundation, and the model.
“We don’t want to be just one place, we want to be known everywhere,” Strada said.
For updates on Mozzafiato Pizzeria, follow their Instagram page.
— with Taylor Hayes
Top: John Ioannou at work in the brick oven.