Crustinos Dishes Out the Dough on Beach 116th

 Crustinos Dishes Out the Dough on Beach 116th

By Katie McFadden

“In Pizza We Crust” is the motto of new pizza place, Crustinos, and for chef Michael Fiore, the base of his pizza is what brings in the dough. Crustinos Pizza on Beach 116th Street is now open.

Fiore, the culinary genius behind The Meat Up Grill, is back with his latest project—pizza. Fiore first got his hands in the dough when he helped open Pizza on the Point in Breezy Point, but the partners have since gone separate ways. However, the need to knead was still inside him, and had been for a long time. “Prior to Breezy, I was considering opening a pizza spot on Beach 116th and I was speaking with the owners of Ciro’s before they did their renovation, but Covid came and it got shelved. But after designing and creating the other spot I felt I had to apply all that experience that I had developed, into my own place. I had the hunger for it,” Fiore said. So he put his focus back on Beach 116th, and approached the owners of Ciro’s, right next door to Meat Up, to ask if they’d be willing to sell again. Fiore signed the lease on November 1 and got to work giving Ciro’s a more modern, sleek look, and transforming it into his own creation—Crustinos.

Last week, Fiore opened his doors for a soft opening, letting Rockaway sample the pies and slices that he’d given a lot of thought to. As it’s in the name, Fiore wants the crust to be the signature of his slices, and the thing that sets his food apart from other pizza places on the peninsula. “I have a passion for pizza, it’s everyone’s favorite food, and I wanted to elevate the ingredients and the technique of how we make our pizza. For instance, we’re making two types of dough—round Neapolitan dough, which is standard, and making our own roman style pizza bread, which has much more water and hydration, for our squares and sandwich bread. It’s a more versatile dough that allows me to make a lot of different types of pizzas, flatbreads and sandwiches,” Fiore said. “It’s boggled my mind when pizza places have a bakery deliver bread, so we’re making our own dough and bread that you can’t get anywhere else here. That was always the focus of this place.” Crustinos doughs are made with three different flours, all imported from Italy, and they’re perfectly crafted with the help of an Opera Prima dough stretching machine and cooked to the perfect temperature in an electric oven, offering up consistent taste and quality with each visit.

He’s also put a lot of thought into the sauce. “I tested out six different tomatoes varieties to find the right tomato for this place, and then made our sauce from there,” he said. And then he tops it with high quality ingredients to craft the perfect pie.

In addition to regulars and squares, Crustinos offers up slices that aren’t found on common pizza menus. One top seller so far, a slice named after his wife’s college nickname, the Hot Pantz Nance, is topped with spicy Calabrian salami, hot cherry peppers, red onion and a hot honey drizzle. The St. Gennaro, topped with hot and sweet sausage, broccoli rabe, garlic oil and cheese, might be another front runner. Just in time for Lent, the Sicilian Lifeguard, topped with fried calamari, olives, chili flakes, breadcrumbs and pecorino, is expected to be a popular choice, or some might shoot for the Spicy Nonna featuring fried eggplant as the main star. Fiore even has an everything bagel spice slice in the works, that will have your mouth watering over the flavor. Slices come served in a red basket in-house and pies will be coming out in Crustinos boxes, giving it that personal touch.

The pies and slices are mostly what people have gotten a preview of with Crustinos’ soft opening, but Fiore has more in store. He’ll soon have sandwiches in the mix. This week, a sandwich with soppressata, mortadella, capicola, mozzarella, hot peppers and arugula on homemade bread has delighted eyes and stomachs.  Plus, he’ll be rolling out flatbreads, pasta dishes, salads, appetizers like rice balls and Tuscan fries, entrees, and even desserts like pistachio olive oil cake and tiramisu, on the pending full menu. And of course, there will be specials to change things up. “We’ll have a blue plate daily special in the window, like maybe a baked lasagna or eggplant parmesan, pasta with meatballs, something you can grab and go,” Fiore said. Additionally, Crustinos will eventually offer beer and wine to help wash it down.

Crustinos Pizza is available for take-out, delivery and dine-in, and as the weather warms up, they’ll be opening their outdoor backyard space, that can seat up to 40 people, perfect for an outdoor dining experience with family, or a larger party. Fiore will also be rolling out catering for those who want to bring the party home, with trays or meter-long sandwiches on pala bread.

After having this longtime dream in the works and taking three months to make it come to life, Fiore is excited to have his doors open. “I’m thrilled, it’s super exciting,” Fiore said. “I just kind of fell back in love with cooking again with this new project and Italian cooking is where most of my experience is.” And Rockaway has been eager to try it since Crustinos opened. “I’ve been getting really great feedback. People are hitting me up on social media saying they really enjoyed the pizza. We’re only one week in and we’ll be doing a lot more, but we’re right on track,” Fiore said.

Crustinos is located at 171 Beach 116th Street. For the time being, they are closed Mondays, but they will be open at 11 a.m., seven days a week in a few weeks. Online ordering will be available, but for now orders can be called in at 718-634-6800. For more mouthwatering photos and updates, follow Crustinos Pizza on Facebook and Instagram (crustinos_pizza).


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