New York Magazine writer and restaurant critic Adam Platt interviewed Una Pizza Napoletana chef Anthony Mangieri
In a profession filled with slightly off-kilter perfectionists, few cooks have built a reputation for single-minded obsession and devotion to craft like New York City’s (and New Jersey’s) great pizza master, Anthony Mangieri. He opened his first bakery at the age of 20, and helped usher in the great Neapolitan pie craze with the opening of his first East Village version of Una Pizza Napoletana way back in 2004. He spent seven years honing his craft on the West Coast in San Francisco before opening another version of Una several years back, down on Orchard Street. That restaurant closed during COVID, but now it’s open again with a slightly new look and the same roster of puffy-edged marinaras, margheritas, and pizza biancas. Mangieri took a break from his routine — which begins, usually with dough-making, at 8 a.m. — to chat with Adam Platt about the roots of his grand pizza obsession, his favorite classic pies, and the perils of chasing perfection.
So what’s the key to a perfect pizza?
It’s the dough, of course. Making the dough and baking the dough, that’s the endless nightmare. I’ve been trying to master the process for decades and get to a point where I cross the finish line to perfection, but now I realize I’ll never get there. I get up every morning to make the dough, starting at around seven or eight, and when I go to sleep at 2 a.m., I’m usually still thinking about it. I could talk about pizza dough for seven or eight hours straight probably, much to the general disgruntlement of the people around me, including my daughter.
I suppose we’ve entered the mysterious, imponderable realm of creativity and art.
I’ve always thought of myself as a blue-collar, manual-labor kind of guy, and what I make happens to be pizza. I’m just trying to learn the craft and do the best job I can. If I were an auto mechanic, I’m not saying your tires wouldn’t fall off while you’re flying down the parkway, but I’m just going to try to make sure that doesn’t happen by doing the best that I can at my job. When I started out, I had no employees and you just came up to the counter, and you ordered your pie and I made it, but over the years I’ve had to learn how to run a restaurant, which requires other skills that I’m trying to master and get better at. But at the end of the day, I’m a pizza-maker, and I’m just here making my pizza.