Two artisanal pizza places open on Long Island

Pizza Fab! in Hicksville serves a vodka pizza

Pizza Fab! in Hicksville serves a vodka pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and a tomato-based vodka sauce. (Credit: Bruce Gilbert)

It seems as though artisanal pizzerias are taking over Long Island. Here are two newcomers, one in Nassau, one in Suffolk. At both, the rule is no slices; you have to commit to a whole pie.

Pizzaiolo Bill Massa, who comes from a line of dedicated New York pizza makers, used to own a coal-burning pizzeria in Huntington Station. Now, his oven is in Huntington at Massa's Coal-Fired Brick Oven Pizzeria.

The place, facing onto a municipal parking lot, doesn't have much in the way of decor. Instead, you'll want to focus on Massa's generally fine pizza (which come in several sizes).

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A Margherita pie turned out textbook perfect, its well-blistered crust thin yet puffy around the edges. It was simply topped with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and a few basil leaves. On an earlier visit, a sausage-and-pepper-topped pie came out soggy, its toppings a bit off-tasting. While a pie with marinara sauce and caramelized onions was OK, the standout was a white pizza with fresh mozzarella, scallions, pancetta, scamorza cheese and a hint of truffle oil.

You would not be well served to stray elsewhere on the menu. This became clear with an antipasto salad that included pale, flavorless tomatoes and harshly garlicky roasted peppers. Worse yet were meatballs, cold and hard at the center, mushy on the outside, tasting of garlic past its prime.

No question, Massa's has issues to work on. Order just the pizza, though, and you can eat well.

Pizza Fab! is a handsome new spot. Reclaimed wood lines the walls, evoking the interior of a huge barn; high above, you see exposed ductwork. Stacks of firewood are everywhere. The center of attraction: three tiled Neapolitan wood-burning ovens.

Since opening a few months ago as Pizza Fabbrica, the place shortened its name, underwent an ownership change and came under the command of co-owner and chef-pizzaiolo Johnny Nocella. Clearly, Nocella and his crew are still finding their way.

A specialty here is fried Margherita pizza, wherein the crust is first fried, then topped with sauce and cheese and finished in the oven. While the crust is puffy, blistered and crisp underneath, the sauce -- a puree of San Marzano tomatoes, salt and pepper -- needs oomph.

A soggy-bottomed center is one problem for the oven-baked Margherita pie. Another is that the topping comes off as a soupy meld. A pie crowned with an underseasoned tomato-cream-vodka sauce picks up a salty edge, thanks to slices of prosciutto. As for the Divota pie (which, the menu says, has a spicy tomato sauce, spicy sopressata and pepperoni): It's just not spicy.

Elsewhere on the menu: oven-roasted artichoke hearts that neither look nor taste roasted, smothered in a lemon-garlic sauce. Meatballs are nicely seasoned, if a bit grainy. An arugula salad with red onions and ricotta salata has a dressing so vinegary, it makes one wonder whether the oil has been somehow omitted.

Even so, it's apparent that much potential exists here, and that's a good thing.

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