As soon as t:e reader "Ev" tipped me off that A Mano's original pizzaiolo, Roberto, was coming back to train the staff, I had visions of A Mano returning to its past glory. Under Roberto's command, A Mano was producing wonderful Neapolitan style pizza. The place was a treasure, and a great addition to the area's mostly cookie-cutter restaurant scene. After Roberto's departure, however, the place slipped quite a bit. This was evident in the service (which was never stellar to begin with), the management, and most importantly, the pizza.
Roberto is/was indeed back, if only for the short term. From what I can tell (and I'm not a reporter, so I don't generally ask owners or managers many questions on this stuff), A Mano is now part of Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, which is one of the several professional organizations whose goal is to preserve and promote Naples' prized product. Part of A Mano's association with the associazione involves training, and I'm guessing Roberto was sent back to sort them out.
And sort them out he did...
My recent pizza was just as I remembered those great pizze when A Mano first opened. A wonderful crust, appropriately topped, and cooked with pride, and maybe even a bit of passion.
Roberto wasn't there that day, but the guys who were manning the ovens were talking non-stop about pizza making and training. It was good to see some focus.
Roberto is also involved in the APN's opening of a cooking school and restaurant down in the village.
A Mano: an abbreviated timeline of the "Regina Margherita":
My first pizza at A Mano, back in 2007:
A disastrous pizza after Roberto's departure. Note the gobs of unmelted cheese and the 3 pounds of tomatoes:
And a recent pizza. They're back in the game:
A Mano : Chestnut at Franklin : Ridgewood, NJ : 201.493.2000