Arrivederci to the Pizza Master

Gennaro Giugliano, pizza maker extraordinaire at the Red Horse Market in East Hampton
Gennaro Giugliano, who was born in Naples, the birthplace of pizza, has practiced the tradition of his homeland in East Hampton for 11 years. Morgan McGivern

If pizza is an expression of its maker, Gennaro Giugliano has found his true calling.    

“It’s the crust. The sauce has to be good, too. And don’t forget about the cheese,” said Mr. Giugliano, pizza maker extraordinaire at the Red Horse Market in East Hampton. “Anybody can make pizza, but you also need a heart. Without that, it doesn’t come out the way you want it to.”

All told, between the Red Horse Market and its prior incarnation, Tutto Italiano, an Italian specialty store owned by Citarella, Mr. Giugliano has made pizza in East Hampton for the past 11 years. 

Red Horse Market has hit its stride. Last July and August, it sold 12,000 pizzas and nearly 40,000 pounds of fresh mozzarella. 

Now 64, this coming summer will be Mr. Giugliano’s last at the pizza oven. “It’s too much. It’s a demanding job. It’s not like I’m 20 anymore,” he said, during a recent lunchtime rush, wearing his usual uniform of checkered chef’s pants, black sneakers, and a white apron. “You finally hit a certain age.”

Last summer, he was on his feet 13 to 14 hours each day, not including his daily commute from Bohemia, which averages anywhere between one to three hours. Come next January, he plans to retire, just two days shy of his 65th birthday.  

Mr. Giugliano was born in a small town near Naples, Italy. His mother was a homemaker, raising four sons and one daughter. His father worked as a carpenter. 

In 1970, with the Italian economy in ruins, the family arrived in the United States in search of a better life. Mr. Giugliano lived first in East New York, Brooklyn. At 18, he spoke not a word of English and learned the skill of pizza making from his older brother. At 24, he married and moved to Bensonhurst, near Coney Island, where he and his wife raised their two children, now 30 and 35.

After 18 years of marriage, they divorced. Mr. Giugliano moved first to Pennsylvania and later to Columbus, Ohio, to help a friend who had opened a pizzeria. 

Eleven years ago his phone rang. Pasquale Langella, 59, his brother-in-law, was on the other end, hoping to lure Mr. Giugliano back to Long Island. At the time, Tutto Italiano needed a pizza maker, and Mr. Langella knew just the guy for the job. 

In 2012, the Red Horse Market opened its doors. Mr. Langella now runs it alongside his two partners: Pedro Pineda, the specialty butcher, and Jeff Lange, the general manager. Mr. Langella makes fresh mozzarella every day in a giant tub of 190-degree water. During the high season, he makes anywhere between 400 to 600 pounds a day. His all-time record was last May, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, when he made 735 pounds of mozzarella. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the market, Mr. Giugliano keeps watch over his 525-degree oven. He never sets a timer, instinctively knowing when it’s ready. A large pie cooks for 7 to 10 minutes, while a small pie takes only 5 to 7. Midway through, Mr. Giugliano pulls out a giant fork and squashes down the crust to prevent the dough from puffing up. 

The crust is thin and crunches in your mouth. The most popular item is the pepperoni pizza, followed by sausage, and then mushroom. A large cheese pizza costs $18 and a small one costs $7. The market also sells round discs of homemade pizza dough.

Giovanni Carlos, a 35-year-old native of Ecuador, prepares the tomato sauce and dough, both whole-wheat and regular. Each day, he makes one to three batches of dough. One batch yields 192 small pizzas. Despite repeated attempts, Mr. Carlos refused to disclose his recipe, saying only that the ingredients are high-quality and made using fresh basil, kosher salt, and extra virgin olive oil. 

Six days a week, Mr. Giugliano can be found guarding his usual post — endlessly stretching dough, spreading tomato sauce, and sprinkling it with shredded mozzarella cheese. “I’m counting down the days,” Mr. Giugliano said. “Before the summer even starts, I’ve got 100 days behind me.”

A 6-month-old grandson, Steven, who lives in New Jersey, has spurred Mr. Giugliano toward retirement. He is determined not to miss out on his childhood. “I’m going to teach my grandson how to make a pizza.”

Of his trim physique, Mr. Giugliano says he indulges in his own food, albeit sparingly: “I like good food. I like good wine. But I have to stay away — or I’ll be like Pasquale.”