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Arancini Bros

Arancini Bros. Rice Balls now available during Brooklyn Cyclones games at MCU Park. Photo via Arancini Bros.

Italian street food is popping up this summer in Coney Island’s amusement area. Bushwick’s Arancini Bros– whose motto is “We’ve got balls!”– is serving their Sicilian rice balls during Brooklyn Cyclones’ games at MCU Park. On the Bowery at Stillwell, Luzzo’s, which has an old-school pizzeria with a coal-burning oven in the East Village, is making wood-fired pizza from a mobile cart with a tiny oven.

We first tried Arancini Bros basil pesto ball at San Gennaro and went back for seconds, thinking all the while: this would be perfect for Coney Island. The business is owned by David Campaniello and his cousin Giulia Della Gatta, who says of the new Coney Island venture, “Arancini Bros. is honored to bring the best of Brooklyn, for the best of Brooklyn!”

Six varieties are offered at MCU Park, priced at three for $6 or six for $10. There’s Classic Ragu (saffron risotto with tomato meat sauce peace and mozzarella); Bianco Verde (Basil Pesto w Mozzarella); Buffalo Ball (Spicy Chicken with Gorgonzola Cheese); Philly Cheese-Steak (grilled rib-eye, caramelized onions, provolone cheese); Bucatini Fritti (Italian-style mac & cheese) and Nutella (Cinnamon risotto with chocolate hazelnut, rolled in cinnamon sugar).

We only wish they sold the rice balls outside the ball park too!

Luzzo's Pizza

Luzzo’s Pizza Cart on the Bowery at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. July 4, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Luzzo Group headed by Neapolitan pizzaiolo Michele Iuliano operate a quintet of restaurants as well as pizza carts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Their cart in Coney Island debuted over the July 4th weekend and is set to stay the summer, according to its manager Anisa. Luzzo’s is located on Thor Equities property on the Bowery, across from the Brooklyn Nets Shop and the yet-to-open Wahlburgers, and has a roped-off seating area. The personal-size pizza comes in two varieties: the Margherita, with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella ($6.00), and the Diavola with spicy salami ($8.00). Also on the menu for $2 each are Rice Balls (rice, meat, fresh Mozzarella) and Potato Croquettes.

While new is news and street food is convenient, if you’re looking for an Italian sit-down restaurant in Coney Island, you should keep in mind two of the City’s and the neighborhood’s oldest and most revered: Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana on Neptune Avenue since 1924 and Gargiulo’s on West 15th Street since 1907. As ATZ previously reported, the Russo Brothers, owners of Gargiulo’s, which is Coney Island’s bastion of fine dining, are planning to open a fast food Italian restaurant on the north side of Surf.

Luzzo's Pizza

Seating area at Luzzo’s Pizza Cart on the Bowery at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. July 4, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Little Caesars

Little Caesars $5 Pizza at Thor’s Retail Building at Surf and Stillwell. May 31, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The latest chain to put its name on the glittering marquee of Thor Equities building in the new Coney Island is Little Caesars Pizza. Over Memorial Day Weekend, there was a cart selling Little Caesars “Hot-n-Ready” $5.00 pizzas in front of Thor’s building at Surf and Stillwell. The price was right and they sold out. Afterwards, signs remained taped to the outside of the window advertising the food franchise. We wondered if it was a tryout by a franchisee or guerrilla marketing. The official sign for “Little Caesars Express” went up last week. The Detroit-based Little Caesars is the nation’s third largest pizza chain with over 35 locations in New York City. It joins Applebee’s, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Rita’s Italian Ice, It’Sugar and Rainbow Shops in making Surf and Stillwell a new mecca for chains and franchises.

What’s up with the vacant “ARCADE” next door? According to the Coney Island Rumor Mill, an arcade operator has agreed to fill the building’s two dummy arcades with games but paperwork issues are delaying the deal. No surprise there. Making a mockery of the zoning laws, the designated “arcades” have remained vacant ever since the building’s first tenant, Miami candy chain It’Sugar, opened last year. The 2009 Coney Island Rezoning requires the building to have a percentage of amusements equal to the square footage allocated for the arcades. If something other than amusements went into the space, the building’s C of O would be in jeopardy.

Why doesn’t Thor CEO Joe Sitt just throw some arcade machines in the “arcades” and open them up to the public instead of taking advantage of what appears to be a loophole in the zoning law that allows the spaces to remain vacant? Based on Sitt’s eviction of amusements from his property (“Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt,” ATZ, March 3, 2010), it’s our opinion that he’s not in any hurry to replace them.

The zoning states that “At least 15 percent of the Stillwell Avenue and West 10th Street street frontage of any zoning lot shall be occupied by Use Group A1 uses at the ground floor level.” Use Group “A1″ includes amusement arcades as well as open booths with games of skill or chance, such as water racing and shooting galleries, which used to occupy the spot in the demolished Henderson Building where the Brooklyn Nets Shop is now.

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March 11, 2014: Thor’s Coney Island: BurgerFi, Arcade Coming to Stillwell & Surf

October 17, 2013: The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades

September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

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Coney Island, 1950

Coney Island, 1950. Photo © George Daniell. Gelatin silver, printed 1998

In 1950, the Coney Island Boardwalk was still lined with bathhouses featuring steam rooms and “sun parlors” and you could get a slice of pizza for 10 cents. The painted signs had big, bold typography designed to catch your eye and draw you in.

This photo of Coney Island’s Oriole Baths (formerly at W 16th Street) and Willie’s Pizza taken in 1950 by George Daniell will be on the auction block at today’s sale at Heritage Auctions in New York. The gelatin silver print signed by the photographer is editioned 9/20 in pencil, and was printed in 1998 in association with Sarah Morthland Gallery and Vincent Cianni. The pre-sale estimate is $800-$1,200.

Best known for his celebrity portraits of movie stars, artists and writers, George Daniell (1911-2002) also photographed shore scenes, including New York’s Hudson River, Fire Island and Coney Island.

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Grimaldi's Pizza

Grimaldi’s Pizza Take-Out Order, Coney Island. July 14, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Renovations are underway at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, which expects to re-open its Sandy-damaged restaurant on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue in two weeks. “May 1st is my birthday,” Grimaldi’s operator Joe Silvestri told ATZ. “We’ll be open for my birthday.” Their pizza was a favorite of workers in the amusement area. One of our very first takeout pies is pictured above.

The Coney Island outpost of the famed Brooklyn Bridge pizzeria had been open only four months old when Superstorm Sandy struck. The restaurant’s metal gate gave way to Sandy and the interior of the pizzeria was wrecked by the wind and flood waters. The cobwebs in Jim McDonnell’s photo were part of the Halloween decor and look genuinely eerie. We dined at Grimaldi’s just two days before Sandy and can’t wait to welcome them back.

UPDATE April 30, 2013

Grimaldi’s reopened today! The pizzeria is currently hiring a pizza chef, waiters, kitchen help and bartender. They’re expecting their beer and liquor license to come through. Updates soon!

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Surf Avenue, Coney Island: Interior of Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

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Grimaldi's Coney Island

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, Coney Island. June 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Yesterday, ATZ peeked inside the new Grimaldi’s Pizzeria on Surf Avenue in Coney Island to see what we could see. Workers inside said the restaurant was opening today! Today is of course Mermaid Parade Day and Surf Avenue will be thronged with tens of thousands of mer-people as well as folks watching the parade. We predict a very busy first day in Coney Island for the famed Brooklyn pizzeria.

Under construction for three months, Grimaldi’s is on the less traveled north side of Surf Avenue directly across from the Eldorado Skooters. Its sign is highly visible from the subway as well as the amusement area and should help attract customers. This week, a 3-D Brooklyn Bridge that lights up was hoisted by crane onto the sign’s New York City skyline. Inside the cavernous space, vintage photos of old Coney Island and the City’s rendering of the new Coney Island line the walls. Tables and chairs are set up and ready to welcome customers. Buon appetito, mermaids and mermen!

Grimaldi’s, 1215 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11224

UPDATE April 1, 2013

In reply to numerous queries: No, Grimaldi’s Surf Avenue has not yet opened post-Sandy. It’s expected to re-open by May 1st
https://amusingthezillion.com/2013/04/17/sandy-damaged-grimaldis-pizzeria-in-coney-island-to-reopen-in-2-weeks/

UPDATE December 30, 2012:

Readers have been asking if Grimaldi’s is open year round. It would be open if it hadn’t been for Hurricane Sandy. The last time we dined there was on the eve of the hurricane! Unfortunately, Grimaldi’s is among the many local businesses that remain closed due to flood damage from Sandy and is expected to reopen in the spring. In the meantime you can visit the restaurant’s other locations, including DUMBO, Queens, Manhattan and Hoboken. This post about Grimaldi’s opening on Mermaid Day was #4 on “Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2012.”

UPDATE June 30, 2012, 12 noon:

Grimaldi’s is open. Buon appetito!

UPDATE June 28, 2012:

After opening on Mermaid Parade Weekend, the new Surf Avenue Grimaldi’s got its first review from Devour NYC, who called it “a great tasting pizza and for $14 for a large pie, it may be the best deal in Coney Island.” The reviewer said there was an hour wait, so we decided to try it today–a Thursday. But Grimaldi’s was closed and our Coney friends were wondering if it was only open on weekends for now. ATZ phoned Joe, Grimaldi’s General Manager, who said they were closed temporarily due to a permitting issue with the City, and expected to reopen on Friday, June 29, or by July 1st. The pizzeria will be open daily from 11:30am or 12 noon. The Coney Island location does not have a phone yet, but we’ll post an update as soon as possible after it reopens.

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