By Elizabeth Nealon
No salads? No pastas? No buffalo chicken slice? No garlic knots?! Oh yeah, and no delivery or debit or credit cards accepted. What kind of pizza place is this?
It’s a pizzeria that has been placed on Forbes’ 2017 All Star Eateries in New York and ranks above restaurants owned by Michelin starred chefs on The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Pizza in America list for 2017.
After they bought the pizza joint from their boss in 1987, Ernie Ottuso, brothers Cosimo and John Tiso have been business partners and co-owners of Louie and Ernie’s Pizza. The brothers have done their best to stay true to the recipes and atmosphere of the restaurant that existed before they took over the business 31 years ago.
While striving to maintain its mom-and-pop feel, running Louie and Ernie’s has become a family affair.
“Me and my brother are here basically every day. My nephew is here on a regular basis. My sister is here almost all the time. My wife’s here, my children work here,” said Cosimo Tiso.
The thin crust and perfect proportions of cheese are not the only delights that make the edible journey worthwhile. The storefront is what appears to be the basement of a house, which sets the tone for the pizzeria’s atmosphere.
Right next to the front window, customers can see fresh dough being dressed with sauce and cheese. The smells lingering throughout the restaurant are reminiscent of home-cooked meals when the not-yet-ready food was just out of reach.
The casual and inviting atmosphere of the pizzeria, which has a newspaper at every table, is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a warm slice with a cold soda.
Cosimo calls their business model “archaic.” They do not deliver, do not operate a fax machine, do not have an extensive menu and certainly do not deal with anything online.
“We don’t make sandwiches,” said Cosimo. “We don’t make salads. We don’t make anything that you would get in a typical pizzeria; we don’t make it. We’re the old school. You come in here just to get pizza.”
Because people keep coming back, the Tiso brothers could care less about negative reviews on the internet; they would be unaware of those reviews unless informed about them in person.
“We pride ourselves on serving a good product. We make a good product and that’s why people come back,” said Cosimo.
The restaurant has a map of where their customers come from and it shows that customers are coming from as far away as Fiji to munch on a slice of their pizza. Their ability to satisfy their extensive customer base is, as Cosimo said, because of the simplicity of their menu.
They are a no-frills pizza place with simple ingredients that allows customers to personalize their slices. Since taking over Louie and Ernie’s Pizza, John and Cosimo have only made minor adjustments to the menu. They have added four more variations of Calzone and a few more topping options.
For anyone who knows what kind of pizzeria they are dealing with, a menu is unnecessary. As Cosimo said, “It’s not a menu — its pizza!”
Their success goes against all rules of modern businesses. They have no social media presence, and do not have any niche other than really good pizza.
“We make pizza, that’s all we do,” said Cosimo. “The product speaks for itself.” But, being so successful as an old school pizza place has allowed the Tiso brothers to expand.
This summer, Cosimo said that they are planning to open a new location in Westchester County.
With expansion comes change, so this new venture hopefully will not take away from the beauty of Louie and Ernie’s. Cosimo said, “If it stays just like it is today, I’d be the happiest guy in the world.”