If you’ve ever spent a late night in the Hamptons, foraging for something to eat, you’ve probably stumbled upon Astro Pizza & Felice’s Ristorante, the Amagansett slice spot that opened in 1971. The restaurant’s original space was actually a few doors down, but it remains, 47 years later, owned and operated by family.
Felice Lupo was born in 1926 in Palermo, Italy, where he met and married Onofria Teresi. He had worked in San Remo as a police officer until, at the age of 45, he decided to pursue the American dream. The duo and their children emigrated to the United States, settling in Amagansett. For 35 years, Lupo worked in the kitchen of Astro Pizza every day, save for a month each year, when he returned to Sicily with his family. When his wife died in 2001, Lupo retired, handing over his business to his three children, Gesualda, Gaetano (otherwise known as Tony), and Angela. After leaving the business, Lupo moved to Baltimore, where he eventually remarried. He returned to Amagansett occasionally, tying an apron on and offering advice about running the restaurant he had created. In 2014, at 88, Lupo died. His legacy, however, lives on in the restaurant.
The pies at Astro — which are available by the slice — are still cooked on the original pizza stones and in the original ovens purchased by Lupo in the early 1970s. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant caters to restaurant workers and late-night dalliers; in summer, it stays open, with workers slinging slices until three in the morning. Winter hours are a little more muted, though hungry patrons can still grab a slice or two well into the night. As for business, well, it remains good, even after all these years.
It helps, of course, that the Stephen Talkhouse, the Hamptons’ most well-known music venue, is mere feet away. In the heat of summer, when boozed up Hamptons visitors have queued up to get in to see whatever band happens to be playing (the majority of them will remain on the sidewalk, admittance denied), the smell of hot, fresh pizza wafting down the Amagansett street is the only marketing that Astro really needs.
Astro, for what it’s worth, is Hamptons affordable. An 18-inch large pie — with eight slices — will set you back $19, just one more dollar than the 16-inch medium. Toppings, of course, are extra. There are sandwiches and calzones, too, and specialty pizzas piled high with inventive toppings. But the pizza — the real deal — is the name of the game here. A dedicated following prefers the thick, saucy grandma pizza (and/or slice) to the original, but my money is on the late-night slice, which is crispy the way a New York street slice is, and induces instant nostalgia for my lost 20s, street corners, plumes of smoke rising from vestibules, and taxicab rides near dawn.
But isn’t that what good food — or even halfway decent food — is supposed to do? Recall some distant experience, call us back from the brink? It was the point of Proust’s madeleines, and has been the mission of nearly every chef since the beginning of time: to create something that haunts us, even if it’s only for a minute. Even if it’s fleeting. There’s something about that after-hours slice — the decadence of it, the tinge of regret that begins even as you order it — something about that momentary joy recalls other moments just like it. Maybe that’s why Astro Pizza has survived for nearly five decades, late night crowd notwithstanding.