There is no dearth of pizza on Long Island. This is a fact. You can wander through any town — through any East End hamlet, for sure — and stumble upon adequate (and even good!) Italian food. You can find a decent pie. You may even be able to find a decent slice.
Actually, when I think back on my New York City life, which has faded far into my past, I think, sometimes, of those slices that I ate when I had nowhere in particular to be. But I think, too, of the superlative Neapolitan pies that I enjoyed at places like Kesté, Motorino, and Roberta’s. I think about how pizza means a lot of different things in the world, and about how some of my favorite pies were not particularly crisp on the bottom, because Neapolitan pies rarely are.
That’s a niche that Sag Pizza, which is entering its third year, attempts to accomplish. Detractors may argue that it is expensive. And it is expensive. But the thing about good pizza is that it requires good ingredients, and good ingredients come at a cost.
Here is what Sag Pizza — which occupies the slice of Sag Harbor once home to the much beloved Conca d’Oro — sells: artisanal, Neapolitan, wood-fired pizza, at both lunch and dinner. There are 11 medium-sized pies available (by medium, I mean, yes, you can probably eat a whole one on your lonesome). The classic San Marzano pie is the standard-bearer here, a chewy pie with a charred crust, amplified by the best kinds of tomatoes, soft mozzarella, and fistfuls of basil. Would I choose this pie over the NYC Pepperoni, a pie made with, naturally, pepperoni, but also with Sicilian oregano? That’s a tough call, to be honest.
My husband and I have long battled the merits of the clam pie, which he turns his Italian nose up at, claiming the old adage that dairy and seafood should never meet. I think he’s wrong, especially when it comes to the Vongole, a pie teeming with clams, garlic-scallion butter, guanciale, oregano, and lemon. But he prefers the Neapolitan regardless: tomato, caciocavallo, capers, olives, and anchovies. To which I say: Let’s agree to disagree.
Sag Pizza is all about that pizza, of course, but there’s more to enjoy, too. The meatball pomodoro appetizer is an impressive combination of veal and mortadella. The octopus is nothing short of addictive, its accompanying fingerling potatoes anchored by celery and cured olives. There is a slim pasta offering, too, including the fine shape known as mafaldine, which almost resembles a lasagna noodle, with ruffles on its edges. It is served with mussels, clams, scallops, calamari, clams, and shrimp, a veritable symphony of the sea-faring riches of Long Island’s East End. Or opt, instead, for the mezzi rigatoni, made with Schiavoni’s sausage, bitter greens, pine nuts, and pecorino sardo.
If you feel that the perfect conclusion to a pizza adventure is one that comes up cold and sweet against your tongue, I can’t reasonably disagree. Pizza and ice cream is a perennial favorite for a reason. At Sag Pizza, there are a number of soft serve options, made in-house, of course, and they are all stellar. Your personal palate may direct you to the vanilla affogato, which comes cloaked in espresso. Or perhaps it is the swirl of caramel popcorn that really makes your afternoon. But my money is on the vanilla-amarena cherry, those tiny, soaked Italian stone fruits that bleed deep red into silky white ice cream. Through them, I’m transported, not to Italy, necessarily, but to a New York City that I used to love. Pizza, it turns out, and a spot of sweet to follow, is my madeleine.