**In celebration of Women’s History Month, I’ll be posting about women in the pizza community every few days this month. The pizza biz is pretty male-dominated, so let’s take this opportunity to throw the spotlight onto some of the women who are doing amazing work in the pizza world.
If you’ve been to Totonno’s on Coney Island, you’ve met “Cookie.” She carries on the legacy started by her grandfather when he opened the pizzeria in 1924 on Neptune Ave. She runs the show at the historic pizzeria that holds the title of America’s oldest pizzeria location. People travel from across the planet to visit Totonno’s and Cookie has become an important part of that pilgrimage, connecting the past with the present at a true pizza institution.
Cookie was a waitress at Totonno’s In the early 70’s, when her Uncle Jerry was working the oven. He trained her in the art of pizza making and set her up to take over the family business. David Young, author of Where to Eat Pizza, remembers seeing Cookie work the room in the 1990s. She would spot a pie that wasn’t perfect and send it back to the kitchen. She was and is a hawk, protecting her family’s legacy with every breath.
I always recommend people visit Totonno’s (open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 8pm) when they ask me for pizza recommendations. Most just want to stay in Manhattan, but the fact that this place is way out in Coney Island is what has helped protect it. Visiting Totonno’s is like stepping back in time. I wasn’t around when they opened in the 1920s but wouldn’t be surprised of the pizza back then was identical to what they make now.
Cookie has kept the place alive, even through tragedies like the kitchen fire of 2009 and a devastating flood from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Thanks to Cookie’s strength, you can visit Totonno’s today and see no scars. It’s a sacred place and Cookie is its stalwart keeper.
Visit Cookie at:
Totonno’s Pizzeria Napoletana
1524 Neptune Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11224
Open Thursday – Sunday, 12 noon to 8pm