Amore means love in Italian. In Bay Shore, it has come to mean great pizza.
“We do the right thing by the people,” said Richard Graffeo, co-owner of Amore Pizzeria at the corner of Union Boulevard and Brentwood Road.
Amore has been a staple in the Bay Shore community now for 25 years. It all started back in 1991, when Graffeo, a Brooklyn native, had an idea to share his family’s recipes way out in the Town of Islip.
Amore Pizzeria opened in January 1992.
“Starting a business is tough,” Graffeo admitted. The Bay Shore location was his fourth and most recent pizzeria. “I’ve made some mistakes, but I learned from them,” he said.
Things got much easier when he hired his first pizza-maker in fellow Brooklyn native Michael DiTomasso.
“I’m a wise guy, he’s a wise guy, and now we’re still here together,” said a chuckling Graffeo, now of West Islip, recalling his first hire.
DiTomasso, who now lives in East Islip, worked his way through the ranks until becoming co-owner in 1997.
One of the first promotions the two men hatched as co-owners was to sell large pizza pies for $2.99 to celebrate their new partnership.
“That night was one of the busiest we’ve ever been,” said Graffeo. And it helped expand Amore’s loyal base of customers.
Since then, the owners worked together to build their brand and expand their business, which is currently undergoing some renovations. They even sold enough pizza over the years to buy the entire strip mall that houses Amore, which is now called Amore Plaza.
One thing especially they both take pride in, is the bonds they’ve built in the Bay Shore area.
“When I worked in Brooklyn you never really got to know people,” said DiTomasso. “Out here we get to have relationships with the people.”
Amore also donates food to organizations like the Great South Bay YMCA and local schools, DiTomasso added.
Much has changed through the years, such as the proliferation of specialty pies over the old option of Sicilian or regular. They also have a popular Chicago-style option.
No matter what the style, what hasn’t altered is Amore’s devotion to authentic ingredients, the owners say.
“We still grind up our own tomatoes like we’ve always done,” said Graffeo. “I’ve been using the same cheese guy for the last 37 years.”
Top: Richard Graffeo (left) and Michael DiTomasso (right) toward the beginning of their co-ownership of Amore Pizzeria around 1998. (courtesy photo)