Being a transplant from New York, I'm often asked what I miss most from there.
I usually mention three things, in no particular order: friends, family and food.
Pizza is the No. 1 food my whole family misses. Now I find myself surrounded by pizza places advertising that they serve real New York-style pizza. Unfortunately, many of them do not even come close.
Recently, however, I had the pleasure of visiting a place called DiMaggio's, and with just one bite of their fresh, homemade, oven-baked pizza, I felt as though I were back home again.
"My mom and dad used to say to me, 'What you going to do? Make pizza the rest of your life?' " said Richie Bungert, co-owner of DiMaggio's Pizza. "Guess what - 38 years later and eight pizza stores later, here I am in North Carolina, still making pizzas.
"I originally opened the N.Y.P.D. in Harrisburg; it did really well. I sold that and took some time off, spent it with my wife, Dana, daughter, Taylor and my son, Richie.
"I then hooked up with my friend Gregg Pierantoni to create DiMaggio's."
Both men are from the New York metropolitan area, so they know how New York pizza should taste. The two have more than 50 years of experience between them.
"We moved here in March 2005," Pierantoni said. "We were looking for a change and a better quality of life. We wanted more house for our money and less taxes.
"I used to own a pizzeria up in Rutherford, N.J.," he said. "It was called Mama Rosa's. It was there for 30 years, and I owned it for five years but sold it because all I did was work and never saw my family. I (also) own Bedder Bedder and Moore on Abbey Place in Charlotte. I have owned it now for three years."
These partners work hard to make their restaurant a lot like the pizza places they remember when they lived up North.
"DiMaggio's is a little pizzeria with a New York sports theme, cold beer, great pizza and food," Bungert said. "It's a friendly atmosphere, unless you're Boston Red Sox fan. We are open three months now and couldn't be happier with the response from everyone."
DiMaggio's Pizza is sure to be a hit with us New Yorkers, who sometimes want a little taste of home.
Their secret? "We use the right ovens; we cook our pizza in brick ovens, not the air-cook ovens like other chain pizza stores," Pierantoni said. And "we want to get to know our customers on a first-name basis and make them feel like we are all friends."
DiMaggio's Pizzeria is in the Renaissance Square shopping center on N.C. 73 in Davidson. Check out their menu and daily specials at www.dimaggiospizzeria.com.