Two pizza titans of Holbrook have joined forces in the wake of one beloved pizzeria’s closure.
In the kitchen at Holbrook Commons on Patchogue-Holbrook Road, the two men prepare their own and each other’s classic cheese pies.
To keep things in order, their respective sauces and cheeses have labels to tell them apart.
“The main difference is the sauce,” Lee said. “They had their Aegean original sauce they’ve been using for 48 years. We have an original sauce that goes back to my uncle doing it since 1957 in Richmond Hill.”
The merger has been in the works for over a year, both men explained.
They knew the writing was on the wall at Aegean Pizza, which shut after 48 years on Aug. 6 at what’s now a ghost mall along Sunrise Highway in Holbrook. Earlier this year, Syosset’s Blumenfeld Development Group signed a 99-year lease to redevelop the property.
On its face, the arrangement sounds unusual, two heads of different pizzerias selling two pies under one roof.
But given the pair’s decades-long friendship — and their wealth of shared and separate customers — it was a natural arrangement.
Aegean diehards, heartbroken just a few weeks ago, are now streaming into Carlo’s Pizza Oven to shake Rossis’ hand — then order a slice from the pie with the “Aegean Pizza” tag.
Lee estimated the shop sold 25 Aegean original pies following the announcement. Those pies will soon be sold in a Carlo’s Pizza Oven box with a special Aegean Pizza label on the sides.
“We have them side by side,” Lee said of the two cheese pies. “We really have two pizza places under one roof now. We feature both pizzas, whatever you want from either you can get, it’s kind of unique.”
Aegean’s Greek delights
For Rossis, Aegean’s closure and his recent move has been a bittersweet affair.
After announcing Aegean’s final two weeks, customers flooded his store. Waiting customers spilled out into the mall hallway, Rissos had to disconnect the phone and wait times for one final pie stretched beyond an hour.
“It was a perfect way to go out,” Rossis said. “I was sad, ready to cry, and just seeing the people coming in and hearing the stories, ‘three generations,’ ‘four generations,’ ‘we don’t want to see you go.'”
“A customer that used to live here moved to Tennessee, and his kids never had Aegean pizza,” he continued, recalling one customer’s story that resonated with him. “He drove 16 hours so his kids could experience Aegean Pizza.”
In addition to the Aegean original pies, Rossis’ flock can once again enjoy the Greek delights for which his shop was also known.
“I’m bringing some of my specialties like the Greek salad,” he said. “We’re very known for our Greek dressing. It’s a homemade dressing recipe that’s been there since 1974. We’re going to do gyros, souvlakis, throw some new things [for Carlo’s] that sold by me.”
Of course, all the Carlo’s classics remain up for order, such as the Carlo’s house-made Greek dressing, a wealth of seafood entrées, chicken and veal parmigiana and specialty pies, including a grandma pie Rossis introduced to Lee when the two were together at Carlo’s years back.
“Harry showed me how to make that grandma pizza 20 years ago,” Lee said. “When he worked here he showed me how to make that pizza and that sauce. That was one I did not make before then.”
There’s also the ‘old fashioned regular,’ which boasts a unique third sauce from the Carlo’s kitchen that Lee holds dear.
“That’s a sauce my mother made when I was a kid,” Lee said. “I used to watch her make that sauce. She made it into a Sicilian pizza, she didn’t make round, and I turned it into both.”
On the second day following the merger announcement, Rossis continued to reconnect with his customers. Happy to see him, many stopped by to say hello and wish him well.
Others started calling before noon to order an Aegean original.
“It made it a lot easier because, like I said, it was a sad time,” Rossis said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere but talking to Billy and seeing the customers, it’s kind of like I didn’t leave.
“Usually when you first start something you’re scared,” he continued.
“I’m not scared. I know this is going to work.”
Top: Harry Rossis (foreground), with his friend Billy Lee, at Carlo’s Pizza Oven Thursday in Holbrook. (Nicholas Grasso)