Click here for Greater Long Island newsletters. Click here to download our iPhone app.
Danny Rocca has spent a third of his time on Earth working behind pizzeria counters.
And now at 23, he and longtime friend, Teddy Fortunato, have opened one to call their own, Dough & Co., at 318 Main St. in Huntington.
Rocca earned his first pizza gig at Umberto’s in Plainview when he was 15. Four years later, he became the shop’s general manager.
“I knew I was destined for it,” Rocca said of his career projections as a teenager. “I loved every aspect of it, the uniqueness of every pie, the hard work. It fulfilled me.”
For Rocca, pizza is a family tradition. His parents ran pizza shops, selling their last one when he was 14, and his grandfather, Mariano Rocca, served pizza in Italy.
In fact, Danny Rocca’s “Metro” margherita pizza draws inspiration from his grandfather’s time and place.
“Walking the streets of Italy, they’d slap it on the plate for you, and it was kind of an on-the-go slice,” he said of the metro slice. “We’re trying to bring that here, just in a different style. For the area, it will be a little bit more unique.
“This dough is higher hydration, airy, crispy, thin, light,” he added. “It sits well in the stomach, that was our goal here.”
Rocca fused the past with personal flair for his two other “Metro” slices.
The Metro East margherita boasts a margarita pizza base, topped with jalapeños, pepperoni and Mike’s Hot Honey. In lieu of sauce, the Metro West features mozzarella topped with caramelized onion, mushrooms, fresh ricotta, a sprinkling of black pepper and an extra drizzle of virgin olive oil.
Plenty of other slices line Dough & Co.‘s counter, including buffalo and barbeque chicken, vodka, cream spinach and sausage and broccoli rabe.
The shop also serves hot heroes, pinwheels, calzones and pasta dishes.
By the time he met Rocca his freshman year of high school, Fortunato was also a seasoned restaurant worker. He’s held many gigs over the years — from diner cook to pizzeria delivery driver. He was even a bar manager.
“Owning a pizzeria was next in line for things to do,” Fortunato, 23, said. “The opportunity arose and we jumped on it.”
Even with years of experience under both of their belts, Rocca said he knows there is still more to learn.
“Dough is a living organism,” he said. “For us to know how to work it and work with it, it’s a quality you need to master. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve definitely had some mentorship along the way. It took my whole life, and I still don’t know enough.
“You always continue to learn, grow,” he continued. “There’s always something new, and I’ll keep learning until the end of time.”
Top photo: Danny Rocca and Teddy Fortunato.