Pizzeria Nonna: Upstate pizza coming to Germantown

Celeste and Aniello DeCocinis with son Mauro at Celeste's Place, their Hazleton pizzeria, in the 1980s.

Long before he got into the bar business with his wife, Jess (Falls Taproom in East Falls, Cresheim Valley Grain Exchange in Mount Airy), Marvin Graaf was a pizza guy.

Of course, Graaf enjoys round, New York-style pizza. But growing up in Luzerne County as the grandson of pizzeria owners, he especially loves "pitz," that square pizza, served cold, that generations of Hazletonians were weaned on.

Graaf is a few weeks from opening Pizzeria Nonna, just up the street from Grumblethorpe at 5301 Germantown Ave. in a rapidly reviving stretch of Germantown that's also 4 minutes from the pizza-loving students at La Salle.

Pizza will be at the center of the from-scratch menu - big New York-style, thin-crust round pies as well as a riff on pitz that he's been developing at Falls Taproom.

Graaf describes the shop's signature as a square pie, not as thick as Sicilian, with a chewy inside and a crispy, almost caramelized bottom. "Some people call it 'fried pizza,'" Graaf says. It's baked in an oiled pan, suggesting Detroit-style pizza. But it's not Detroit style, either.

"Grandma pizza?" he asked. "I need a name for it."

He also will serve red-sauce specialties such as lasagna, ravioli, breaded eggplant rollatini, and cavatelli. But no burgers, chicken fingers, or fries. Not that kind of shop.

Graaf has help. His grandparents - Celeste and Aniello DeCocinis, who owned Celeste's Place in Hazleton - and his mother, Grazia, are visiting for a while to consult.

There are no recipes because no one bothered to write them down, so Graaf is learning the old-fashioned way: standing behind his grandmother in the kitchen to watch.