It has been 40 years since the Ferrante family’s pizza has been sold to the public. So pizza master and patriarch Benedetto Ferrante, now 89, sat his daughter Maggie Ferrante Barrella down this spring to give her some sage advice: “I want to tell you just one thing. Don’t let the dough control you, you make it do what you want it to do.”
Ferrante Barrella has taken that advice to heart in the best way possible this summer with Maggpie’s Pizza, a weekend evening pop-up shop at Barefoot Market in Ocean City. After 3 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, once the scone-famous market has closed for its regular hours, the bakery’s ovens begin turning out simple but delicious old-school square pizzas that evoke the taste of the Trenton-style pies that made her father’s long-closed restaurants, Ferrante’s in Chambersburg and Benedetto’s in Atlantic City, popular in the 1970s. The edges are hand-crimped into the corners of the family’s vintage 10-by-15-inch steel pans. And the sauce, of course, goes on the top: “My dad always thought the cheese stuck better directly on the crust.”
Ferrante Barella, an interior designer by trade, decided to give the family pizza tradition a go at the urging of her youngest daughter, Liz. The recipes come directly from her dad, who still offers advice. And together they’ve achieved the unlikely. At the Shore, where there’s already more pizza than necessary and in every style imagined, Maggpie’s serves something that still seems unique in its homage to handmade simplicity and good ingredients.
In an era where puffy Neapolitan pizzas and floppy big Boardwalks rounds still rule the stage, these pies reflect the homier “grandma-style” of pizza that has long been common in Italian-American homes. The sauce, made from hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes, is vivid with basil and thin-slivered cloves of fresh garlic, especially on the cheese-less tomato pie. Big chunks of Italian sausage from Bagliani’s Market in Hammonton, a dusky note of oregano and a twinge of Locatelli accent the pizzas with cheese. And then there is that simple dough, handmade each morning morning according the number of pre-orders sent by e-mail, fermented over the course of the day, then baked in old-school pans and given one quick toasty crisp to finish on a pizza stone before it’s sliced into squares and boxed to go. The Ferrante family’s pizza tradition is piping hot once again, ready to be devoured.
— Craig LaBan
Maggpie’s Pizza, $17-$22, Friday through Sunday evenings at Barefoot Market, 214 West Ave, Ocean City, N.J. Order pizzas in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org