With nearly 30 years under their belt, Randazzo’s is still serving up the kind of food that proves it’s the little details that make a big difference
PIZZA is everywhere in Ocean City. Whether it be on the Boardwalk or on the streets, you will be hard pressed to not find a pizzeria within five minutes from you in Ocean City.
So how does one pizzeria differentiate from another? Joe and Marianna Randazzo, owners of Randazzo’s Pizzeria on 34th and Asbury, know there are only so many ways you can cook pizza. But it’s the little things they do differently, that gives their pizza the crunch customers love.
I met up with the couple on a spring day in the kitchen to make their signature pie.
Randazzo’s makes fresh dough daily. Joe mixes together a special combination of flour, yeast, water, salt, sugar, and a few ingredients of his own to make the dough for his pizzas. There are a few secrets to it, but the fixings going into the pizza dough are simple enough.
“Different people put different things in the dough. Some pizzerias put in milk, eggs, or soda,” said Joe. “We put yeast and oil. I have a different recipe with the flour, and I will not give that out.”
After it is properly proofed, Joe then stretches the dough into the thin circular shape, adding in house made marinara sauce, oregano and parmesan and mozzarella cheeses to prepare the pizza for the oven.
If you’ve ever stood outside a brick oven pizza, you’ve felt waves of heat from the fire inside
rolling over you. Randazzo’s kitchen is hot, but not to the degree that other ovens on the island are. Whereas brick oven pizzerias and other establishments cook their pizzas quickly at anywhere from 800 to 1000 degrees, Joe is adamant about cooking his pizza at 550 degrees for a specific number of minutes. The lower temperature, he believes, gets the crust and pizza a little more well done.
“The brick oven places cook it in a ‘thousand’ degree oven for 30 seconds, and the pizza is ‘cooked’,” Joe tells me. He shakes his head at the thought of a quick cooking pizza. “The way we cook, the pizza goes in for seven to eight minutes, and it cooks all the way through.”
The difference in his style of cooking pizza comes from the way Joe learned to cook pizza as a teenager. Although he is Italian, Joe spent his teenage years in Germany making pizza before eventually moving to Germantown, Pennsylvania and later Ocean City. His time in Germany taught him the slow cooking method that gives his pizza a crunchy crust.
“In Italy there was no work,” said Joe. The work shortage forced Joe to move to Germany to work, while his father did the same over here in America. “I learned how to make a brick oven pizza in Germany.”
Germany and pizza? Not two words you think go together.
“Every year we are getting busier and busier,” Joe tells me. “I have been cooking pizza all my life, and that is what I am good at.”
Randazzo’s pizza crunches well without being burnt, and it tastes cooked all the way through.
Another popular item at Randazzo’s is their garlic knots. Little baked twists of dough sprinkled with oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley, Joe’s garlic knots are a great little snack that go dangerously well with his pizza, because you cannot have just one. Light on the garlic and parsley flavoring, they are like an Italian potato chip… seriously addictive. During our interview, I was halfway through a bowl of them before I knew it.
“Everyone loves knots, everyone goes crazy for them,” said Joe.
This includes Marianna, who could yell from the rooftops about how much she loves her husband’s garlic knots.
“If you have them when they are hot, they are amazing,” she raved. “The kitchen cannot make them fast enough!”
Although they take their time cooking their pies, Randazzo’s kitchen crew wastes not a second more getting food to their customers. Their priority as dinner time rolls around is their pizzas, and getting the customer fed.
“In the summer we are all about the least wait for people,” said Sylvia, Joe and Marianna’s daughter. “When you are hungry, the last thing you want to do is wait two hours. I know after a long day on the beach, especially with my daughters, I am not waiting two hours for food.”
This year, Randazzo’s is celebrating their 30th summer in business and everything they have done well, from recipes to customer friendly service. Although COVID is preventing a full celebration, they are still commemorating three decades of successful business by continuing their smooth operation with a largely veteran and family-oriented staff.
In fact, a lot of the employees are a part of the Randazzo family – from Joe and Marianna to their children Joe Jr., Jack, Joe’s wife Alyssa and even their nine-yearold grandchildren Isabella and Gigi. Other employees have been with them for years.
“We have a lot of the same staff,” said Marianna. “We have a lot of siblings who work here. Last year we had 13 or 14 sets of siblings. Some helpers in the kitchen and at the front have been here 15 years. We are very lucky to have the staff we have.”
When long running and newer customers alike see a consistent face, the Randazzos insist it helps develop a bond with the people they serve.
“People see the same face and they start to recognize them,” said Marianna. “[For customers who] come back year after year, that definitely makes a big difference.”
The close knit group of the Randazzo’s staff and family keeps things in perspective. The family themselves, three generations of cancer survivors, tries not to sweat the small stuff. When they work in the kitchen and see a problem arise with an order, they are quick to fix what they see as a simple issue.
“I am a cancer survivor, my mother for six years was a cancer survivor, my daughter [Sylvia] is a cancer survivor,” said Marianna. “Once you deal with something like that, everything else is kind of small. You have a burnt pizza? We will fix it for you.”
Randazzo’s has a full menu in addition to its pizza offerings. Check them out at www. randazzospizza.com.- Text by Nick Matousch. Photos by Allie McEntee.
Read this story and more in our May magazine.