By Craig Wolf
BEACON — If there is any upper limit to the popularity of pizza in America, it has not been discovered.
Ken Berisha, one of at least 63,000 pizza restaurant operators in the country, is doing his share.Berisha began in 1988 with Beacon
Pizzeria, a small shop. Eight years ago he set up Brother’s Trattoria, a full-scale restaurant on Main Street in the East End. He bought the building, expanded and plans to expand yet again. He has even bought property on the western end of the street to open another place, probably in a cafe style.
Brother’s Trattoria proprietor Ken Berisha tosses pizza dough, stretching it, as he makes a pie in his Beacon restaurant recently.
Pizza was the foundation, and remains a key even though the menu has expanded, too. Berisha learned to make pizza in Trieste, Italy, where he lived for many years. He hails from Kosovo.
“Every day, it’s something new you learn,” Berisha said.
As a career choice, making pizza worked out well for Berisha, as it has for many entrepreneurs. His story mirrors that of the man sometimes credited with introducing the Italian delight to the United States.
He was Gennaro Lombardi, an immigrant from Naples, who opened a pizzeria on Spring Street in Manhattan in 1905, writes Evelyne Sloman in a piece published in Pizza Today. That makes this the 100th anniversary of pizza in America.
“The pizza business remains one of the few that can be built — hands on — from the ground up,” she wrote. “This is why people from all walks of life are attracted to the industry.”
“Hands on” is literally true. In making a pie, “It all depends on your hands, to make sure it’s all stretched even,” Berisha said. “If you didn’t work hard enough on the dough, one side will be thinner and the other side will be thicker.” That pie won’t cook right.
The maker must know the feel of the dough. “The way you roll the dough and close the holes, so there’s no air inside,” counts for a lot.
The dough is first made into a thick, round slab much smaller than a pie.
“Everybody has their own recipes. There’s a big difference in recipes,” Berisha said.
The dough is then worked out by hand and enlarged, with a rim fashioned around it that will be the outer crust. It is then tossed in the air to stretch it out to its full size and proper thinness.
And what of the tossing in the air? “People do it just for fun,” Berisha said.
Rush Greenough of Beacon is a regular customer who rates the restaurant highly. “If it goes to 10, I’ll give it 10,” he said. “I’m 84 years old; I’ve been eating pizza a long time.”
Craig Wolf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org