New York

Ellis Island Exhibit Celebrates Pizza's Arrival to the United States

“Give me your cheesy, your gooey, your delicious slices”

What to Know

  • A pizza summit was hosted on Ellis Island to celebrate pizza's "immigration" to America.
  • Pizza was brought in through Ellis Island to New York by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century.
  • A temporary exhibit celebrating pizza's coming to America will be displayed in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum through October.

Out of all things quintessentially New York, pizza might be the most beloved.

There is nothing quite like New York pizza, and to celebrate this monument of tastiness, the “History of Pizza Exhibit” has opened on Ellis Island. The concept of the exhibit is to tell the history of pizza in the United States and the immigration stories behind five New York pizzerias.

For the exhibition’s launch last week Evelyn Hill Inc., the official concessionaire of Ellis Island, hosted a “pizza summit” with the featured businesses. 

They've been dubbed “the five families” by Robert Uffer, Evelyn Hill’s chief operating officer and the man behind the exhibit. It includes Johnny’s Pizzeria, Posa Posa, Kesté, Nellie’s Place and New York Pizza Suprema. Each of these companies has its own unique immigration story and importance to New York.

Uffer said his goal for the exhibition is to “further the National Park Service’s initiative of interpretation of immigration and try to make it just a little more kid friendly”. To please the kiddos, the day’s festivities included free pizza from each of the five businesses, a ragtime band and pizza mascots.

One of the businesses, Johnny’s Pizzeria from Mount Vernon, New York, has even been given its own official day my the Mount Vernon mayor. “Enjoy the pizza, but also enjoy the day, because today has officially been named Johnny’s Pizzeria Day in the City of Mount Vernon” said Mount Vernon mayor Richard Thomas. 

Kesté, another featured pizzeria, represented a modern immigration pizza story. Roberto Caporuscio, Kesté’s founder, immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1999. He studied pizza making in Napoli. His immigration story reflects the original migration of pizza, which was brought by Neapolitan immigrants through Ellis Island in the 19th Century.

These stories, along with the histories of the other three featured restaurants, add a personal touch to the widely shared New York immigrant experience. The “History of Pizza Exhibit” shows how pizza can be another vehicle in demonstrating the significance of immigrants to New York culture. Says Uffer, “New York wouldn’t be New York, America wouldn’t be America without immigrants”. New York wouldn't be New York without pizza either.

The pizza exhibit at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration runs through mid-October.

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