OG PapaFern: Bringing Argentinian Pizza to NYC

Argentinian pizza is making its way to NYC, thanks to Argentian born-NYC raised maestro pizzero, OG PapaFern. He hopes to popularize Fugazzeta, an Argentian staple that he grew up loving. 

Fugazzeta is Argentinian pizza similar to a traditional pie, but with a thick crust and topped with onions and cheese. The name “fugazzeta” comes from a combination of the Italian word “fugassa,” which means focaccia bread, and “cibuletta,” which means green onions in Italian. 

Early memories of Argentina for PapaFern include the time spent at his father’s restaurant, Traka Traka, where Fugazzeta and Empanadas were sold in the same vicinity. You may be asking yourself How did they get Italian food to Argentina? Or What do Argentians know about pizza? 

In the late 19th and early 20th Century, Italians flocked to Argentina in search of economic opportunities. Leaving behind a country riddled with poverty and taxation Italians were able to thrive in Argentina. The scarcity of food in Italy led immigrants in Argentina to create exaggerated versions of their traditional meals. Pizza is one of them. Fugazzeta has a lot of dough, a lot of cheese, and a lot of toppings. 

In the hands of OG PapaFern, Fugazzeta has had the opportunity of immigrating to America. Initially, he created his pies only for friends and family. Attending a pizza event, curious about Ooni ovens, Fern ran into Nicole of Last Dragon Pizza who introduced him to Nino, a seasoned pizzeria owner, who was skeptical to try a pizza with large amounts of onions on it. After indulging in the fugazzeta, Nino retracted his previous skepticism and even invited Fern to the NY Pizza Festival to showcase his pizzas alongside him. 

Fern was given the opportunity to witness the public reactions to his pies. He was shocked by the general curiosity and love he received from the public. Fern a Maestro Pizzero has continuously innovated Argentian Pizza since then by experimenting with the best ingredients, cold fermentation, and varying flavor palates. 

 He charged himself with the task of introducing people to the delicacy that is Argentian pizza. For the past three years, he has garnered a reputation on social media for his pop-up shops, involvement in pizza expos, and constant support of charitable organizations. He has also been embraced and encouraged by Felix of Happy Bull Pizza and Serhan of Next Level Pizza. Without the support of all of his pizza colleagues, there may have been no OG PapaFern Fugazzeta. 

Additionally, OG PapaFern strives to give back regardless of whether it is voluntary or through donation. 

“A lot of my existence is based on helping people,” Fern says. 

During Hurricane Sandy, in late 2012, he would ride his scooter to and from Breezy Point, NY. He carried with him boxes filled with supplies. The Maestro Pizzero works with charities like Slice Out Hunger, which fights food insecurity nationwide, and Direct Relief Organization, which provides humanitarian aid following disasters. 

 Fern’s success in popularizing Fugazzeta shows how food can be a bridge between cultures and bring people together. Be on the lookout for his collab with Nino’s AQ in Astoria as well as other restaurant pop-ups and books in the near future.

 “I am very happy to collaborate and do pop-ups with people who want to expand Argentinan Pizza,” Fern cheerfully expressed. 

 Stay connected with his journey on Instagram @og_papafern.

Wendell: Dominick Brienza, Woodhaven fixture, dead at 73

Woodhaven is mourning a terrible loss this week. Dominick Brienza, a longtime fixture on Jamaica Avenue, owner of Sal’s Pizza for the last 2 decades, passed away after a brief illness.

“Our hearts are broken,” said Raquel Olivares, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District. “Dominic was a kind and generous man and we are all better off having known him.”

“Dominick was a great man whose commitment to our community ran deep,” said Martin Colberg, President of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.

Dominic was a very familiar face in Woodhaven, having done business on Jamaica Avenue for over 50 years. But his familiarity with Jamaica Avenue went back even further, to his early childhood when he moved here from Brooklyn at 9 years old. He not only went to St. Thomas the Apostle but he went to PS 97 and as a young man he worked as a busboy at Le Cordon Bleu.

Dominick went to Edison High School and then went to City College where he studied to be an engineer but he was looking for something a little bit more hands-on so he switched to education with plans of becoming a teacher.

But it was the 70s and New York City was bankrupt and not hiring any more teachers, so Dominick Brienza took a different path – and we are forever grateful that he did.

He purchased and operated “Dom’s Deli” near the corner of 90th Street and Jamaica Avenue and that was a fixture in Woodhaven for nearly 19 years.

Eventually, the deli itself grew old and needed a complete overhaul so Dominick gutted it out and instead of a new deli he opened a laundromat, which he ran for the next 10 years.

After the laundromat, Dominick was able to put his Education degree to use as a social worker for Catholic Charities, specializing in criminal victim assistance for seniors, an experience he found very rewarding.

But Jamaica Avenue came calling again and he bought Sal’s Pizza, which he owned for the last 17 years. Sal’s was the kind of business that was often the first stop for former residents of Woodhaven whenever they came back to town.

The pizza from Sal’s always reminded folks of the pizza from the old days. But it wasn’t just the tasty food that kept people coming back time and time again. Dominic was a big part of that.

He was a good man, the kind of person you were always happy to see, the kind of man we need more of in the world these days.

Last fall, Dominick was honored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women, presented with their Commitment of Service Award.

“He holds a special place in his heart for the education that we continue to offer in this neighborhood,” Sister Cathy Feeney said when announcing this honor.

“An entrepreneur extraordinaire, Dominick has fed generations at his deli and most recently at Sal’s Pizza. Dominick is never outdone in generosity,” Sr. Feeney said.

As word spread around town and on social media, people began to share their thoughts about Dominick and the words kind and generous were frequently used.

People shared memories of Dominick, many of them stretching all the way back to their childhood when he ran Dom’s Deli, which is when I first met him. As a kid, I always admired how friendly and funny he was. Dominick had a great smile and a terrific sense of humor, which is what I will miss most about him.

He was a kind and decent man and he will be deeply missed in Woodhaven and on Jamaica Avenue. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife Andrea and all of his family and friends.

Friends and residents will gather this Thursday evening, June 2nd, at 8 PM in front of Sal’s Pizza at 85-07 Jamaica Avenue to pay tribute to Dominick. Please join us for this Woodhaven tribute to a man most of us knew and loved, a good man who will never be forgotten.

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