By Paula Katinas
GREENPOINT — Brooklyn has lost a true original.
Carmine Notaro, the former owner of Original Pizza in Greenpoint, died April 2. Notaro, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Williamsburg, was 76 years old. His son, John, is the executive director of the Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens.
So legendary was Carmine Notaro that residents of Greenpoint who patronized his pizzeria at 93 Norman Ave. referred to the place as Carmine’s Original Pizza. The pizzeria was open from 1981 to 2015, serving pizza slices, Italian ices, and other treats.
Over the years, Carmine Notaro also served as the informal mayor of Greenpoint, looking out for neighborhood kids, offering advice to adults, and lending an ear to anyone who needed someone to listen, his family said.
“He was always very supportive of the people in the neighborhood,” John Notaro told The Tablet. “If he was concerned that a kid was going to go down the wrong road and get into drugs, he would give the kid a job sweeping floors to keep him busy.”
Once filled with factories and warehouses, Greenpoint in recent years has become gentrified with young professionals who flocked there after being priced out of Manhattan.
Patrick Notaro, Carmine’s youngest son, described him as a steady presence in a changing neighborhood.
“He was there as the community changed, as it gentrified. He was a welcome, familiar sight,” said Patrick Notaro.
One feature never changed. Carmine Notaro had the addresses of all of his customers memorized, along with their favorite dishes.
He also enjoyed a close relationship with the cops at the 94th Precinct, whose station house was located a block away.
He fed people even when they couldn’t afford to pay. “He had a little notebook. People had tabs. He never turned down anyone,” John Notaro said.
Carmine Notaro was born on Sept. 1, 1943, in a small town outside of Naples. “His family was poor. He only had a third-grade education,” John Notaro said.
He immigrated to the U.S. in 1967 — later becoming a U.S. citizen — and held down jobs in construction and trucking, and even worked in a bread store for years. He married Juliana Uvino in 1972, and they had four children — Michelle, John, Jennifer, and Patrick. The Notaros have nine grandchildren.
Carmine Notaro tried opening a pizzeria in another part of Brooklyn and it didn’t work out, according to his sons. But then, he tried again in Greenpoint, opening Original Pizza in 1981.
In 2015, Carmine Notaro made the painful decision to close. “He decided to retire. He had become ill,” John Notaro said.
It was at that point the family realized what Original Pizza meant to Greenpoint.
“People spoke about the way he touched them,” John Notaro said. “It was very moving.”