Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.
October is Italian American Heritage Month and there is perhaps nothing more “Italian American” than a piping hot pizza pie. Jamie Oliver famously pointed out back in 2010 that there are more pizza restaurants in Huntington than there are gyms in the state of West Virginia, to which Huntingtonians resoundingly responded, “And?”
Pizza has been a staple food in the Jewel City for decades, going back to at least the middle part of the last century when pizza first reached the American Midwest. Traditional Huntington pizza is generally a derivative of New York-style pizza with heavy influences from Chicago and Cincinnati…but that’s a subject for another article.
Personally, I love a good Huntington pie from places like Gino’s, Monty’s, Giovanni’s, or Evaroni’s; but I would argue that Huntington’s most authentic Italian-style pizza comes from La Famiglia on 6th Avenue in downtown Huntington.
Created by Ralph R. Hagy, a third-generation Italian American whose grandfather came to West Virginia from Petilia Policastro, Calabria, Italy in 1898, La Famiglia was founded in October of 2011.
La Famiglia specializes in traditional southern Italian cuisine including a variety of homemade pastas, lasagna, meatballs, and sausages. However, it’s the Neapolitan pizza that takes the spotlight.
Pizza at La Famiglia is billed as being as close to a Neapolitan-style pizza as you can find outside of Naples, Italy. “We bring our ‘00’ pizza flour from Naples, Italy as well as our own extra virgin olive oil from Calabria where my family lives,” Mr. Hagy said.
“We brought in a special dough mixer from Italy and adhere to their [Neapolitan] standards and recipe for our pizza dough,” Hagy continued. “Our pizza sauce is San Marzano tomatoes, and we use cheese imported from Rome. All of our pizzas are wood fired at 800 degrees.”
Hagy says they have enormous love and respect for the American-style pizzas popular in Huntington; they just do something a little more southern Italian at La Famiglia. “A love for that classic pie definitely inspired our family to go on a quest for the most authentic style pizza, which has led to our trips to southern Italy and our wood fired pizza oven and Neapolitan style crust.”
Hagy says that a restaurant’s allure is only as good as its ingredients, but what makes La Famiglia extra special is the relationships they build with customers. “It’s routine to have regular guests pop into the kitchen on a Saturday night to share a cold drink or to personally reach out for special family occasions,” Hagy said.
La Famiglia is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. at 1327 6th Avenue in downtown Huntington, WV. Visit their website at www.LaFamigliaWV.com