Rob Cervoni, owner of Taglio Pizza in Mineola, recently won $10,000 on an episode of Chopped. The popular show features four chefs facing off to prepare a three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entrée and dessert. In each round, they have to use all the ingredients the show provides them in the mystery basket. At the end of each course, a panel of three guest judges eliminates one chef who fails to measure up in terms of taste, presentation and creativity. The episode Cervoni was featured on was a special where only pizza chefs competed. Cervoni’s Roman style pizza expertise won him the challenge.
Cervoni grew up in Great Neck and grew up working in a pizzeria in Little Neck. After selling his frozen yogurt store on Middle Neck Road, Cervoni opened Taglio in 2018. Taglio is famous for being Long Island’s first Roman style pizzeria. Cervoni became inspired to make Roman style pizza due to his experiences visiting his family back in Italy.
“My family immigrated here from Italy, and we’ve traveled there visiting my grandparents and tasting the pizzas,” said Cervoni. “Seeing this Roman style pizza there, I always wondered why it wasn’t in the United States. I grew up working in a pizzeria and always had a passion for pizza, so I wanted to bring this style of pizza to Long Island.”
Roman style pizza is a pizza that has higher hydration and a longer fermentation time, explained Cervoni. New York style pizza has a 24-hour fermentation time while Roman pizza could be anywhere from 72 to 96 hours. Roman style pizza also has a lot more water in the flour which makes it super light, airy and crispy.
“It’s almost like a hybrid of grandma-style and Sicilian style,” said Cervoni. “You get the crispiness of the grandma and the softness of the inside of Sicilian slice.”
The pizza episode of Chopped featured four pizza chefs, Cervoni from Long Island and three others from Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Chicago. While competing on TV with cameras in your face is stressful, it’s not that different from a busy night at Taglio, Cervoni shared.
“You’ve got to be able to work under pressure, and obviously anybody who’s worked in the pizzeria on a Friday or Saturday night during the rush. It’s exactly like being on television because you’ve got a bunch of people sitting there waiting on their food,” said Cervoni.
“The only difference is having that mystery basket.”
During the first two rounds of the episode Cervoni said he went on autopilot and used what was in the basket to make a great interpretation of his cooking style. The dessert round proved to be the most challenging.
“I don’t use pineapple on any of my pizza and then they gave me vegan pepperoni to make a dessert with. Any chef would say that’s pretty challenging in itself,” said Cervoni.
In the end, Cervoni represented Long Island’s pizza and won the episode.
“Long Island really gets no respect for pizza and my goal was to go on there and really bring some awareness to Long Island Pizza, because Long Island has some of the best pizzerias in the country. And we really deserve to be a destination for pizza,” said Cervoni.
With the $10,000 prize Cervoni won on Chopped, he plans to set up a scholarship fund for other aspiring pizza chefs.
““There are people that I meet that are super passionate about pizza, but they may not have the money to get the proper training,” said Cervoni. “The same way I paid a world-class professional pizza maker from Italy to come and train me when I find someone that’s super passionate and doesn’t have the money, the money’s gonna go towards training them.”
Visit Taglio Pizza (85 Mineola Blvd., in Mineola) to get a taste of Cervoni’s delicious Roman style pizza.