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Sal's Pizza in New Zealand was started by 2 longtime friends - Nick from Auckland, New Zealand and Ciaran from Queens, New York. And here's how it all came to be...

For Ciaran, it started nearly 15 years ago while on a trip to the Gold Coast. Hungry for a pizza he was recommended to try a popular local pizza place - he thought the pizza wasn't bad, but coulda been better considering how many people were raving about it. This got him to thinking about how a great NY pizzeria would do half a world away...


Who is Salvatore Leo?

Sal Leo circa 1976
The original Sal's of Little Neck

Salvatore Leo was born in 1941 in a little town called Corato in the Puglia region of southern Italy. A few years later, his mother, Graziela, hoping to provide a better life for her eldest son, sent him to live with two of his fathers brothers in New York.

Sal took up residence with his Uncle Charlie, Aunt Lena and his four cousins in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He entered fifth grade alongside "American" Sal, speaking no English except (as legend has it) to proclaim himself a New York Yankee fan after "American" Sal professed his Brooklyn Dodgers allegiance.

Sal graduated from high school in 1959 and his first job was helping out his cousin Richie at Richie's pizzeria - Corato Pizza - in Ridgewood, Queens. It was here that Sal discovered his talent for pizzamaking.

Unfortunately, Richie didnt need Sal full time, so while Sal continued to work at the pizzeria he took a job at Terminal Hudson Electronics in Manhattan; Sal worked there for 11 years.

Tired of working for someone else, Sal saw a classified ad in the local paper - pizzeria business for sale in northeast Queens. The store was run down but the price was right.

Sal borrowed some money from his in-laws, put $3,000 down and bought the place. With the help of his wife, Angie, he refurbished the business, used his cousin Richie's time-tested recipes and opened Sal's Pizza of Little Neck in 1975.

Sals Little Neck Pizza was more than just a place to get delicious pizza, it was a neighborhood institution, a place to share a good meal with the family or grab a pie to go. It was an old-school neighborhood gathering place, where people would come to debate Sals colorful opinions.

The pizzeria was one of a kind and remained a neighborhood staple until Sal sold the business in 2010.

These days Sal is happily retired and constantly threatening to move the family to South Carolina, but still lives just down the block, about 100 yards from the old shop in Little Neck, Queens.

Authentic Ingredients.
Original Recipe since 1975

Sal and Heather Leo '75

We are proud to say that all of our base ingredients are AUTHENTIC and painstakingly imported to New Zealand - the Wisconsin mozzarella, California tomatoes, New York state milled flour, pepperoni, and meatballs.

Our sweet tomato sauce is made fresh daily using Sal's famous ORIGINAL RECIPE (and to his exacting specifications). The same tomato sauce formula was used in Sal's of Little Neck from 1975 through June 2010 (when Sal retired from the pizza game and finally closed his doors).

We are proud to serve you AUTHENTIC New York Pizza...

Brian - The Son of Sal

Brian Leo

Speaking of imports, one of the luckiest breaks early on (and we had our fair share of good fortune) was convincing the son of Sal - Brian Leo - to come down to Auckland. Sal himself was nearing retirement and with a little coaxing from his mother and sister - Brian agreed to relocate and be our head pizzamaker at Sal's in New Zealand.

It's worth re-iterating what we wrote about Brian on our Facebook page in April 2011, "this guys has the sauce running through his veins like few others, been slingin' dough since age 5 1/2... these days we like to refer to him as the Roger Federer of pizzamakers. Arrived in New Zealand January 31st 2009, we'd like to think a better place for it..."

Daddy doesn't do percentages

Saying goodbye June '10

At the top of our homepage and on the back of our print menus it says, '...we have spent years perfecting Salvatore Leo's well guarded pizza making techniques‘ – and this is absolutely true, but maybe not always in the sense that you'd think.

You see, Sal didn't have any of his recipes/secrets written down – it was all in his head and to the feel of his hand, like many a legend.

So because of this it took us a long time and a lot of very close observation to finally nail everything down – which ofcourse we were more than happy to do, as it made for a great apprenticeship. But there was this one time (after we'd arrived in NZ) where we were having a small problem with the percentage of yeast to use in our/his dough formula and decided to send him a quick email to see if he could clarify the amount needed.

We received a simple response from Sal's wife Angie that said, ‘Daddy doesn't do percentages, sorry…‘. We love that story to this day, and Angie and Sal bless their hearts for being cool with us publishing this hilarious little bit.