Famous Famiglia is a small chain of eight pizzerias located in Manhattan. It is easily the best pizza chain in Manhattan, though not the most numerous. There seems to be a Ray's Pizza on every other corner, but many of the Ray's are independently owned, and while some have very good pizza, some are downright awful. At Famiglia, you know what you're getting.

Famiglia is actually owned by Albanians, the four Kolaj brothers, Tony, Paul, John, and Giorgio. Paul Kolaj opened the original Famous Famiglia in 1986, on the corner of Broadway and West 111th Street.

I was a regular patron of the Famiglia on 97th and Madison Avenue during my high school days, and struck up an acquaintance with one of the Kolaj brothers, who slipped me free food from time to time. They're really nice guys, in my opinion.

When eating at Famiglia, the pizza is not the main attraction. It is above-average, but Famiglia is exceptionally good at heros and calzones. The garlic knots and Sicilian pizza are also recommended, and the Sicilian really SHOULD be eaten as an upside-down Sicilian sandwich. To make an upside-down Sicilian, wait a few minutes for the pizza to cool slightly, then stick your fingers into the middle of the bread part, and, because of a strange design quirk in Famiglia's Sicilian slices, it will come right apart. Then flip over the half with the cheese on it, to create the sandwich.

Another advantage to eating at Famiglia is that they don't let the pizza sit out in the display case all day until the cheese turns into a horrible congealed mess. They're good about that.

This is a semi-accurate list of Famiglia locations within the city:
The Original Famiglia--111th and Broadway, near Columbia University
97th and Madison, East Side
96th and Amsterdam, West Side
72nd Street, West Side
57th Street and 2nd Avenue, East Side. This was closed for renovations last time I was in the neighborhood.
50th Street and 7th Avenue, Midtown
43rd Street and 8th Avenue, near Times Square
23rd Street, East Side

The Kolaj brothers have also won a franchise to operate two pizzerias in Newark Airport. Eat at Famiglia, you won't be sorry you did.

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