Although a business license has never been found that establishes when Lombardi’s officially opened, it’s become common knowledge that Gennaro Lombardi opened a grocery store at 53 ½ Spring Street around 1897, which became America’s first licensed pizzeria in 1905. Regas, however, says that records indicate Gennaro Lombardi did not arrive in America until 1904, when a ship’s manifest shows him entering as a “laborer” at the age of 17.
In fact, when Lombardi was 10 years old, still living in Italy, Regas says records indicate that a pastry chef was working at the Spring Street location. And in 1898, Filippo Milone, the man who Regas posits established two of the most famous New York pizzerias still in existence today—Lombardi’s on Spring Street and John’s of Bleecker Street—likely acquired a permit for a bake oven for 53 ½ Spring Street.
Between 1900 and 1918, the Spring Street location changed hands between Milone, a pizzeria operator named Giovanni Santillo, D’Errico, and Lombardi, according to Regas’s research.
Similarly, in the case of John’s of Bleecker Street, most agree that the pizzeria opened in 1929. In his research, Regas came across documents dating the opening of John’s back to 1915, when Milone took over a bakery at 175 Sullivan Street. Later, in 1925, Regas says a city directory lists Pizzeria Port’Alba at 175 Sullivan Street and John Sasso, (a relative of Milone’s by marriage) as the co-owner. At the final location on Bleecker Street, Regas says a neon sign still hangs in the window that reads, Pizzeria Port’Alba.