Philomena’s fantastic red squares

Philomena’s is relatively new pizzeria in Sunnyside, Queens, having just celebrated its one-year anniversary. It’s run by Dave Acocella, an affable guy who was a longtime manager at now-defunct celebrity magnet Da Silvano before branching out into pizza-making at Paulie Gee’s and Sorbillo NYC.

How good are Acocella’s chops? At Sorbillo, which is the NYC branch of a popular Naples pizzeria, he was the first Italian-American allowed to make pizza there—as opposed to born-and-raised Naples natives. “They told me not to open my mouth,” Acocella said, “for fear my American accent would give me away.”

Dave’s pizzas really do do the Italian traditions proud—though what I ate a couple weeks back was Roman-inspired rather than Neapolitan.

Named for one of Acocella’s twin daughters, Philomena’s makes superbly light and flavorful squares as well as round pies. I tried a few squares right as they opened on a dreary Sunday, and they were a bright spot in the day.

The pizza was light, crisp, and flavorful, as Acocella uses a biga to help leaven his dough. (A biga is a “pre-ferment,” a mixture of yeast, flour, and water whipped up and fermented overnight before going into the dough. It lends a more complex flavor to a product otherwise made with commercial yeast—and helps give an airy, open hole structure.

I loved the plain slice and the pepperoni. The sauce is fantastic. It’s simply high-quality tomatoes blended with salt and garlic. I ordered four slices and told myself I’d only try a few bites each, taking the rest to go. But. I. couldn’t. stop. eating. the. sauced. slices.

The white slices were good texture-wise, and I liked the escarole, pine nuts, and olives on a bed of pureéd chickpea, but the red slices were showstoppers. (The potato slice here gets a lot of raves, but I personally have not met a spud slice I’ve liked. I just don’t think potato in general brings anything to the party—no flavor, no texture.)

I definitely will be back here. I want to try the round NY-ish personal-size pies—and get my fix of that sauce.

Philomena’s Pizza: 4116 Queens Boulevard, Queens NY 11104 (Sunnyside); 718-255-1778;; @philomenasqueens