Couple With Local Roots Relaunches Uncle Joe’s Pizzeria in Hampton Bays - 27 East

Couple With Local Roots Relaunches Uncle Joe’s Pizzeria in Hampton Bays

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Owners Scott Gerber and Tana Leigh Gerber inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Owners Scott Gerber and Tana Leigh Gerber inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Owners Tana Leigh Gerber and Scott Gerber inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Owners Tana Leigh Gerber and Scott Gerber inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

The back room of the newly renovated Uncle Joe's Famous Pizzeria is home to 3,000 bottles of wine. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

The back room of the newly renovated Uncle Joe's Famous Pizzeria is home to 3,000 bottles of wine. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Giuseppe “Joe” Sciara founded the pizzeria in 1968. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Giuseppe “Joe” Sciara founded the pizzeria in 1968. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Chicken Parm. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Chicken Parm. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Eggplant Parm. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Eggplant Parm. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Giuseppe Cheese. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Giuseppe Cheese. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Hamptons White. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Hamptons White. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Hot Honey Prosciutto. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Hot Honey Prosciutto. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

La Carne Suda. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

La Carne Suda. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Shrimp Scampi. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Shrimp Scampi. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Uncle Joe's Famous Doughknots. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Uncle Joe's Famous Doughknots. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Owners Scott Gerber and Tana Leigh Gerber inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

Owners Scott Gerber and Tana Leigh Gerber inside the newly renovated Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria in Hampton Bays. COURTESY UNCLE JOE'S FAMOUS PIZZERIA

authorMichelle Trauring on Mar 13, 2024

It was 2021, and Tana Leigh Gerber was having one of those nights.

She had just moved to Hampton Bays with her husband, Scott, and their four children — and they were desperately looking for somewhere reasonable to eat.

They stumbled across Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria and Parlour, decided to take a chance, and went inside.

“It was like walking into this man’s dining room of his house,” she recalled. “He welcomed us in, he talked to all of our kids. He really, really made us feel like we were seen and at home.”

The couple — who leads Hamptons Brands, an investment group — would come to know the pizzaiolo, Giuseppe “Joe” Sciara, as “Uncle,” and last spring they bought the iconic eatery from the octogenarian, who retired at the end of the year.

And, following an extensive renovation earlier this winter, Uncle Joe’s Famous Pizzeria has officially reopened its doors as of last week, greeting eager regulars with a transformed interior, yet familiar menu.

“Oh my goodness, it’s been incredible,” Tana Leigh Gerber said. “It’s been amazing.”

“There’s such a love for Uncle Joe’s, especially in Hampton Bays, having been here now for decades, that the excitement was palpable,” her husband said. “It seems like every single guest we talked to has a story either about Uncle himself, or when they came to the restaurant.”

Though Sciara was known for his magnetic warmth, many patrons were unfamiliar with his personal journey, the Gerbers said. Born on June 29, 1940, the Sicilian began working at age 8, picking olives and oranges in the sun-soaked fields of Scordia. He saved every lira he could and dreamed of immigrating to the United States.

In the winter of 1958, he finally did. With less than 10 cents to his name, he passed through Ellis Island into New York, unable to read, write, or speak English. But he taught himself the art of pizza making, and developed and perfected his own original recipes, until he finally opened his first pizzeria in Bay Shore in 1968.

It quickly established itself as a local institution and, in the decades that followed, Sciara expanded across Long Island — including to his flagship location in Hampton Bays.

“It’s been such a joy to design the place and really go back to nostalgia and the history of Uncle Joe’s,” Tana Leigh Gerber said.

After the sale closed last June, the Gerbers completed a partial renovation five months later before the complete overhaul in January and February, they said. “It was a total transformation,” Scott Gerber said. “The place had not been touched since the original shopping center was built. So this is over 20 years in this location that had not seen so much as a paint job.”

The front room of the pizzeria now resembles a 1960s Brooklyn-style slice shop with a modern twist, the couple said, while the back room — Uncle Joe’s Parlour — features new lighting, high ceilings and over 3,000 bottles of wine on display.

“It was about creating this really amazing environment to enjoy a meal, but feel like you’re being transported somewhere else,” Scott Gerber said, “and being a part of that renaissance that we see coming in Hampton Bays without breaking the bank.”

The transformation only lightly touched the menu, which they tightened up with the help of their culinary team and, of course, Sciara. They kept his greatest hits — from his signature panko and New York-style pizzas, and Italian specialties — while introducing a few new dishes, including gluten-free options.

“I would say we’ve taken the best elements of Joe’s menu and allowed for a more diverse customer base to try the food for the first time that maybe hasn’t experienced it before,” Scott Gerber said. “Obviously, his classic parms, far be it for us to mess up what’s working. We have certainly added a couple of new items that I think are approved, like our Dolci Doughknots — which, in the first week, we sold thousands of them.”

Hamptons Brands recently announced two future Uncle Joe’s locations — a pair of pizzerias they acquired in Wading River and Miller Place — and more are on the way, Scott Gerber said. But the Hampton Bays location feels particularly special, explained his wife, who recently discovered an unexpected connection to the East End.

During the pandemic — not long before the family’s fateful rainy evening at Uncle Joe’s — Tana Leigh Gerber found herself in need of some intellectual stimulation after leading her children through monotonous remote learning. So she dove into her genealogy.

She learned that not only were some of her ancestors the founders of Southampton and Southold, but that they also owned the property where her family currently lives.

The discovery was even more meaningful, she said, because she is adopted.

“As an adoptee, it feels like coming home and it feels like coming back to my roots,” she said, adding, “Hampton Bays just has such a special tug on my heart, so I’m very protective of its history, I’m very protective of the locals that have lived here before me, and it’s really, really important for Scott and I to not only feel like we can build here, but also honor what was here before we came here.”

Visit Uncle Joe's at unclejoes.com

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