The Queens community congratulates Naomi’s Manna Kosher Pizza on celebrating a half century of service to our neighborhood. On February 17, 1970, Michoel and Naomi Levy-Dahari opened the doors of the Main Street staple, and they have been open for business ever since.
As years passed, they left the store to their dear children Emmanuel and Ayallah. A decade ago, Ayallah retired to Florida, leaving her brother with the responsibility of keeping the family pizzeria alive. Today, he maintains the tradition together with his son Roey. Continuing to serve the neighborhood with Israeli falafel and Mediterranean delicacies as a third-generation owner is a privilege that Roey does not take lightly. “Naomi’s Pizza has always been a part of my life, and I am honored to be part of continuing its storied history for our community,” noted Roey.
Many from the Levy-Dahari family joined community members and longtime customers in a touching celebration this past Sunday in the humble Main Street fixture. Zvi Sporer, a steady customer and resident of Kew Gardens Hills, expressed sincere wishes to the Levy-Dahari family. “Dining in the dairy restaurant and the friendships I have cultivated there are cherished. I bid the family continued success to carry on the establishment for the next 50 years.” Another consumer recalled the Sunday expedition from Kew Gardens on the MTA bus along with her grandparents. “I recall the trip like it was yesterday,” she remarked. “Levy’s was the ultimate destination for a kosher slice; this used to be a delicacy, and for me it most definitely still is.”
Emmanuel’s sister Ayallah flew in from Florida, and Ruthie journeyed from Israel to partake in the festivities. The family originated from the winding alleys of the traditional Yemenite neighborhood of Kerem HaTeimanim in Tel Aviv-Yafo. When the family immigrated to New York in 1968, they brought over the old-school cuisine of hummus and falafel eateries common on its cobbled roadways. The clan first settled in the budding religious Flatbush neighborhood, opening a traditional falafel retailer. Soon after, they made the move to Kew Gardens Hills, along with the eatery, where pizza was added to the menu in the same location we know nowadays. Henry Moscovic, another local regular patron, recalls Levy’s being the first kosher pizzeria in town. “These days, I enjoy spending time in Naomi’s antiquated atmosphere, as I am reminded of times long ago shared with family and friends,” explained Moscovic. He continued, “Today, I make it a weekly ritual to purchase a spinach slice, holding close these beloved memories.”
Customers young and old reflected on the unchanged scenery within the joint. It would not be the same if the cash registers or tables and chairs were updated. “This is what keeps us coming back, even if it is one of the only cash-only businesses still in existence,” considered Sarah, a second-generation customer who attended Sunday’s merriments. Sitting beside her were Joseph and Maxine, who remarked, “We came here on dates before we married, and just last week we celebrated 30 years together. As a couple, we felt it befitting to join the community for Sunday lunch to reminisce on a half centennial anniversary celebration.”
“Queens residents find the Israeli menu to be quite realistic. I especially appreciate the overnight cooked Mediterranean delicacies whose recipes seem to have never altered one iota,” stated Yaakov Serle, co-publisher of the QJL and longtime diner at Naomi’s since its infancy.
The eating space, although spacious, is often full, attesting to the pizzeria’s authenticity. Speaking with customers, one remains confident that Naomi’s is not going anywhere anytime soon – and neither are those well-aged cash registers.
By Shabsie Saphirstein