A member of the clan that owns Andrea Pizza, a by-the-slice fixture in the Minneapolis skyway and Dinkytown, is taking his own spin on pizza — and cheesesteaks — to the suburbs.
Tono Pizzeria + Cheesesteaks (3088 White Bear Av., Maplewood, 651-243-1000, tonomn.com) quietly opened last week in Maplewood, and will host a grand opening July 27. On the menu are eight cheesesteaks (yes, Philly-natives, you can get one “wiz wit,” aka, with Cheez Whiz), and 12 individual-size brick-oven pizzas. The proprietors plan to make this the first of many suburban Tonos.
Antonio Gambino — nickname Tono — is the son of the Andrea of Andrea Pizza (multiple locations, andreampls.com). Philadelphia born, Gambino came to Minnesota with his family at the age of 9. Now 35, he never lost his love for certain East Coast foods. Or his accent.
He grew up working the register in his family’s pizzerias, and made his first pie out of high school. “I’ve made a lot of pizzas,” he said.
While slices were the Sicily-rooted family’s passion, Gambino’s pet project was always the beloved cheesesteak.
In 2014, he brought his best friend Shaz Khan on a cheesesteak tour of Philly, sampling the famed Pat’s and Geno’s, till he could pinpoint what he loved in the sandwich and recreate his own.
Three years ago, the friends teamed up to open Frank from Philly & Andrea Pizza on the University of Minnesota campus (1235 4th St. SE, Mpls., 612-208-1973, frankandandrea.com).
Those cheesesteaks made the leap to Maplewood, but the pizza operation is a departure from the traditional East Coast style found at Andrea's. They sourced a high-tech pizza oven that auto rotates, ensuring each made-to-order pie comes out perfectly.
“By the slice isn’t really attuned for a suburban community,” Khan said as he explained the choice to scale down Andrea Pizza’s giant New York-style pies.
Tono pies are not the square-cut, deep-dish that usually get the Sicilian name. Instead, they are springier, reminiscent of a Neapolitan style but made from recipes passed down by Gambino’s Sicilian ancestors.
But it’s clear those cheesesteaks are Gambino’s pride. He even sources the rolls from Philadelphia bakery Amoroso’s. “I’ve seen cheesesteaks in the skyway on hot dog rolls,” he said, laughing. “Bread — that’s 90 % of the cheesesteak.”