Off-campus eats: Napolini Express serves a slice
My freshman year at Hofstra consisted of walking (mostly jaywalking) across Oak Street from the Netherlands to North Campus what seemed like hundreds of times a day. However, it rarely occurred to me to walk past the northern end of the Netherlands in search of food. Now, over a year later, I am glad that I did. About a 10-minute walk up Oak Street will bring you to Oak Plaza, home to Napolini Express – an Italian restaurant that boasts an extensive menu of appetizers, heroes, pasta, soup and specialty pizza.
Napolini Express was founded by owner Ralph Romanelli in February of 2007. Both of Romanelli’s parents were born in a small town south of Naples, Italy, which partially led him to the idea of the restaurant’s name.
“The name is a play on words; Napolini is like a small Naples, which was actually the birthplace of pizza,” Romanelli said.
It was clear from the moment I walked in that Napolini Express is popular – most seats were filled, and groups of all ages were constantly arriving to eat in or pick up orders they had previously called in.
“It wasn’t always packed like this; it took us a while to get here. Unless you’re just driving down Oak Street, we’re really a hidden diamond in the rough here,” Romanelli said.
I ordered two slices of “grandma” pizza, which is made Sicilian-style with extra thin crust and herbed tomato sauce. My order was taken by Basil Gordon, a senior legal studies and business double major at Hofstra, who has worked at Napolini since the 2017 spring semester.
“Hofstra students are probably 80 percent of our customers here; one of my brothers in my fraternity works here as well,” Gordon said.
Gordon is a member of Phi Kappa Theta, which plans on teaming up with Napolini Express to organize a benefit for children with disabilities with the help of the Children’s Miracle Network.
What really makes the restaurant special is the combination of quality and selection; it is more than just a great pizza place because the menu offers so much more than that. From Buffalo wings to homemade lasagna to gluten-free options, Napolini Express offers almost any specialty Italian dish one could want. The dining room itself is another huge pro; several tables for four and a bar-style counter make it seem like a great place to come for lunch or dinner out with friends.
I asked Gordon what he would recommend to any Hofstra freshman that has yet to discover the restaurant.
“Honestly, everything here is great. I would really recommend the Buffalo slice or the grandma a la vodka slice,” he said.
Napolini Express is well worth the walk or short drive. It is a serious step up from Sbarro’s and offers more than enough choice for anyone who wants to change it up from their routine meals on campus.