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Getting In A New York Pizza State Of Mind At Granfanallys In Salem, N.H.

Beau Ramunto creates authentic New York pizza at Granfanallys Pizza Pub in Salem, N.H.
Granfanallys owner Beau Ramunto creates New York pizza.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 12/19/2018.

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The titles from classic rock songs playing in the background at Granfanallys Pizza Pub in Salem, N.H. say it all about the experience of driving to, and dining at this classic, old-style pizza pub.

"Slow Ride" (Foghat) describes the hectic commuting traffic that, unfortunately, delays the arrival at Granfanallys. "Peace of Mind" (Boston) suggests the relief of finally getting there and settling down at the warm and inviting family-style restaurant. "Closer to the Heart" (Rush) suggests Owner Beau Ramunto's love and passion for creating "real New York pizza." "Human Touch" (Bruce Springsteen) takes that passion a step farther by making sure the pizzas are hand tossed instead of assembly-line ready. The lyrics of "Hotel California" (The Eagles) might as well be switched here to "You can check out any time you like, but you will never want to leave."

Let's face it, not too many places like Granfanallys exist anymore in southern New Hampshire as they mostly fall into the high-turnover take-out joints, or the "gourmet" categories that usually translate to overpriced. Granfanallys, on the other hand, brings back the type of restaurant that never should have gone away in the first place.  The authentic pizza dishes, mouthwatering burgers, oversized subs and calzones, flavorful wings and excellent craft beer selection combined with a likable pub atmosphere, friendly staff and locals, and easy parking make for an all-around tremendous dining out experience. Additionally, the value for the money is impressive with reasonably-priced lunch and dinner offerings that are filling -- so much, that many do not find room for dessert (which would be a shame, given the deliciousness of the homemade treats!).

How It All Started

Granfanallys pizza pub in Salem, N.H.
Granfanallys Pizza Pub in Salem, N.H.

Beau's roots, no doubt, play a factor in the pizza magic. His dad excelled in the business for 32 years, operating pizza places first in Long Island, N.Y. and then several pizza businesses in Vermont and New Hampshire.

"I was the little kid sitting at the back table playing Game Boy on a Friday night while my dad was making pizzas," said Beau, who first grew up on Long Island and then spent most of his childhood living in Woodstock, Vt..

Working in the restaurant industry since 14 and later in the beer industry after graduating Colby Sawyer College in New London, N.H. with a degree in business gave Beau a mastery of the food and drink industries. Not satisfied with working in the beer business, however, Beau eventually decided to open his own pizza business and settled on Salem to do so. The area needed a high quality pizza destination and the 40,000 vehicles driving this spot daily on Route 28 (near Canobie Lake Park) suggested tremendous business potential. "This area needed a good pizza place," said Beau. "My then girlfriend -- now my wife - and I searched from western Massachusetts to this area and finally settled on Salem. There are lots of chain restaurants on Route 28, but there was no place like Granfanallys. I thought, 'If I could get just a fraction of the traffic passing by, it would work out fine."

That it did, opening three-and-a-half-years ago and becoming virtually an instant success from the beginning -- bringing locals in from the Salem/Windham/Pelham/Derry area, but also through word-of-mouth with customers arriving as far away as Taunton, Mass. (80 miles from Granfanallys).

Beau named the business after his dad's great run as a pizza maker for three decades.

"Stepping down from his business, that was his grand finale," said Beau. "The spelling of it (Granfanallys), I am not sure -- it just came out that way!"

The First Impression Of Granfanallys

The first impression after walking into Granfanallys is how the restaurant just feels so right -- the exact opposite of the strip mall presence outside, the densely populated commercial highway and the faceless culture of chain restaurants. The pine wood walls come from a 70-year-old barn in Vermont, while the wood floors, glass-like retro tables, tin-style ceilings, exposed brick, wall sconces and signs, hanging lights over the bar and an order-at-the counter, take-a-number section with pizza slices to the right collectively lend that lively, retro pizza pub vibe.

Granfanallys Pizza Pub dining room in Salem, N.H.
Dining room at Granfanallys.

"We see a regular crowd that comes here four to five times a week," said Ramunto. "And word-of-mouth is bringing in a lot of first-timers. We serve up to 500 pizzas on a weekend."

The Food at Granfanallys

Galric Knot Pizza from Granfanallys in Salem, N.H.
Margherita pizza with garlic knot crust.

Not many pizza places rival Granfanallys' New York and Sicilian inspired pies. Although having its own distinct pizza taste, the pie quality compares favorably with the best in New England including Regina Pizzeria, Santarpio's and The Pleasant Cafe in Boston, Mass., The Venus Cafe in Whitman, Mass., and Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Conn.

Granfanallys might not have the years of those time-tested restaurants, but shares a critical trait in that sometimes the best change is no change at all.

"Dough, sauce, cheese, dough, sauce cheese" emphasized Beau, about what his dad instilled into him when learning the pizza business. "That's what I make sure is done right every day. We make the dough fresh every day, use quality ingredients and whole milk mozzarella cheese. We make 20 gallons of tomato sauce at a time. We make pizza with the same recipes that my dad started in Long Island. Not much has changed because it is delicious pizza."

For the New York pizza, Beau follows all the tenets of that style by first handtossing and then creating a large, thin crust pie. The slices are wide and the taste straight from the New York parlors. The Sicilian also stays true to traditional form as more of a thick crust pizza.

One of the highlights: The Garlic Knot Pizza
made with a basic dough shell and a crust braided with garlic knots -- fresh pizza dough tied up and baked until golden brown and then smothered in Parmesan cheese and garlic-olive oil. The final product is topped with fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese and parsley. Simply phenomenal, one of the best pizzas this writer has ever tasted.

The Garlic Knots look good enough to eat on their own. Fortunately, Granfanallys serves Garlic Knots and "Cinnaknots" (coated with cinnamon sugar and vanilla frosting) as appetizers.

Garlic knots from Granfanallys in Salem, N.H.
Garlic knots from Granfanallys. Photo, courtesy of @the-roamingfoodie at Instagram.

Granfanallys makes its Sicilian pizza by first putting sauce on the pizza to soak in the dough when first cooked. The pizza is then taken out of the oven to place another layer of sauce, as well as the cheese and any toppings before going back in to lock in the flavors. The outside of the pizza has a crunchy taste with the inside nice and soft.

Sicillian pizza from Granfanallys in Salem, N.H.
Sicilian pizza from Granfanallys. Photo, courtesy of @the-roamingfoodie at Instagram.

Beau also keeps good company in the food industry to help make his pizza pub that much more special. As a prime example, The Tuckaway Tavern and Butchery in Raymond, N.H. provides the meat and chicken for Granfanallys. Many consider The Tuckaway Tavern the gold standard for a steakhouse and meat market in New Hampshire and arguably the successor to the legendary former Hilltop Steakhouse in Saugus, Mass., as a popular family-style place to go for steaks in New England.

To their credit, many restaurants do great things with just-OK ground beef, but Granfanallys takes the top-notch source and does it full justice -- the best of both worlds.  The burgers taste better than any of the high profile local restaurants and national chains I've been to, as the freshness comes bursting out of the many different burger options (the steak and cheese subs and calzones are quite popular, too!).

One of the most popular: the delicious, huge Texas Smoked Burger with bacon, cheddar, caramelized onions and a tangy homemade barbecue sauce. Wow.

Texas burger from Granfanallys in Salem, N.H., with bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelized onion and a tangy BBQ sauce.
The Texas Burger from Granfanallys. And, of course, what would a pizza or burger be, for many, without a brew? Granfanallys offers 31 beers on tap -- many locally made-- as well as unique bottled beers and wine by the glass.

Brews on Tap at Granfanallys in Salem, NH.
Granfanallys offers many brews on tap.
Photo, courtesy of Shannon McLaughlin at Granfanallys.

One of the most popular dishes at Granfanallys is an appetizer: the spinach and artichoke dip. This often-ordered dish is taken to the next level with the right mix of cream cheese, artichokes, baby spinach and flavorful spices, as well as crostini on the side topped with garlic knot sauce and fresh mozzarella.

Spinach and artichoke dip from Granfanallys in Salem, N.H.
Spinach and artichoke dip from Granfanallys. Photo, courtesy of @the-roamingfoodie at Instagram.

The jumbo wings also remain a favorite with many sauce options including hot, kamikaze, nuclear, Singapore, honey mustard, garlic terriyaki, barbecue, honey barbecue, southern style, garlic, terriyaki and the "Triple Threat" -- kamikaze, terriyaki and garlic knot sauce combined.

Jumbo chicken wings from Granfanallys in Salem, N.H.
Jumbo chicken wings from Granfanallys. Photo, courtesy of Shannon McLaughlin at Granfanallys.

Beau's mom, Marie Ramunto, works a few days a week at Granfanallys and has gained customer accolades for her home style spaghetti and meatballs dish. It's a recipe from Marie's mom that has been passed through the generations -- all the way from home kitchens to Granfanallys.

"I grew up on this -- brings back a lot of memories," said Beau.

Spaghetti and meatballs from Granfanallys in Salem, N.H.
Spaghetti and meatballs from Granfanallys.
Photo, courtesy of Shannon McLaughlin at Granfanallys.

Beau does not hold back enthusiasm on his mom's gift for also making delicious desserts at Granfanallys.

"Mom makes the best cheesecake and chocolate cake," said Beau. "There's none better. Mom said she'll leave the cheesecake recipe in the will!"

Homemade cheesecake from Granfanallys in Salem, N.H.
Cheesecake from Granfanallys.
Photo, courtesy of Shannon McLaughlin at Granfanallys.

When A Restaurant Becomes a Go-To Place For Customers And Employees

For Shannon McLaughlin, manager at Granfanallys, working at her job has become a way of life.

"Working at Granfanallys is not a job that makes me want to watch the clock," said McLaughlin. "During a shift, I truly feel surrounded by friends, and we make up quite a family. From bent over laughing to high-fiving after absolutely crushing an intense dinner rush, I couldn't be happier with my job. My favorite things to eat are plain cheese pizza ( that's how you can tell a good pizza from bad ) and the spinach artichoke dip. It is absolutely amazing and people are always asking me for the recipe.  Also the tenders,  you can't beat how moist and tasty they are. We hand pound them and bread them to order -- dipped in our triple threat sauce that is actually pretty hard to describe but as you can imagine does have a kick to it.  One of our most popular sauces for sure."

Dining room at Granfanallys in Salem, N.H.

Granfanallys ultimately offers a legitimate departure from the generic pizza houses that put out the same old stuff and more upscale restaurants that often veer too far away from traditional pizza that America still prefers most. It's pizza that tastes real and real good, no doubt, the creation of a genuine down-to-earth business owner with small business pride of ownership and an impressive work ethic. With that said, our "Journey" to southern New Hampshire for the best pizza place extends with "Open Arms" -- as that classic rock title states -- at Granfanallys.

"It's a place for every one," said Beau. "We try to do things the right way with no short cuts and a welcoming place for all to enjoy. It's nice to see so many people dining here, having a good time and enjoying the food."

Granfanallys Pizza Pub is located at 354 N. Broadway (Route 28 North), Salem, NH. Tel. 603-898-4412. Web site: Facebook page: Twitter page: Instagram page: @granfanallys

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Granfanallys in Salem, N.H., specializes in real New York and Sicilian pizza.

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