Bellmore Memorial Library is probably the last place you'd expect to find a pizza making factory, but such was the case Wednesday night when 30 flour-covered children toiled over gobs of mozzarella and pizza dough.
This Pizza Factory class offered annually by the library consistently attracts mobs of enthusiastic children and young adults.
Pat Gleiberman, who runs the library's teen programs, was clearly taken aback by all the excitement.
"The Pizza Factory happens once every year, and it's the culmination of our summer programs for teens and tweens," she said. "Every August kids hurry to sign up for it, because it's just the most enjoyable program."
Tom Valenti, owner of Piccolo Ristorante, has been teaching this class for the past 16 years, imparting upon children the closely-guarded secrets of traditional pizza pie making. He guides them through the process and provides the ingredients fresh from his own restaurant.
Valenti explained what enticed him to begin teaching the class to youngsters.
"I used to teach at Nassau Community College," he said. "Patty Gleiberman asked me to do it again, and I thought it would be fun to get back into the class. I actually just really love it."
"There's a group of them that keep coming every year," Valenti added. "Then they come to my restaurant, they run around, they go behind the counter...it's nice."
Valenti gives his students free reign as far as the thickness of their crust and the amounts of sauce and cheese they wish to apply to their creation. As written on the blackboard at the front of the classroom, Valenti wants the kids to make "a pizza as individual as you are."
Maria Wilson, 12, was only too happy to give her opinion of Valenti and his Pizza Factory class.
"I think it's awesome because I love pizza," she said. "Tommy's real good at this. He deserves the position of teacher."
When their pizzas were finished, the children were given cardboard boxes to take them home in, with directions on how to bake - and hold - their pies properly.
"You'd be surprised how many people come into my restaurant to pick up a pizza and leave with it tucked sideways under their arm," Valenti quipped.
Sarah Baio, 12, was an obvious cheese lover, as evidenced by the mound of it piled high upon her pizza. She offered wise words of condolence for this Patch reporter's rather abstract-looking pizza crust.
"It doesn't matter what the shape is," she said. "As long as it's yummy."