Saturday, March 29, 2008

Grimaldi's - Best Pizza in NYC?

The words "Best Pizza in New York" are rather loaded. With the multitude of Ray clones all claiming originality, with some even daring to dispute that New York style pizza is the best... let's leave those assumptions aside. I have not been to Napoli and had a "real Napoletano" pizza yet, but I know a good Margherita pizza when I taste one. The History of Pizza is an intriguing read, reminiscent of politics and chicanery under the Borgias, but thankfully that doesn't flavor the crust. Grimaldi's is one of the best.
Obligatory pizzeria kitsch.

Grimaldi's may be a tourist haven, being situated near the Brooklyn Bridge with a line out the door at nearly all times, but they remain authentic and make an excellent pie with the classic ingredients- fresh mozzarella, made on the premises; a bright, fresh, chunky marinara sauce; a bubbly, thin crust baked in a coal fired brick oven; and fresh basil leaves. This is thin crust at its finest, baked to perfection. It folds as well as a thicker slice, never cracks, and manages to hold its form when lifted to the mouth, even when laden with a topping or two.

Sinatra playing while Patsy herds customers.

The line wasn't bad; once you're on the sunny side of the street, it goes by quickly. You get a decent view of the waterfront from in front of the place, and around the corner is the Empire-Fulton state park, snugged between the river and some Civil War-era warehouses. Makes for a nice walk in good weather. We ended up there afterward.
The line outside Grimaldi's.

I've had Chicago pizza at a few of the favored places and I think it's its own creature; certainly delicious, but huge and stuffed with ingredients, a sledgehammer made of cheese and pepperoni aimed at your face. It has its place, but the New York slice as served at Grimaldi's is a work of art in comparison. It is a delicate work of deliciousness. You must be able to taste the dough and notice that each bite begins with a hint of char from the oven which promptly fades into crisp, subtle perfection. The sauce next, a fresh tomato flavor with a touch of acidity, with tiny chunks of tomato to give it texture. The fresh, made on the premises mozzarella with its rich milky flavor with a bit of salt and savor. Finally a bit of basil in every other bite, atop the other flavors, and whatever topping you may have chosen. It stands on its own without toppings, but slices of pepperoni curled into tiny teacups of chewy, smoky delight, the brims delicately charred and the bottoms slick with red oil, are worth a try. The sausage meat crumbled in just the right amount, with its delicate fennel flavor, are a perfect accompaniment as well.
Grimaldi's artful pie.

It's a slice worth waxing poetic over. On a Saturday afternoon you may end up waiting an hour or more for the line to whittle down, so Patsy can herd you in to a snug little table, elbow to elbow with your friends on a table barely large enough to hold a pizza pie. They have racks that efficiently allow you to dine with the pizza suspended above your beer and tableware. Once inside, the pizzas don't take too long to get to your table, and you can have a Brooklyn Lager, wine, or soda to quench your thirst from waiting in line. They also have a fantastic antipasto consisting of their homemade mozzarella, home roasted red peppers, tomatoes, olive oil, salami and other delights. We didn't get it this time, but next time I'm going to have to try it. The table next to us raved about it.
Fresh mozzarella, sauce, bubbly crust, basil. Perfection.

Firecracker and I only go when we have tourists to show around town; it's an addictive place and it's for our health that we limit ourselves this way. That being said, come visit us immediately so we can take you there. Today we were with John and Jerri, friends of hers from Louisiana. We hopped an A train down to High Street and walked under the bridge to find the line. A pie at Grimaldi's, a hot chocolate at Jacques Torres around the corner, and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is part of Sarah's NYC tour and at least you walk off some of the meal while drinking in a good view of the islands, and a good cup of Wicked cocoa spiced with cayenne.
Our place in the sun.

Grimaldi's contends with Totonno's (I visited the Coney Island location last year but they were closed after te New York Dolls concert) DiFara's, another Brooklyn fave that I have yet to visit, and Lombardi's in Little Italy, which was the oldest pizzeria in America, established in 1905. The original store closed, but a new one opened 2 doors down. I plan on comparing them all this summer so watch this blog, and my waistline.
The neighborhood is worth exploring. Dumbo ("down under manhattan bridge overpass") is a ritzy spot with upscale grocers, theaters and expensive condos, but the park gives an amazing view of Manhattan framed by two bridges. The parking isn't too bad either, if you drive in. Go grab a pie and walk it off.

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