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NYC Pizza Survey


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Does DiFara's gas oven qualify as "regular"?

Di Fara qualifies not only as a "regular" oven, but really as an "older regular oven that isn't in very good shape."

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Food Network's "Best Of" did Pizza last week, and one of the places was Grimaldi's in Brooklyn. Looked absolutely wonderful, even on TV. Then they showed places in St Louis and Michigan. Those looked like swill, guess I'm just a NY Pizza snob!

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I wish I could make it - Lombardi's is my vote for best in NY.

johnjohn

I haven't been to Lombardi's in a while, but it was my first taste of the famous New York pizza places and I loved it. But after Grimaldi's and DiFara's, my opinion of Lombardi's has sunk dramatically. But it deserves another visit -- I hope I can make it.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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I wish I could make it - Lombardi's is my vote for best in NY.

johnjohn

I haven't been to Lombardi's in a while, but it was my first taste of the famous New York pizza places and I loved it. But after Grimaldi's and DiFara's, my opinion of Lombardi's has sunk dramatically. But it deserves another visit -- I hope I can make it.

I should of said - best of the places I've been to in NY - I still haven't made it to DiFara's... someday...

johnjohn

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I can't make the reservation until I hear from everyone, which means we may get shutout. I'd hate to break stride at this point, so why don't we consider an alternate pizza place that we would eventually visit anyway. I'm anxious to try Giorgione (far west Soho) and La Pizzeria Fresca (Flatiron), both of which have wood-burning ovens.

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I made a reservation for 8 people at Giorgione at 6:30 pm (the best that they could do.) and at 7:15 at La Pizza Fresca.

Giorgione

307 Spring St (Hudson and Greenwich), New York 10013

Phone: 212-352-2269

Fax: 212-352-8734

La Pizza Fresca

31 E 20th St, New York 10003

Phone: 212-598-0141

So far the following people have confirmed their availablity for Friday evening, 3/26:

JosehB and Donna

slkinsey

bergerka

SarahD

Eric_Malson

alacarte

I prefer 6:30 at Giorgione. Pleeeeeeeeease re-confirm with your preference. I will keep the reservation with the majority of votes.

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I'm presuming we're 6 confirmed, but I'll wait until after lunch to change the reservation in case someone jumps in at the last moment.

Confirmed:

JosephB and Donna

slkinsey

bergerka

Eric_Malson

SarahD

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On the strength of NY Magazine’s recommendation eG discussion here, last night the NYC Pizza Survey visited Giorgione’s in far west SOHO, across the street from the Ear, one on NYC’s legendary watering holes.

I waited at the bar as the rest of our group trickled in between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. The room and staff were very inviting, as were the reasonably priced drinks. We were soon approached by a buoyant fellow name Jose (hard “J”), who proudly told us that pizza was the best in town. When I told him that we were from eG he reached out to give me hearty handshake and a warm pat on the shoulder, and promised that we wouldn’t be disappointed. Then he turned to introduce us to Giorgio DeLuca, the owner, who confidently seconded Jose’s promise. We never found out, but I would guess that Jose was a manager or co-owner. We lingered at the bar a while longer, and then headed to our table, which had been reserved.

On the way to our table we passed the pizza oven. I was immediately disappointed, expecting to see a beautifully-built brick oven with a dome. Instead, the oven at Giorgione was a metallic gray cylinder, measuring no more than 48” in diameter to my eye. I knew right away that our group would be eating in shifts. Through the open front one could see a healthy fire burning, fueled by wood. On the front of oven was a digital readout, which indicated an oven temperature of 666 degrees. Later, when I looked at again later, the temperature had risen to 684 degrees. As has been the case in each of the places we’ve visited, I had little success engaging the pizza maker in conversation. These guys are focused on their work, and have no interest in making small talk with voyeurs.

Our table was fine and in close proximity to the pizza oven. Plenty of good bread and oil for dipping were put before us, as well as some crunchy radishes. We settled in and looked at the menu. We came for the pizza, but decided it would be foolish to leave without a platter of oysters and clams from the impressive looking raw bar. Boy-o-boy, was that a smart decision. I had twelve of the most glorious Little Necks – stop.

The pizzas were served in the Italian fashion: one 12” pie per person. This made it difficult for us to each try the same pie. I ordered a sausage pizza. The sausage was very good. I thought the fennel flavor was fine, though others in the group thought that Grimaldi’s sausage had a superior flavor. The sauce was delicate and naturally sweet. The cheese was fresh mozzarella. It was good, but there was a little too much of it. In addition, my pie had cooled on the way to the table, which left the cheese a bit stiff.

As for the crust, it was light and crisp more in the way Grimaldi’s crust was crisp, i.e., as soon as the pizza cooled, the crust went limp, especially at the tip, but never really got chewy the way it did at Grimaldi’s. This may sound contradictory, but there also seemed to me a lack of moisture in parts the crust, which suggested a Roman style to me. We sat in amazement thinking about Patsy's brilliant crust. I also don’t think the flavor of the crust was as good as the crust at Grimaldi’s. The bottom of the crust had some golden spots, but paled in comparison to the blackened bottoms at Grimaldi and Patsy. The outer edge of the crust, however, was nicely charred, and proved to be the most flavorful part of the pizza. Can wood-burning ovens do the job?

Then there was our waitress, Lisa. From the moment we sat down to the minute we left, we were treated to competent, thoughtful, and wonderfully enchanting service. Brava Lisa! And Bravo Giorgio for doing something right and making your guests (and apparently your employees) very happy.

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I still like dining at Ray's Pizza on 8th ave. across from the Milford hotel. The wife and I go everytime we get to NYC. Great atmosphere and good food.

Here in Texas it's mostly Dominos, Pizza Hut or Papa Johns....it's ok for the most part if you don't mind pizza that looks like it came out of the grocery store freezer.

john

JTL

Is a Member of PETA..."People Eating Tasty Animals"

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I liked Giorgione's a lot...only had two minor issues with it. One was the noise - they would have done well, as SarahD said, to go with fewer hard surfaces and more sound-muffling curtains or cloth or something.

The other, unfortunately, was the martini. This was the first time I had ever seen a bartender use the "washing out the glass with vermouth" method...and frankly, if I had wanted a glass of cold...gin, I'd have ordered a glass of gin. The red wine I had with the 'za made up for it, though.

I ordered four lovely oysters (two Malpeque, one Blue Point and one Kumamoto), and then the pizza with prosciutto di parma and arugula, which was really, really good, just enough prosciutto and arugula and not too much cheese.

Oddly, even though it was just as thin, the pizza was much more filling than Patsy's. Not sure what that's about.

And yes, double kudos to Lisa the waitress...she was fantastic.

K

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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For future reference from Amanda Hesser's review of La Bottega - Here:

"Mr. DeLucie's real specialty is pizza. His crust is flavorful and thin, and the toppings are added with restraint, so that each bite is an intense taste, not just filler."

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Pizza Today recently did a nice piece on Patsy Grimaldi. Here.

I had no idea that Patsy sold Grimaldi's in Brooklyn 2 years ago. He apparently still has an interest in the store in Hoboken. His partner is Sean McHugh.

Patsy claims that the oven contributes 80% to the quality of the pizza. 50% comes from the dough. OK, at 71 Patsy's math skills can be forgiven.

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Hey all:

On Sunday, in response to a recommendation from JosephB and after reading through this thread, I went to Grimaldi's for lunch at around 2:00pm. I was pretty fired up to go, to the point that I went there straight from the airport! I was quite hungry when I arrived due to my flight from Colorado taking 1.5 hours longer than expected due to fog in Denver that had us sitting on the taxiway.

Anyway, after a short wait I was seated and ordered a small with 1/2 pepperoni. I went with one of the cheese only slices first, it was great. I loved the combination of fresh tasting tomatoes with the mozzarella. The crust was great, I love the blackened parts myself, kinda in the same way I like good char on a steak. As stated in the survey thread, by the time I got to my second slice the pizza had begun to cool and became quite limp, unable to hold itself upright even when folded in half (insert appropriate Viagra © joke here!). I still enjoyed the remaining slices and finished the whole thing. I thought the pepperoni was good, though I personally prefer thinner slices. I like it when they get really crispy and that's only possible with a really thin slice.

It was great to be able to drink a Brooklyn Lager with the pizza. That's not a beer we can get that easily here and I've enjoyed it in the past at the annual Great American Beer Fest.

One thing that I noted about the pizza is that I thought it, maybe the sauce and/or the crust could've used a bit more salt. I'm admitedly a bit addicted to salt, but wonder if others have felt this way too?

Due to stupid work commitments I didn't get a chance to visit any other traditional pizza places on my trip, but there's always next time. On my way out of town I had a late lunch/early dinner at Figs at LaGuardia and greatly enjoyed the fig/prosciutto/gorgonzola pizza there. They did a good job judiciously combining a bunch of very strong ingredients.

Thanks to all of you for your help!

Brian

Brian Hoffmeyer

"It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black."

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Hey all:

On Sunday, in response to a recommendation from JosephB and after reading through this thread, I went to Grimaldi's for lunch at around 2:00pm. I was pretty fired up to go, to the point that I went there straight from the airport! I was quite hungry when I arrived due to my flight from Colorado taking 1.5 hours longer than expected due to fog in Denver that had us sitting on the taxiway.

Anyway, after a short wait I was seated and ordered a small with 1/2 pepperoni. I went with one of the cheese only slices first, it was great. I loved the combination of fresh tasting tomatoes with the mozzarella. The crust was great, I love the blackened parts myself, kinda in the same way I like good char on a steak. As stated in the survey thread, by the time I got to my second slice the pizza had begun to cool and became quite limp, unable to hold itself upright even when folded in half (insert appropriate Viagra © joke here!). I still enjoyed the remaining slices and finished the whole thing. I thought the pepperoni was good, though I personally prefer thinner slices. I like it when they get really crispy and that's only possible with a really thin slice.

It was great to be able to drink a Brooklyn Lager with the pizza. That's not a beer we can get that easily here and I've enjoyed it in the past at the annual Great American Beer Fest.

One thing that I noted about the pizza is that I thought it, maybe the sauce and/or the crust could've used a bit more salt. I'm admitedly a bit addicted to salt, but wonder if others have felt this way too?

Brian.

I'm delighted that the NYC Pizza Survey was so helpful to you, and that you enjoyed Grimaldi's. Maybe you can coordinate your next trip to coincide with one of our future outings. That would be great fun.

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Some of you may be interested, as I was, to know the law with respect to coal-fired ovens in NY.

After a small bit of research, I found that § 27-848.04 of the NYC Admin Code. (Building Code) requires that all applications for the installation of fireplace and stove equipment must comport with the City’s Air Pollution Control Code, which prohibits at Admin. Code § 24-173 the use by any person of solid fuel in fuel burning equipment, except that solid fuel in the form of anthracite coal (bituminous coal is absolutely prohibited) can be used for fueling boilers in existence on or before May, 1968.

This certainly explains why no new coal ovens can be built in NYC, but doesn’t explain how the existing coal-fired pizza ovens became grandfathered. The statute permits coal to be burned in coal-fired boilers existing before 1968, but says nothing about coal-fired ovens – a pizza oven is not a boiler. Suffice to say that there must be some administrative decision somewhere which allowed Grimaldi’s and the others to revive the old coal ovens they found.

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Are we doing this?  I need to move my voice lesson if it's Saturday...no big deal, but I do have to let my teacher know with a LITTLE advance notice.   :biggrin:

K

Lombardi's

32 Spring Street

NYC

(212) 941-7994

Saturday, April 17, 2004

1:30 pm

Please confirm that you will be joining us:

SarahD

Bergerka

slkinsey

JosephB

Pan

Blondie

Edited by slkinsey (log)
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Can we all compare notes after Sunday? And please take pictures. The Philly Pizza Club is doing the New York Coal Oven Smackdown - Pietro vs. Lombardi's on Sunday afternoon. I'd be curious to see how they compare and if it travels well.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Can we all compare notes after Sunday? And please take pictures. The Philly Pizza Club is doing the New York Coal Oven Smackdown - Pietro vs. Lombardi's on Sunday afternoon. I'd be curious to see how they compare and if it travels well.

Excellent idea Katie. A head-to-head comparison of the two Lombardi's. Just for the sake of comparison, make sure you order one tomato and mozzarella.

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Can we all compare notes after Sunday?  And please take pictures.  The Philly Pizza Club is doing the New York Coal Oven Smackdown - Pietro vs. Lombardi's on Sunday afternoon.  I'd be curious to see how they compare and if it travels well.

Excellent idea Katie. A head-to-head comparison of the two Lombardi's. Just for the sake of comparison, make sure you order one tomato and mozzarella.

Joesph:

We always order one basic plain pizza as the baseline for comparison on any given Pizza Club outing. After that it's open to all suggestions. We've had pizzas with asparagus, clams and chicken and green salsa on them (not all at once!) for the "alternapizza" and haven't really been disappointed yet. But you have to start somewhere, and the touchstone for all later pizzas remains the tomato and cheese pie.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I did feel OK and did come. I'm sure pictures will come later, but I'll post a report of our meal at Lombardi's. Overall, it was a disappointment, and all of us agreed it was clearly inferior to Grimaldi's and Patsy's (sure, DiFara's, too, but Dominic and his children really make a different kind of pizza, so I won't be referring to DiFara's again in this post). Their best pizza was the first one we got, a margherita "light" on the cheese and sauce, which still had plenty of sauce and was definitely thicker in the crust than Grimaldi's and Patsy's. We then got a sausage pizza that had too much sauce even for me (and I like more sauce than slkinsey and JosephB do), while the chopped-up sausages were almost a nullity compared to the fabulous fennel-filled sausage slices at Grimaldi's. Lombardi's is apparently famous for its clam pizza. Not to put too fine a point on it, it sucked! The clam pieces seemed to be mostly fiber and got stuck between my teeth, but though they weren't fishy, they really had little taste or, I suspect, nutritional value. Our service was friendly and they gave me good strong iced tea. I don't expect to be back soon, though.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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So... yesterday the NY Pizza crew surveyed the once-mighty Lombardi's Pizzeria Napolitana, a legendary restaurant which is usually cited as the first pizzeria in America. Lobmardi's has often been rated the "best pizzeria in NYC" by Zagat's and other such guides, but there have been rumors of serious slippage. We were there to find out...

Here's the place. Not the original location, but definitely some character there.

i5577.jpg

The oven. The tilework was moved over from the original location.

i5578.jpg

A closer look at the oven. Hmm... a cheery red glow, to be sure, but I wasn't sweating when I took this picture, and they actually had some seating in the oven room. Could this be a bad sign of things to come?

i5579.jpg

Our first order was the "reference standard" -- a pizza margherita. JoesephB had earlier done a "test run" at Lombardi's and advised us that we should ask them to go easy on the sauce and cheese. Our first impression was "whoa... this is 'light on the sauce and cheese?' It's a good thing we didn't order one 'regular.'" Although this was still a little heavy on the toppings, the proof would be in the crust.

i5580.jpg

Here's a nice shot of the crust. Looks pretty good, right? We were thrilled. Once again, advance notice of ordering quirks would yield a superior pizza experience.

i5581.jpg

If it wasn't quite as light as Pasty's crust or quite as flavorful as Grimaldi's, if it didn't have quite as much char as we might have liked... this could be mostly forgiven. It was still an excellent crust with a superb crackle. And, as Joe demonstrates here, it stood up nicely to the "fold test" -- better than anyplace we had previously visited, actually.

i5583.jpg

Still... the pizza, while very good, lacked a certain something. The sauce was too liberally applied, and not all that interesting. And they used fresh mozzarella, which didn't work as well here as it did at Patsy's because the blandness of the cheese didn't have much to play against. Mainly, though, the crust just wasn't as interesting. This is unfortunate, because I tend to agree with Peter Reinhart, who says in American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, ". . . crust is at least 80 percent of the pizza experience and is worth five times more than the toppings when it comes to total satisfaction." This is borne out right here on eGullet, where we have a large number of threads about pizza crusts as opposed to a relatively small number on pizza toppings.

One thing we noted was that the "oven spring" didn't seem to be as great here. Take a look at this slice:

i5582.jpg

See how dense the crust seems to be up at the thick part? This is very different from the light airy interior we got at Grimaldi's (this is discussed at some length upthread, starting here. Below is a direct comparison of Grimaldi's and Lombardi's that demonstrates the difference in oven spring.

i5595.jpg

Look at how much lighter the Grimaldi's example is! This open, airy interior was what we were missing in Lombardi's crust. This may seem like a minor difference, but consider this: five of us couldn't finish two large and one small pizza between us whereas at Patsy's we made it through one large pizza for every person in attendance, plus a large salad.

Anyway... although it was clear that Lombardi's wouldn't win top honors, we were all suitably impressed with the crust. Then came the sausage pizza:

i5584.jpg

This was, again, "light on the sauce and cheese" but, unfortunately, the crust just didn't seem able to support the small addition in toppings. It's amazing to me how many American pizzerie make this simple mistake. One of the most important steps in making a superior pizza is to use less toppings, which you think would be better for the owners since it would lower the food cost. But, alas, the crust was now entirely pedestrian. Just look at this sad picture... not a spot of char... just a uniform insipid tan, really. No wonder Pan is hiding his face behind the slice. It's so you couldn't see the tears in his eyes.

i5585.jpg

The last pizza up was the "famous" clam pie. Even Lombardi's detractors seem to agree that this is the one outstanding product left at Lombardi's. Well, my friends, not any more. They clearly use canned or frozen chowder clams, and so much garlic that any flavor in the chewy bits of sea-gristle was entirely obscured. Not only that, but somehow they still managed to pile on too many toppings, which is a real feat considering that this pizza didn't have any sauce or cheese. Even though we asked for the pizza to be coolked a little longer, which I think they did actually do (one corner of the pizza was nicely charred), the crust still didn't approach the level achieved on the first pizza.

i5586.jpg

I wonder if Lombardi's suffers from the same heat loss problems due to volume as Grimaldi's. The joint was packed, and it does seem odd that the quality dropped off so much between the first pizza and those which followed. I'd be interested to visit the place some weekday afternoon for lunch, when it's not so crowded, the oven is hopefully hotter and the pizzaioli have more attention to give each pizza.

The service was excellent, by the way. Despite the über-busy afternoon, our waiter was attentive and didn't mind that we ordered our pizza consecutively rather than simultaneously. The hostess was extremely pulchritudinous, and had saved a table for our party right next to the open door in the second section of the restaurant. I'll reserve final judgment until I am able to make a visit during what might be more optimal circumstances. But, for now, I think it's one of those places you go to for the experience more than the pizza.

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I must say the documentation and discussion on this survey are superb.

What did people think of the original original Ray's Pizza on 6th Ave. and 11th St. when it was at its peak in the late 70's and early 80's? The pizza was the antithesis of what Sam describes as his model pizza, in which the crust is king and less is more as far as toppings go. The Ray's pizza when it was good and popular was laden with tasty, gooey cheese. This was clearly the star and the lines would snake out the door and down the block. While I share Sam's opinion on pizze of the style sought on this survey - basically a true neapolitan pizza, I also loved Ray's in its heyday. Comparing them is comparing apples and oranges, IMO. Unfortunately, it has been eons since Ray's has had "the right stuff" Now it is at best ordinary.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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