Now I want to say up front that this doesn’t even come close to being a complete critical analysis of Brooklyn’s slice joints. There have got to be hundreds of them and I bet at least half those are worthy of a special trek. But there were two places that had been coming up quite a bit during my research and conversations with pizza junkies. And so, I headed into King’s County for a day of pizza.
I got off the train in DUMBO very close to Grimaldi’s Pizza. I felt like I could have smelled their pizza. I crossed over into Brooklyn Heights and there was a very humble looking storefront with no fancy awning or colorful fonts. I had found Fascati Pizza. I was first told of this joint by a very colorful customer that I waited on a few weeks ago at The Modern. His business card proclaimed that he was (among other things) a pizza expert. And he suggested Fascati. And so here I am.
I could tell by the atmosphere why he likes this place. Because you feel like you’re at home. I overheard one couple talking to the guy behind the counter (the owner?) about his newborn babies. Everybody said hello to each other. And a caravan of mommies brought their little ones for what I can only imagine is their favorite neighborhood pizza.
Now I’m from a different neighborhood so I was here strictly for the grub. I was amazed at how little grease was on the pizza and how the steam continued to linger after I let it sit there for a while and cool off. Generally gas ovens (which is what Fascati uses) don’t get as hot as coal or wood ovens, but this pizza was smokin’ – literally.
It took a little while for the flavors to open up. Maybe it was the smoke getting in the way, but the first few bites were rather flavorless. As I chewed on, the buttery crust really came through (in fact the buttery flavor lingered on my lips as I walked to the R train). The cheese didn’t have too much flavor and I wish there was more tomato sauce. So many of these slice joints go so light on the sauce so by the end, I’m left with nothing but the bread, which was thin and chewy and quite delicious.
There was nothing wrong with the pizza really, but there was nothing special either. I don’t think it’s worth a trip to the neighborhood, but I can understand why locals enjoy the food and feel welcomed and comfortable. And I bet, soon enough (when that employee’s newborn twins are grown), they’ll be running around the shop causing trouble.
Is Fascati the best pizza in NY? It’s a cute little neighborhood joint, but the pizza itself is standard and nothing amazing, giving it a 6 out of 10.
I first read about Luigi’s in Time Out when Chef Scot Bridi (Lot 2) gave it a glowing reference. I continued to read great things about this place on Yelp, but was confused as to what neighborhood it belongs in. Some people call this slightly deserted little block (except for a few Italian bakeries) Windsor Terrace, others call it South Park Slope, and I’ve even read some that say its Sunset Park. I don’t know where the hell I was, but I found Luigi’s pretty easily with the help of my trusty Iphone.
The owner, Giovanni, was the first thing I fell in love with. He was incredibly personable and showed a real passion for his work – and for food, in general. He kept bragging about all the weight he lost and how frustrated he is to not be able to eat as much pizza. He also offered me a free taste of his Momma’s slice (similar to a grandma slice) and I think he lived vicariously through me since he kept saying how he can’t eat too much of it anymore. And this was before I told him about my blog and my pizza search.
I ordered the one slice I kept hearing all about: the fresh mozzarella. It looked similar to a traditional margherita, but instead of basil, they add a little herb oil (very similar to pesto) that is made with herbs grown in Giovanni’s father’s (the original owner of Luigi’s) garden in Staten Island. In fact, all the ingredients are incredibly fresh and of the utmost quality. And he uses different tomato sauces for different pies. Now, that’s intelligent pizza making.
The flavors of this slice were close to perfection. It was perfectly balanced with the right amount of creamy cheese and flavorful tomato sauce. The herb oil brought out all the flavors and added a nice herbaceousness. The crust was thin and crispy and charred beautifully.
I learned later that Adam Sandler filmed a scene from Big Daddy at Luigi’s. And I can understand why – the pizza is delicious and the pizzaiolo is friendly, entertaining, and takes his pizza seriously.
Is Luigi’s the best pizza in NY? A 9 out of 10 puts it all the way up with the big boys and indicates that it is worth a trip out to wherever, Brooklyn to get a taste of old-school family collaborated New York pizza.