Tag Archives: Lombardi’s

If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

60. SICILIAN SLICE at ROSE & JOE’S ITALIAN BAKERY

The first bite of this Sicilian Slice (ordered at the back counter of a small bakery in Astoria) was nothing special.  The tomato sauce was flavorful, but I wish it had been a bit more significant.  The cheese was more prominent than on most Sicilian slices and it was fine but didn’t really stand out.

But on the next few bites, the world sort of opened up.  I got into the buttery crust (especially those amazing burnt edges) and I literally said “Yum” out loud.  I’m not one to make exclamations to myself and I can’t remember the last time I seriously used the word “Yum.”

The special crust here is much thicker and doughier than the popular grandma slices, but at the ends is this crisp char that is just a few notches away from being burnt, and it’s absolutely delicious.  Anybody who understands the pleasure of crunching on well-done (but not burnt) cheese and bread will understand this great experience.  It turned the pizza from being just an ordinary slice into something truly special.

ROSE & JOE’S ITALIAN BAKERY
22-40 31st Street (between 23rd Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard)
Astoria, Queens
(718) 721-9422

59. RED SLICE at SALUGGI’S

One place that the pizza celebrities of New York haven’t yet fully exploited is Saluggi’s. I think it still has yet to be truly discovered, but fortunately I got to discover it and I fell in love.

They’re one of the few really quality pizzerias that will actually sell you just a slice. And the one to get is their Red slice.

It’s a large and beautiful slice without much of a true crust. But the tomato sauce, cheese (both mozzarella and parmesan), and fresh basil go all the way out the edge. It’s soft, tender and crunchy becoming more crisp as you reach the brink.

And they make their own mozzarella cheese, which is incredibly fresh and awesomely stretchy. Each bite almost felt like I was blowing a piece of bubble gum, but in reverse. And cheese flavored bubble gum. Take that Hubba Bubba!

SALUGGI’S
325 Church Street (between Canal Street and Lispenard Street)
Tribeca
(212) 226-7900
saluggis.com

58. CLAM PIE at LOMBARDI’S PIZZA

Lombardi’s was definitely the place that brought pizza to New York and most likely, to this country. So it had better be good, right?

Over 100 years later, the pizzas are still delicious. But the clam pie (which somehow sounds dirty) is out of this world. Fortunately the clams aren’t as old as the pizzeria.

It was worth the $26.95 I spent on the 14 inches (that’s $1.95 per inch). The pie is crowded with fresh clams and garnished with a lemon. The clams are chewy and delicious and all the flavors come together like an Italian masterpiece. This could have been incredibly heavy and decadent since it features all the ingredients for a nice linguini white sauce. But it was really just right. And I was amazed that the light thin crust held up the weight of those beautiful bivalves. Price: $26.95

LOMBARDI’S PIZZA
32 Spring Street (between Mott Street and Mulberry Street)
Nolita
(212) 941-7994
firstpizza.com

57. MARGHERITA PIE at COALS

SADLY, SALVATORE OF SOHO IS NOW CLOSED.

I had never heard of (let alone tasted) grilled pizza before this year. I ventured up to Coals, a divey but homey pizzeria/bar all the way up in the Bronx, to discover an unusual take on pizza.

The small margherita pie is so thin and light, but very rich, buttery, and tender. It reminds me a bit of a grilled cheese sandwich (bet you never saw that one coming), but lighter and more balanced.

The bread is slathered with mozzarella and beautiful red mountains of tomato sauce with restrained slivers of basil dotting the canvas. There is also a nice garnish of sharp pecorino cheese which gives the pizza an edgy bite.

This is not your usual New York pie, but it’ll broaden your horizons and might convert you to the ingenious grilled pizza. Now if only they could figure out a way to make other variations (like fat free pizza) taste this good…

COALS
1888 Eastchester Road (between Morris Park Avenue and Loomis Street)
Morris Park, Bronx
(718) 823-7002
coalspizza.com

56. CHERRY JONES at PAULIE GEE’S

Paulie Gee was a wiz at changing his career from engineer to pizzaiolo. And he’s a wiz at making some of the best new pizza in the city.

They’re in the Neapolitan style so the dough is tender and doughier than most thin-crust New York slices. And Paulie usess local, fresh ingredients and pairs them with the right Italian imports to make winning pies.

My favorite is the Cherry Jones which features fior di latte cheese, gorgonzola, prosciutto, dried bing cherries, and locally made honey. The ingredients are surprising (especially together), the final product is an awesome pizza experience that features complementing flavors – richness, sweetness, saltiness, and a nice amount of funk from the blue cheese. Paulie Gee is a wiz! Price: $17

PAULIE GEE’S
60 Greenpoint Avenue (between West Street and Franklin Street)
Greenpoint, Brooklyn
(347) 987-3747
pauliegee.com

SADLY, SALVATORE OF SOHO IS NOW CLOSED.

One of the newer pizzerias that gets talked about a lot in the press lately is Salvatore of Soho. Look as hard as you’d like in that fancy neighborhood downtown among boutique clothing stores and high end restaurants. But you won’t find this pizzeria on Prince or Spring Street or anywhere in the general vicinity of the area formally known as South of Houston Street. Because this pizzeria is not where it’s supposed to be. It’s not in Soho at all, but rather in the middle of suburban Staten Island.

The pizzaiolo, Salvatore Ganci (at least half of the name is correct) trained and worked at both Lombardi’s and Ben’s Pizza. So finally, we come to it. Those pizzerias are both in the Manhattan neighborhood of Soho.

Sal installed a custom-built coal/gas oven to make classic New York style pizza in his old-fashioned pizzeria. Now wait a minute. I thought coal  ovens were illegal in this city unless you were grandfathered in. Turns out the reason they’re illegal is because of the black pollution released from  the flume. Well, Sal’s oven uses a rotating floor and somehow prevents the coals from being released, making the oven hotter and the air cleaner.

We walked through the parking lot (I have a hard time getting used to parking lots in New York City) and made our way inside the pizzeria. It was  so cute with lots of ’50’s nostalgia and kitschy decor – old rock and roll looped on the sound system and the waitresses wore very short skirts that  resembled poodle skirts. I felt like I was at one of those theme restaurants on vacation. Well, I was on an island for the day after all.

The pizza arrived after taking more time than I had anticipated and they looked beautiful. They were incredibly crispy and charred (the menu  warned that they would be cooked well-done). My fingers even turned black from holding a slice. I looked like a construction worker or  something. Well, my hands did at least. I still looked like a bearded wimp who could lift no more than a loaded potato skin.

But I was lifting pizza today and this looked and smelled like classic New York pizza. And the taste exceeded my expectations. The Neapolitan was close to perfection. It was reminiscent  of Lombardi’s pie, but with a bit more cheese. It had so much flavor – tangy and slightly sweet tomato sauce, rich buttery mozzarella, a very generous sprinkling of fresh basil. And let’s  not forget that smokey char from the crust.

We also ordered their clam pie, which is a favorite of mine from Lombardi’s. I don’t think Sal’s was quite as good, but it was very close. It needed a little more cheese for me, but the plump  clams and garlicky sauce tasted like a great pasta dish. And when you throw in their perfectly charred crust, it doesn’t get much better.

In addition to great old-fashioned New York style pizza, Salvatore of Soho also offers some unusual options (like a fried calamari and hot pepper pie) and traditional Italian dishes. It’s clear they know what they’re doing and have learned from the best. Would I say it’s worth the trek out to Staten Island? Probably. But you can get pizza this good in Brooklyn and Manhattan – at Lombardi’s in Soho, no less. Now if Salvatore of Soho opened a location in Soho, then we might have a real pizza war.

Is Salvatore of Soho the best pizza in NY? They make really delicious pizza with an amazing char and fresh ingredients in a comfortable, family-friendly environment. It’s everything you could want from NY style pizza. If you’re in Staten Island, I’d say go. I give them a 9 out of 10.


Category: Pizza

It’s weird to feel like you’re a tourist in your own city. However, for me, the experience is oddly exciting because those of us who live here tend to take the city for granted. I’ve always been one of the very few New Yorkers who actually enjoy walking through Times Square either right before Broadway shows begin or right after they end. There’s such a buzz in the air and everybody is exciting to be going to a show on BROAD-way! I feel like I’m on vacation when I go to the theater district. Now if only I could end the evening relaxing in one of those fancy hotels and watching their free HBO.

Lombardi’s is naturally a big tourist destination. It was the first pizzeria in the country. Genaro Lombardi brought his tomato pies to Little Italy in 1905 and the rest is history. The restaurant has since moved to a new location a block away and is now owned by a family friend of the Lombardi clan. But it still holds claim to the birthplace of American pizza. And I knew full well what I was getting myself into when I decided to go for lunch on a crisp chilly Saturday shortly after noon.

I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the waiting list moved. It took only about 10 or 15 minutes for them to call my name. We were led through one room after another, passing families and couples enjoying pizza. The enormity of this maze-like restaurant was a little surreal. One false turn and you’d end up in the kitchen.

The restaurant has undergone a major expansion (a whole new bar and front area) in the last few years, which is good because it means they have more space to turn their tables quicker (which means a shorter wait for us), but could be bad because each pizza can’t get quite get the same attention as before. We all know that when companies grow, quality often suffers in the process.

Now this was my first ever visit to Lombardi’s so I can’t say how or if the quality has changed, but I can confidently say that they still have fantastic pizza. We ordered the original, which is your traditional margherita and we had to try their famous (and quite expensive) clam pie, which has no tomato sauce, but plenty of olive oil, cheese, garlic, and freshly shucked clams.

I started with the margherita, which noticeably had more tomato than anything else. It’s clear that this pizza (and therefore all pizza) is a direct descendant of what was originally called a tomato pie. There were nicely distributed perfectly melted globs of fresh mozzarella and some garnishes of fresh basil.

The crust was nicely charred, although some slices were crispier than others, and had a slight smoky flavor. The abundant tomato sauce was fresh and well-seasoned with just a hint of sweetness. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a more generous serving of basil, but the tomato sauce was so perfectly seasoned that it really wasn’t necessary aside from aesthetics.

The clam pie (which somehow sounds dirty) was worth the $26.95 spent on the 14 inches. The pie was crowded with fresh clams (I was pleasantly surprised that these didn’t come from a can) and garnished with a lemon. The clams were chewy and delicious and all the flavors came together like an Italian masterpiece. This could have been incredibly heavy and decadent since it features all the ingredients for a nice linguini white sauce. But it was really just right. And I was amazed that the light thin crust held up the weight of those beautiful bivalves.

As we left the restaurant (with our to go boxes in tow), I really felt like I was one of the few locals. Everybody was snapping photos of celebrities on the walls and of the beautiful thin crust pizzas. Only tourists do that. How embarrassing! Oh, by the way, check out this picture I took of the famous coal-oven at Lombardi’s. Isn’t that great?

Is Lombardi’s the best pizza in the city? It’s certainly the oldest and paved the way for future coal-oven pies. I’m excited to report the pizza still stands up and impresses with all its balanced flavors and perfect textures. It’s definitely one of the best, and my rating of 9 out of 10, makes it a safe recommendation for visiting tourists and locals alike.


Category: Pizza

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