Culinaring Through NYC: Day 3 – Pizza for a (Entire) Day
classic pie from Grimaldi’s. 6 slices, $14
When I told my friend that I wanted to eat the best pizza in NYC, she told me my question was a hotly debated one and that there were several choices. Thus here is lesson number 1 in becoming a food warrior:
When faced with multiple choices, choose all of them.
Just so we could compare different pies across town, we visited three restaurants — Grimaldi’s, Lombardi’s, Motorino — in about four hours. Crazy? More like crazy about food.
Contestant #1 – Grimaldi’s
Grimaldi’s is a classic choice by the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a worn-down, grungy place where the pictures on the wall are crooked, except for the sign which demonstrates the heimlich maneuver. The inside feels time-tested and local.
As for the pie, the crust was light, the tomato sauce was chunky and the mozzarella cheese was homemade. The burnt crust to non-burnt crust ratio was balanced, and after a few bites, I was reminded of Antico in Atlanta. Maybe Antico is better than I get them credit for (even though I love them). More basil, though, was much needed and very much missed. The basil leaves were so small that it seemed unnecessary to even put them on the pie in the first place.
But Grimaldi’s serves good pizza. No question about that, but did I have a revelation or gain some insight into what the real stuff is like? No.
Contestant #2, Lombardi’s
Supposedly Lombardi’s served the first piece of pizza ever in NYC. That very well could be true because Lombardi’s doesn’t hold back on that pitch. They know they’re a destination and they play up to tourists with stylized photographs of pies on the wall, and a menu that required more than Microsoft Word to make.
San Marzano tomatoes gave the sauce on this pie a definite edge to Grimaldi’s. San Marzanos are some of the best tomatoes in the world and so it makes sense the flavor is stronger. Grimaldi’s crust, though, wasn’t nearly so heavy and chewy as this one. Finishing this pie was definitely more difficult because of the crust. As for the mozzarella cheese, I can’t remember…
Did I find a pie revelation here? No, but that doesn’t mean Lombardi’s pizza is an amateur attempt. All of the pies I had today were far better than any other I’ve had (excluding Antico).
Contestant #3 – Motorino’s
Motorino’s is the new kid on the block, a restaurant that grew out of the city’s fascination with upscale pizza two years ago. NYT food critic Sam Sifton recently declared Motorino as the best pizza place in NYC. Was he right?
Ok, yes, but by a marginal difference that probably few people will care about. While sauce was watery, it was bursting with tomato goodness. We found the whole basil leaves here, but more importantly, we found a crust that was exceptionally fluffy and light complemented by distinct chunks of mozzarella. Everything comes together nicely about this pie.
So while Motorino’s may be the best pizza in town, did the best give me a revelation? No, and I think that’s because such a revelation isn’t possible anymore. I didn’t know it at the time but Antico’s exposed me to some of the best pizza around. Having eaten around NYC, I know this to be a fact. As for Antico vs Motorino, Motorino wins that one to mostly because the burn crust to non burnt crust ratio is better and because the crust is thinner and fluffier.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to jog 10 miles. Or eat some rice pudding and dumplings in Chinatown for dinner (next post…)
349 E 12th St
New York, NY 10003
19 Old Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
32 Spring St
New York, NY 10012