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Jul 8, 2007 04:09 AM

Mediocrity, thy name is Grimaldi's

I know, I know. This isn't exactly a revelation. Sort of like complaining about Applebee's. Still, I need to vent.

Thought we'd give it another try after a few years. We came back from Governor's Island -- which is awesome, btw -- and initially were going to ferry over to Red Hook for any number of possibilities. Our Jackson Heights friend quite reasonably worried about getting home, so we decided to ferry over to Fulton Landing instead (F train nearby or ferry hop to L.I.C. and the 7) and get some pizza and ice cream.

The Grimaldi's line was insane, of course, but we phoned in a pickup order to bring to the park to continue our lazing-by-the-water day. I thought by requesting "extra crisp -- burned, even," we might avoid The Dreaded Sog. No-go. Heavy, thick, chewy, soggy dough. Milled tomato sauce, fresh basil and semi-(pseudo?) fresh mozzarella were okay, fire-burned outer crust showed hints of potential greatness, but mostly it was more lame than the average corner slice joint. I've been trying to reduce my pizza consumption (who'm I kidding?!), and this was some seriously wasted calories.

Anyone want to defend them? Anyone with any taste ever go here -- and brave that absurb line -- TWICE? If you're out there, stand up and make the case!

Epilogue: You want a line worth waiting on and an arguably overpriced product worth every cent? Damn, that Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory makes some killer stuff. No fancy flavors, just amazing, simple, rich and tasty ice cream. I was in New England over the Fourth and went out of my way to have some of the best homemade ice cream around, but the peach, strawberry and coffee at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory topped them all. It redeems the whole Grimaldi's debacle.

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  1. I won't defend. I stopped going there after Lucali's opened. Now that place is worth the line. If someone opened a gelato stand at the bodega on the corner, they'd be a gazillionaire.

    1. You have put your finger on exactly what I have been yelling at tourists for months. I live in the neighborhood. I recently ran into Patsy (the original owner) on the street, and I won't tell you what he said. You can only imagine.

      1. I'm sure this thread will generate the usual supporters but, so far, we're all in agreement... this place is not worth the effort. And hasnt been for years. But it has the name, the name has a legend and the fact that it was sold a long time ago to folks who have no real talent at this doesnt seem to register with some. I dont even give it the benefit of "mediocrity" as the last couple of pies I've had were a mess.

        1. I'll defend them. What did you expect taking a pizza out? Fresh hot out of the oven taste?

          Give me a break. You got what I'd expect, a slightly gooey, over-steamed from the package pizza.

          I've been there many times with my wife and kids and we all still like it and prefer it over anything else. And I've been to DiFaras all too many times and waited there too. The square is the best anywhere. I remember when he was just the local pizza guy when I lived on Ave K a long time ago. But I could only take Totonno's once. You don't have to treat your customers like crap.

          5 Replies
          1. re: zacfi

            Ah, good, a Grimaldi's Defender. Someone took the bait!

            Respectfully: A) The takeout lag was less than 5 minutes until we started chomping. Admittedly, those are 5 crucial minutes, but b) the prior time I was there 2 years ago and ate in-house, the central 50-75% of the crust was every bit as soggy -- a problem that might have been ameliorated this time, perhaps, if c) they had followed my explicit instructions, slowed down their assembly line just a little, and 'burned' the crust to the crispiness that I requested.

            How ya like them milled tomatoes?

            It seems we might agree, partly, on the wait-worthiness of DiFara's. The pizza at the end of that rainbow obviously is better, but I still wouldn't do that line twice -- especially considering the time I was there (yes, only once), it was even a long line, and it still took an eternity (and I'm no uptight, in-a-rush Manhattanite!). Don't get me wrong. It was plenty good, and I sort of liked the novelty of the fire-scorched crust paired with a bubbling (to me slightly overwhelming) stew of cheese and oil -- but it wasn't a revelation in pizzadom and doesn't, to my mind, justify the hype. Heresy, I realize, and sure to undermine any credibility I might have.

            But getting back to north Brooklyn . . . been meaning to brave the lines and try Lucali's. This whole Grimaldi's episode might be just the push I need.

            1. re: fmogul

              You'll like Lucali's. The pizza is similar (not identical) in style to Difara's without the corresponding craziness and scene. Get there between 6 and 6:30 to be assured of a table.

              1. re: fmogul

                I think Grimaldi's is overrated, but I also think it's pretty ridiculous to expect a place as mobbed as they are to "follow your explicit instructions" about how to cook the pizza, especially on a phoned-in takeout order. Seems unfair to criticize them for that.

                1. re: williej33

                  When a place's entire reputation was built on charred, bubbly, crisp pizza, it should only be ridiculous to (1) need to ask for your pizza charred and crisp and to (2) get one that isn't, even then.

                  On a related note, I went to Lombardi's for the first time in at least 7 years this past winter, with a 40-minute wait on a frigid sidewalk, the place packed to the gills, and without being asked, we got a perfectly charred, crisp, bubbly, chewy pie. It turns out it was a bit of a fluke that we got it that way without asking. Returning last week when they weren't busy, we got one that came out dull and droopy.

                  I asked our server about it and she said yeah, these days you have to ask for your pie well-done if you want it that way because tourists and newcomers were sending pies back when they came out done "right" (i.e. the way they'd been for the first 90-odd years the place had been there).

                  1. re: hatless

                    It would be interesting to find out if Grimaldi's is serving soggy pies because that's how tourists like them or because they've gotten sloppy under new ownership. I've always assumed the latter.

                    And I agree it's ridiculous that Grimaldi's reputation is built on the charred crust and they consistently serve a soggy one, but given the volume they serve, I wouldn't expect any special attention unless I actually sat down in the restaurant and asked a server for it directly.

            2. ONE NOTE FROM THE GUY WHO HAS BLASTED THEM (see above): The other day, hungry and in an experimental mood, I saw that they were not busy so I decided to try my luck. I talked to the guys (they like me), and I asked them to please please do not undercook the pie...and while at it, make it really thin like in the old days. The result: a pie like it was 1994 with Patsy at the helm (except for the milled tomatoes). Still, a real surprise. So maybe its not time to give up completely. Blame it on the tourists!!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: NYJewboy

                If you wanna send a tourist to a quintessential New York pizza place, Lombardi's is one of the few "every tourist feels like they should go there places" that is actually good.

                1. re: nycjag

                  Of course it was dumb of me to expect them to follow my instructions -- but no dumber than going there in the first place.

                  That being said, props to NYJewboy for his efforts to resurrect the crust of yore! Maybe some day if I find myself there at a relatively uncrowded time, I'll even attempt it myself.