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Lucali's - what's going on?

I've been twice in the past week and both times the pies were not nearly as good as on several previous visits. Here's what I noticed:

1) The crust - thicker, barely any crispiness (even had a soggy spot on one of the pies)
2) The cheese - much more on each pie than in the past

While the pies were still good, and better than your average pizza, to me they were not the pies that earned Lucali's a 27 Zagat rating.

Has anyone had a similar experience?

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  1. As of 3 or 4 weeks ago they were excellent as always.

    Seriously? Just say something to Mark. You sound like you know his pizza and you care. He'll appreciate the feedback. Really.

    (I know it can be hard to be direct, but if people find fault with a restaurant, especially one they know and love, it seems much more productive to speak to the owner/chef than to bring it up here and hope the owner/chef happens to see it.)

    1. I've been to Lucali's three or four times--not a huge sample, but still-- and I just never have experienced the Lucali greatness. Not to say it is not good pizza, but it just seems homogenized and nothing like DiFara's, where every bite is a revalation (well, you know..)--which is supposedly its inspiration. Maybe the hype has worn off for you (and the charmingness of the space).

      1. I agree with these negative (but not too bad) assessments. Lucali's is a fine establishment, but it's no DiFara's. The advantage is a sit-down civilized night out in a clean environment. If you ever ate an exciting pie with special toppings at DiFara's and had to wipe some unknown detritus out of your way (or worse) then you know what I mean. It's filthy. But its all about the pizza. Lucali's dough and cheese simply do not form the harmony and depth that Dom's alchemy does. Call me a fanatic, but I can put up with the filth. But I still wish they would clean the tables once in a while.

        1 Reply
        1. re: NYJewboy

          They must clean the tables once a day, at the most, at DiFara's. Every time I go there the greasy tabletops are filthy. But I accept the filth for that great pizza! I got takeout from Lucali's once and it was very good. Way better than Grimaldi's, Lucalis is def. the best pizza in this part of Bklyn. But man do I hate finding a soggy spot on my pie! Does anyone know if they're still doing takeout?

        2. Yes, my experience matches yours. I remember it being fantastic pizza, and last time I went it was merely very good, primarily because the dough was pillowy and a little bland. Next time I go, I'm asking for my pie well done - I hope that maybe that will rectify the problem.

          8 Replies
          1. re: ratatosk

            ive been meaning to check out lucali's havent made it there yet. they're a pie only/no slices joint right?

              1. re: fishermb

                The menu is exactly 2 items long. Pizza. And calzone. That's it.

                Oh yeah, and I suppose some various kinds of soda.

                1. re: Peter

                  I think it's just Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and maybe Sprite.

                    1. re: fishermb

                      I think the calzone may be better than the pizza

                        1. re: kam0424

                          Calzones were phenomenal and I didn't even like calzones--this from someone who grew up in NYC--because, now I know, I never had a good one before.

              2. Speaking of Lucali, can anyone explain why they were left off the Zagat Top 50 of Best Food list when they got a 27 for food? The top 50 consists of all the 28's, all the 27's, and the highest ranked 26's. Lucali is right in there -- with a 27 -- yet left off the list.

                BTW, Lucali and DiFara earned the same rating -- a 27. Needless to say, Lucali killed DiFara in decor and service. (Of course, I still love DiFara's pizza over all else, but Lucali is a better overall experience (tables, service, cleanliness, decor, location, wait, etc.)

                2 Replies
                1. re: Peter

                  Probably they're new enough that they didn't have enough reviews submitted to be considered reliable? That's my guess, anyway. It was like that with DiFara a couple years back, too - it was tied with Peter Luger that year for the highest food ranking (as I seem to recall - I may be way off here, never having purchased the thing), but because only a few people had suggested DiFara they didn't put it on any of the lists. I guess there weren't enough data points to make the high score reliable enough to put on a big list.

                  For the record, that's totally fine by me. The place is hardly hurting for business, so being Zagat's #1 pizza place or whatever would be a strictly bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

                  1. re: ratatosk

                    I thought of that but when there's a low number of votes they indicate such with a little icon. There's no such icon for Lucali. But yes, I recall DiFara being left off the list a few years ago -- it's there now because there was some press coverage about how Zagat, which is allegedly so democratic -- was "editing" the list to keep dive places off of it.

                    Oh, and DiFara was never tied with Luger for best food. They were both highly rated -- high enough to be on the list, and they may have been tied -- but they were never in the #1 spot.

                2. We just ate there tonight--half onion and half portobello pizza and it was great. The crust was very thin and there was no soggy spot. There was possibly a bit more cheese than in the past but I liked it. There is a bigger assortment of beverages now.

                  1. Does anyone know what their corkage fee is there? And is it per bottle or just per table?

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Brooklyn Mamacita

                      As I recall, it's a very reasonable $4 per bottle at worst. (It might be $4 per visit?)

                      I've also noticed that it's charged inconsistently. Then again, that may be because I offer a glass of wine to the waitress and a glass to Mark and if a bottle's unfinished I frequently leave it behind for them to enjoy after closing. ;)

                        1. re: TBird

                          yes - I've ordered and picked up pizza there
                          (and there was no soggy part last week...)
                          I don't know if they have delivery

                          1. re: pitu

                            They def, don't have delivery.

                        2. re: Peter

                          And if you bring a 6 pack of beer and take the bottles with you, I've never been charged.

                          1. re: jdf

                            So no "bottle cap fee" then? Or "pull-tab fee" as the case may be. I've never heard of a fee being assessed on byob beer. Does that really happen some places?

                            1. re: HankyT

                              Well, in truth you're not paying for the "unduly taxing labor" of opening a bottle, you're paying for the bottle disposal and for the glasses they need to clean. As most places are not byob, I don't know. But, I do think I remember early posts on Lucali stating that they were charged for it. I could be mistaken, though.

                      1. I went to Lucali's for dinner last Friday. I guess I was in a good mood because of the mild weather because I wasn't bothered at all that I need to wait for nearly two hours for what the hostess had promised to be a 1 hr wait. In all fairness to her, she offered to call us when our table was ready.

                        We ordered a pizza with two toppings on half the pizza and none on the other, and a calzone. When the pizza arrived with one topping on each half, I pointed this out to our waitress who offered to make us a new pizza, which I refused (it felt wasteful, aside from not being topped as requested it was perfectly fine). Instead Frank (is that the chef's name?) comped us the entire meal. I thought his graciousness as well as that of his entire staff was remarkable, given the fact that we barely said boo and he has a two hour line out the door waiting to get in. My point: Even if the pizza were to become half as good as it is, I would still gladly dine at Lucali's because the ambiance is so charming and the staff so hospitable.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: jgelfman

                          I am going this evening and can't wait. Do you know if it is still BYOB? Thanks!

                          1. re: chompchomp

                            It is still BYOB and all cash. Enjoy!

                            1. re: max

                              was there wednesday and definately still byob and 2nd only to difara's. $4 corkage for 2 bottles...

                              1. re: max

                                Is this still the case (BYOB only, no wine/beer for sale there, all cash)?

                                Also, are there any toppings not to be missed? Hoping to try for the first time later this evening!

                                1. re: cazique

                                  Yes, it's still BYOB.

                                  As far as toppings, take a moment to go up and talk to Mark, the owner/chef -- see what he recommends. He has the usual toppings but lately he's had some amazing anchovies and some special peppers.

                                  Be ready for a longish wait (unless you get there right at opening) and enjoy your meal!


                          2. Yes. It's sad. And it seems to be getting worse (though I keep going back hoping to recapture the experiences of the past). The thicker/doughier/heavier crust is heartbreaking.

                            There's no question that they need to turn more people away. If they accepted their size/capabilities they could maintain more control and put out a better quality product.
                            Simply stopping take-out could help. I have mentioned this to them but it's hard to say no to customers.

                            1. i love this place BUT i have one huge pet peeve, that i wish they would change. basil should not cost extra. any respectable high-quality pizzeria, like lucali, should provide fresh basil for your pie for free.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: lmrt

                                Is that a new policy? I don't remember ever being charged for basil. Maybe I'm mistaken.