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Mar 17, 2008 08:24 AM

Lucali: when to go?

I'm a pizza fan, live 3 blocks away, and almost never get to eat there because of the damn crowds. Over the weekend we tried to order pick up, only to be told on the phone "He's not doing take-out orders right now." Is there a winning strategy for this place? I'm about to give up.

This leads me to a larger question. Evidently there is a huge market for outstanding pizza in NYC. So why aren't there 10,000 high-end pizza joints popping up like mushrooms in every neighborhood?

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  1. "Is there a winning strategy for this place? "

    Arrive at 6:00 when it opens. The same trick works for Al Di La.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bob Martinez

      I actually find that later is better. In the early evening you get the people trying to beat the crowds and families. After 9 I have found the waits to be shorter. Maybe I just lucked out a few times. Either way, I don't mind waiting.

      1. re: max

        I've been there twice at 6 with groups of 5 or 6 people. We had no problem getting a table. I'm not surprised that 9 works too. The family crush would have abated by then. So, go early or late. Not prime time.

        1. re: Bob Martinez

          Just for the record, they will take a reservation for a group of six if you promise to all be there at 6:00. Literally, all six of you HAVE to be there, but they'll be true to their word and you'll get that big table near the pizza man!

      2. re: Bob Martinez

        You know Bob M, that's what I thought. The owner actually told me to come later because in his words: "the pies will be better after the oven is on for a couple of hours". Thus I have not returned at 6:00, and you know, he was right. Now when I come at 8:30 it IS better.

        However my wife and I will see you on line at Al Di La at 5:20. Yea!

      3. I've gone right when it opens and it's pretty bonkers with toddlers and families. The wait was only about 30 minutes, but I suppose it depends on your child tolerance level.

        9 Replies
        1. re: chompchomp

          i usually go at 6, weekdays. never a wait. strollers at numerous tables, but no wait. hey, i take what i can get...

          1. re: TBird

            I must say that even when (as the owner put it) the oven is not at its best at 6:00, the texture is more interesting and the overall taste more complex that anything except DiFara. Lucali blows away Grimaldis so completely that only a burnt ring is left near the base of the Brooklyn bridge. I feel like yelling this to tourists out my car window. But hey, that's me. I'm a psychopath.

            1. re: NYJewboy

              Yes, NYJB, I think Grimaldi's should get a restraining order against you, for your relentless bashing. But I admire the purity of your hatred and your stick-to-it-ive-ness, dude! ;)

            2. re: TBird

              Success! Got take-away Monday. "Can you get here in 5 minutes? You better start walking now" said the girl on the phone.

              Weirdly, even though it was after 7, there was an open table and no line when I arrived to collect my precious plain pie.

              The thing was half gone by the time I got it home.

              The BASIL he uses on top has so much flavor, I suspect he grows it himself.

              1. re: Mr. Particular

                The basil plants are in the back window - you can see them when looking into the "kitchen".

                On Monday @ 7p when some friends suggested going to Lucali's, i thought that they were joking - or at least meant waiting until around 9 when the lines would be shorter. A quick call down to the restaurant however confirmed that there was an open table if we could rush. We literally ran the 10 blocks down the road, and grabbed the last few seats. The pizza is as good as ever - however, the calzone has grown on me and might've been the highlight.

                When we left 45min later, the line to get in was at least 10-15 deep.

                1. re: EJC

                  Ha! An open table at Lucali's generates a lot of buzz!

                  I agree that the calzone is sublime.

                  Can someone across the street put up a web cam?

                  1. re: Mr. Particular

                    Since you live 3 blocks away, you can also call and have them call you back when a table opens up. My husband and I frequently use this technique (we're 4 blocks away) so we don't have to wait outside in the cold. We've had to wait up to 2 hours, but since we were at home, it was no biggie.

                    1. re: oolah

                      Oolah la! THAT'S what I call a winning strategy!

          2. Does the 9:00 time work just on weeknights or would that be good for a Friday/Saturday as well?

            5 Replies
            1. re: xariana

              I wouldn't count on it for weekends. That's the thing about that place, you really can't be sure you are ever going to eat -- either to stay or to go -- on any given day.

              BUT - I was there the other night (Saturday, 9 PM, thanks to the above-mentioned call-in strategy)...and there was a sign (confirmed by our waitress) that they were now doing TAKE OUT TUESDAYS. That is, only takeout. She said the turnaround would be really quick. Pies only.

              Oh- and one more tip: I think that calzone tastes better the next day (reheated in the oven). It settles, or something, so it's a little less watery. Not that it's ever bad, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover how good it was the day after.

              1. re: robotcoupe

                They used to be closed on Tuesdays, right? Good way to keep customers happy and probably give the bulk of the staff the day off.

                1. re: jdf

                  Yeah, but it's bad for Mark. That guy has got to take a few days off and relax a bit or he's end up old before his time.

                  I mean, look at Dom. He worked 364 days a year for decades and look how old he looks for a guy who's only 57. ;)

                  1. re: Peter

                    Making pizza is not nearly as stressful as trying to obtain it can be. I swear I'm ready to start making my own in the oven!

                    1. re: Peter

                      They did used to be closed Tuesdays, yes.

                      Mark, apparently, will still take the day off. Our waitress said her husband, who's Mark's cousin, will be doing the pies.

              2. i live three blocks away, went on friday night at 6:20 and lucked out with a 20 minute wait. the hostess was so nice, told us to go for a walk, and sure enough she called us five minutes before the table opened up. by the time we walked back over (ok, walked briskly) we were able to fall right into our seats!

                as was reported before, the early crowd was entirely families. my roommate and i were the only people without children!

                had a pepperoni and basil pizza. it was like dying and going to heaven! that basil - i will dream about it.

                fyi: the sign out front says closed tuesdays still, but it was faded. its possible no one has taken it down yet. we didn't ask though.

                1 Reply
                1. re: abr269

                  I am thrilled to hear meat is back on Fridays. Those few weeks of lent were very painful!