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New in Sunnyside: Lenny's Pizza

  • BoTo Sep 26, 2010 09:20 PM
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I know a pretty regular topic here is the dearth of really good pizza in Queens. There are a few decent places, but it's not like Manhattan, where you can walk in almost anywhere and be pretty certain you'll get a good pie, and sometimes an excellent one.

Well, I'm happy to report the recent opening of (at least in my opinion) a quite good pizza and Italian joint at 44-08 Greenpoint Ave. in Sunnyside (at the corner of 47th Ave., in the spot formerly occupied by the El Triangulo Colombian bakery, across the street from the Associated Supermarket): Lenny's Pizza.

There actually IS a Lenny, Lenny Russo, whose family has been in this business for a generation, running popular pizza places in the Flatiron district and, later, Midtown, but they left the business about seven years ago when the economy slowed down. Now, Lenny has decided to return to the pizza biz in Sunnyside, where he apparently grew up (most of this is from their website, by the way, but also from talking to Lenny, who's a really nice guy and presides over the counter with well-deserved pride and good cheer).

The pizza is uniformly good, I think, with a nice thin crust, nice sauce - not too sweet, not too salty - and a good sauce/cheese balance. I've sampled regular thin crust and "Grandma's" Sicilian style, and would rate them both top notch. I've also had a good Hero or two, a pasta dish and an entree; everything has been fresh and top notch in quality.

And Lenny's has only been open for about a week and a half, so as you can see, I like it quite a bit.

I'm originally from New York and am now back there again, but in between I lived in Boston (where the pizza isn't anywhere near as good) for a couple of decades, so I may be a bit less picky about pizza than I used to be. But I'm pretty sure this place is really good. Has anybody else been there? Would love to hear other people's comments.

Their website is www.lennyspizzany.com, by the way - their whole menu is there, also available in paper form at the counter. If you just look at the sign over the counter, you'll miss a lot of what they have (Lenny tells me there wasn't room to put everything on the sign unless he used type so small nobody could read it). They accept all major credit cards and offer free delivery,

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Lenny's Pizza
44-08 Greenpoint Ave, Queens, NY 11377

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  1. I don't think you can walk anywehre in manhattan and get a good slice at all. the closest borough to that is staten island, i'd say.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Jeffsayyes

      Well, I said "good" and not necessarily great, but I suppose it's all relative. And subjective. My more important point was that the pizza in Queens is generally thought to be inferior, and having lived there for almost five years, I agree.... Whatever level of goodness you ascribe to the typical Manhattan slice, I think you can safely take that a couple of notches down when talking about Queens. Which is why I was happy about this place, which seems to buck the trend.

      Can't say I've bought pizza on Staten Island, but given its high concentration of people of Italian heritage, that doesn't surprise me.

      1. re: BoTo

        I think there's several good places for pizza in Queens, and the slices at Full Moon in the Bronx are fantastic. Thanks for the heads up about this place--they should have opened closer to Laguardia CC, they 'd make a killing there.

        1. re: BoTo

          there are many great slice places in queens. I think queens might be the best for slices.
          politos, johns in elmhurst, ginos in elmhurst for squares, lucia, rosas, amore, new park, sal of little neck, sacs, bella via. they're around. but crappy pizza is abound too. costs less than manhattan though, so at least you can eat crappy pizza cheaply in queens.

        2. re: Jeffsayyes

          you need to walk more. There may be alot of crappy places, but this is a ridiculous statement.

          Drive by Lenny's a couple times a week, anyone try meatballs? I'm about to post, looking for a good meatball hero in sunnyside, woodside, LIC, elmhurst.

          1. re: 2slices

            Excellent meatball hero, dense and heavy and spicy at J&D Pizzaria in Rego Park on 63rd Road

            1. re: 2slices

              i see how my language can be misconstrued. I meant -- that you can't just walk in anywhere randomly and find a good slice. not that there is no good pizza anywhere in manhattan...

              I said it in reference to " but it's not like Manhattan, where you can walk in almost anywhere and be pretty certain you'll get a good pie"

              1. re: Jeffsayyes

                Yeah, I meant what I said for the most part, because that's been my experience. But perhaps I've just been lucky, or my standards have been lowered by living outside the area for too long. In any case, I still believe (and other comments posted here in the past seem to support it) that the average pizza in Queens is not as good as the average in Manhattan, and that in general the average pizza in Queens is not all that good.

                But I'm sure people will dispute that too. :) Pizza is a very personal thing, I think. I still like the place I mentioned here very much, and think it's better than anything else in the immediate vicinity, but I have a feeling I may come to regret some of the stronger statements in my original post. Oh, well.

          2. Not totally sure I agree that Lenny's pizza is a cut above... I ordered two large pies from there last weekend and I wasn't particularly wowed, and my guests didn't say anything positive or negative about the pizza.

            Sometimes though, I feel like ordering pies is not the best way to judge a pizza place. It's really about sliding up to the counter, laying down several dollars and having the slice piping hot out of the oven.

            I'll give them another shot - but so far, they are mediocre, even by neighborhood standards.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rhydewithdis

              As I mentioned above, pizza is a pretty personal thing, I guess. I also have only had pizza from Lenny's by the slice; haven't had the occasion to order a whole pie from them. And last weekend was their first full weekend of being open (I think), so that could be an issue as well.

              Or maybe you and I just don't agree on pizza. I will be interested in seeing what you say after a second shot at it. I also will tell you that I had a really good chicken hero there, some linguine with white clam sauce which, while not the best I've ever had in my life, was certainly way better than you get from most neighborhood pizza places, and a chicken marsala dinner that was pretty nice (though I think -- for that one item -- that Mediterraneo's may be a bit better).

              What other pizza places in the immediate area do you think are good, though? Maybe I haven't tried them.

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              Mediterraneo
              46-21 Queens Blvd, Queens, NY 11104

              1. re: BoTo

                There is a tiny pizza shop on 40th St. and the North side of Queens Blvd that I think is decent.

            2. Please get a life - this place is vile. Let me make it clear - it's not especially vile by Sunnyside standards but it's vile for the world of pizza in NYC.
              Not one shred of novelty.
              See the pizza on display - sickly sad stomach (I was going to say - turning, let's say -uneasy).
              What Planet are these guys on - don't they attempt to decipher how it's done at NICK's - certainly amongst the finest in NYC.
              This place is a total disgrace, a complete loser.

              5 Replies
              1. re: micheal

                So that would be a NO vote, then?

                Did you actually try the pizza here, or just look at it? "Vile" is an awfully strong word for something that you thought looked sad or wasn't original.

                And as far as novelty goes... what do you want? It's a pizza place. Has anyone invented a truly original pizza in the last decade (that someone else wouldn't call "vile")? [That's a rhetorical question, OK? I'm sure people could name a few examples here and there, my point is that one man's "novel new pizza idea" is another man's "disgusting perversion of a tradition," and that if I'm looking for something unusual that I've never seen before, I'm not likely to go looking for it in a pizza parlor.]

                Whatever. Lesson learned: do not say nice things about pizza on Chowhound. I looked through other posts on the subject and clearly it is among the most contentious subjects out there.

                I think Lenny's is very good. I don't think they do anything novel, but then, they don't claim to -- they talk about using old world recipes, and I think they do that better than anywhere else I've been nearby. Your mileage may vary, and clearly it does...

                1. re: BoTo

                  I was waiting for someone else's take on this place. Lenny is a nice guy.
                  I was surprised there was an actual Lenny :-) However I
                  Agree with the other two posters who gives this place a thumbs down. Huge
                  Slice, no flavor. Only decent slice I dig in this hood is Marbellas a few blocks
                  Down from this place on greenpoint ave.

                  1. re: BoTo

                    Not looking for any pizza inventions at all!!
                    Who needs inventions - just give us good or great pizza? Nice crust, bright fresh toppings, fresh basil leaves on the side for example. Proscuitto, fresh roasted bell peppers, asparagus, artichokes...

                    I saw a guy promoting the place opening a week ago and I was more than well-disposed, in fact wild with expectation that the wait for the good pizza in Sunnyside was over.

                    I don't share with the comment about how CHers critique pizza places without discriminatiob - see on this posting references to MARBELLAS in Sunnyside frequently get positive mention.
                    I have even given Papa Johns a thumbs up myself for $1 slices that you can easily doctor up at home for a good experience - nice crust, good cheese.

                    Sorry,Lenny's - unless they can do something like consulting Italian grandmothers will demise in a short time.

                    1. re: micheal

                      I do understand what you're saying, and I am the first person (believe me, I am) to tout innovation in restuarant food, because I have eaten many a meal out over the years and I get bored pretty easily. I mean, don't even bother taking me to a steakhouse, unless they've got some kind of beef I can't get at the supermarket or do some wildly unusual preparation. A slab of plain grilled beef I can have at home, thank you.

                      I guess I apply different (and perhaps lesser) standards to pizza, though, because there is, to me, something to be said for the traditional New York pizza place that hasn't changed much since the 50s (or whatever). Maybe it's just a nostalgic thing for me, I dunno. Lenny's is that kind of place; it's the sort of place where pizza looks and tastes pretty much the same way it did when I was a kid, and that's attractive to me.

                      And I think that's a part of pizza's appeal in general - nostalgia. I like, say, the CPK version of Pizza as much as the next guy (I really do, love their Thai Chicken pizza especially), but to me that's not pizza. It's good, and I guess you can call it pizza, but to me, pizza is a thin crusted, white flour dough, circular pie with a raised edge and your basic tomato sauce mottled with shredded mozzarella on top. And the traditional toppings -- pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, green peppers, onions, anchovies... -- you know, the usual suspects, are just fine for me for THAT kind of pizza.

                      And for that kind of pizza, I find a lot of places in Queens (or at least this part of Queens) don't have it quite right. The crust is too thick and bready, or it's thin but soggy so that even the basic cheese topping is too heavy, causing the crust to flop over and the toppings to slide off onto the table. Or, if you're not lucky, your lap. Lenny's stuff doesn't do that -- it holds together, and it seems to have (to me) the right balance of sweet/salty, crispy/chewy, and sturdy/light. Is that enough for a great pizza? I guess to me it is, but maybe the state of the art has passed me by, I don't know.

                      BTW, you mention Nick's, which I've never had, but from the descriptions and photos I see their stuff appears to be more of a modern/gourmet take on pizza, not the "classic" stuff I'm talking about here. And again, there's nothing wrong with that, I'm sure I probably will love it (and I will definitely check it out, though the fact that they don't do slices makes that a little difficult), but I regard that as a different animal. Comparing something like that with the old style of pizza that Lenny's makes is, if not apples and oranges, at least Granny Smith vs. Red Delicous. Maybe they're the same animal, but I don't consider them the same breed.

                      One of the good things about Sunnyside is there is SO much good food in a reasonably small area that I tend to not have to stray very far from where I live to get a pretty good selection. So generally I tend to confine myself to the area between, say, 40th and 48th strreets, between Queens Blvd. and 47th Ave, occasionally down to 48th (some of this is probably Woodside). The place on 40th just north of QB is a place I probably wouldn't ordinarily go because it's just on the edge of my zone, but I'll give it a try next time I'm in that area. I've read mixed reviews of Marabella's, to be honest, but perhaps I'm reading too much into them. I'll check that out too. Before Lenny's, the place I went most for pizza was Mediterraneo (North side of QB between 46th and 47th, I think), which I think has surprisingly good (albeit simple) Italian food, but I find their pizza too heavy, too thick. Similarly, there's another place just north of QB somewhere in the 40s (44th? 43rd? I forget) where I've been a few times and been disappointed for the same reason -- too heavy.

                      As to fresh herbs and exotic toppings, I like those too, but I don't consider them a requirement. And, for what it's worth, I had a very good buffalo chicken slice at Lenny's, which is at least a *little* nouveau. :) And it was quite good. Or I thought so, anyway.

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                      Marabella
                      41-07 Greenpoint Ave, Queens, NY 11104

                      Mediterraneo
                      46-21 Queens Blvd, Queens, NY 11104

                    2. re: BoTo

                      Seriously Micheal, the unnamed place on 40th and Queens is not bad at all. Try their Sicilian.
                      That's what I get. Also, If we judged places on novelty, DiFara's, Artichoke, Totono's would all be out of business.
                      I'll have to try Lenny's.

                  2. That place on 40th St & Queens Blvd is Sunnyside Pizzeria, it's not bad: pretty thick crust, not crisp enough for my taste tho, decent sauce... a pretty heavy slice, if that's what you like. I'm still thinking Marabella's Grandma pie is the best in the nabe to my tastes.

                    I will give Lenny's a try, I'm just amazed at how many business owners invest their life savings into something that they give very little thought or research into. I guess they feel "Hey, I put sauce & cheese on dough & cook it, how hard can that be?"

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                    Marabella
                    41-07 Greenpoint Ave, Queens, NY 11104

                    Sunnyside Pizza
                    40-01 Queens Blvd, Queens, NY 11104

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Huck

                      yes, Marabella's Grandma slice is easily the best pizza in sunnyside... i tried Lenny's last week... got a cheese slice... honestly, it was pretty bad...

                      1. re: pgunn

                        I had Lennys Pizza and it was perty good. His sauce is great. My wife had a chicken parm hero that was slaming.

                    2. Just an update, for those who might be interested. Lenny's is now under new management, and probably ownership as well. Lenny is gone, as are his brother Angelo and his wife (whose name I never got, though she was always very nice to me), as are the other faces I knew from before. There's a completely new crew there as of about a month ago I think; the menu has changed a bit too. I had a wrap there today that was pretty good, but I don't know yet how the overall quality has been affected. Some other sites (Yelp, etc.) have reported a decline in food or service quality since the change of ownership, though we should probably give them a couple of months to hit their stride before judging the new guys.

                      I'm disappointed, though - Lenny was a nice guy and a friendly face and a good cook, and I miss him already.

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                      Lenny's Pizza
                      44-08 Greenpoint Ave, Queens, NY 11377