Back to NYC: Pizza Quest Resumed

First and Last

Lombardi’s is the first, the grand-daddy, the original New York pizzeria. Opened in 1905, and still a legend over a century later. Seemed like a good place for the quest to begin.

Alongside my tiny companion.

Being a fancy, sit-down, come-hungry-because-you’re-eating-a-whole-pizza restaurant, it was also the only time I got any topping more complicated than pepperoni. Prosciutto and rocket/arugula.

Lomarbi’s is classic Italian style pizza, hence the easy availability of this topping combo. Whenever I get this particular pizza, there is always, always more arugula than I’d prefer, but never so much that it overrides the cheese and prosciutto, so I let it slide.

Lombardi’s does good work, and still has the exact ambiance of an Italian pizza joint. Even if you’d never been to one, you’d walk into Lomabrdi’s and think “Yeah, this is what I expected.” There’s a reason they’re an institution. But they weren’t my favourite. I suspect there’s also a reason they received Johnny T’s least passionate endorsement.

I mean the main thing that marred my Lombardi’s experience had nothing to do with food, ambiance, anything, it was that for an hour or so surrounding my trip there my brain stopped working. I left mini-Batman at the restaurant, used the wrong subway entrance, took about three tries on three trains to get back to the stop by Lombardi’s (and in the process ended up in a chat with one of the waiters about his Batman-obsessed brother), and above and beyond all of that, when I bought a discount theatre ticket for The Play That Goes Wrong, I’d gotten the date wrong and bought a ticket for the wrong week. Kind of a costly mistake that meant my Friday night in the City That Never Sleeps was spent watching Daredevil at my Air BnB.

So.

That all happened. All at once.

Lucky I didn’t end up in some Serbian murder hostel saying “Wait, is this not the American Gangster Museum?”

Anyhoo, back on the pizzas…

In 1929, a chef (the chef?) from Lombardi’s named John Sasso split off to create his own restaurant, which after a lost lease and a forced move became an institution in its own right, John’s of Bleecker Street. A pizza expert who we’ll discuss further in a page or two claimed that this is also a pizzeria of historical note, the place that first broke away from Napoli and began the evolution to what is now New York style pizza. So of course I had to try it before I left.

Semi-famous, and wants to be really clear about the no slice thing.

Right before I left.

Like, this was one of the last things I did. In theory, the day after I ate here I’d be back on a plane home. Didn’t work out that way but that’s another story. On my last night in the city, for dinner prior to Grindhouse: The Ballet, I passed on the ridiculous hipster Chinese place Matt had told us about, passed on a return to one of the better by-the-slice places I’d visited, and took a trip to John’s.

Eh.

It was… okay. Yes, I could sense the shift from Neapolitan to New York slice, sure I ate the whole thing with no regrets, it just… it wasn’t in my top three. Surely wasn’t the worst*, or even second worst**, but it wouldn’t haunt my taste buds like some others.

Also maybe I found the wrong booth because the table was shoved in pretty close to the bench and it was a tight squeeze at first and that is exactly the hit to your self-esteem you need right before committing to eating a whole pizza. I spent so much of the day walking. That should count for something, flesh body.

It wasn’t far from some exceptional pizza, though… exceptional pizza whose only weakness was the need to eat it standing up.

*A place that as far as I can tell is simply called “New York Style Pizza,” which I tripped over after deciding the line at Grimaldi’s was too long and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. Adequate at best.

**Angelo’s Pizza, right next to the Ed Sullivan Theatre. Perfectly fine pizza in many respects, just not something I’d go out of my way to eat again.

Next page: No! Sleep! ‘Til Brooklyn!

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