Pizza, pizza: it's cheap, delicious, and in the news—even making it into Page Six today via a Jimmy Fallon incident at Posto—an enviable feat for any food item. (Even burgers should be jealous.) Every time we turn around, a new pizza joint seems to be opening: Emporio, Spunto, Ignazio's, Sora Lella, Scuderia, Kesté Pizza & Vino, Tonda—and that's just within the last month.

Before you go chasing after the latest speck-inflected wonder, however, don't forget the classics, because the one thing pizza shouldn't be is trendy. A hot oven (wood- or coal-burning), 00 flour, the finest, freshest toppings and the correct technique are what go into the ideal pizza.

I had a madeleine moment when I bit into the pizza at Lucali's in Carroll Gardens for the first time last week—it transported me to a rustic little pizzeria outside Florence, years ago. The Italians would drive for miles to get to this place. And so it is at Lucali, where even at 7:15, the wait for a table for two is two hours. Don't go hating on the reverse bridge-and-tunnelers like me, though, for the wait—most of it is due to local fans who put their names in, then happily go home and wait.

In Lucali's open kitchen, which, because of the wood-burning oven, is more of an open hearth surrounded by a white marble countertop, the chef grates the bufala mozzarella by hand. The choices for toppings are traditional, not trendy. One particularly sublime ingredient is the pepperoni, which, according to Serious Eats, comes from Esposito's around the corner. This plus the onion was a fantastic combination--the sweetness of the onion contrasting with the smoky spiciness of the pepperoni. An excellent pizza is all about balance: the crispiness of the crust versus the chewy pockets of air at the edges, the tang of the sauce versus the creaminess of the cheese, then the high notes of basil and a little garlic. Lucali's achieves this and then some, since all of the ingredients are potent and fresh enough to stand on their own. The attention to detail is particularly impressive: there's a scant amount of freshly grated Parmesan sprinkled on top to give the cheese the slightest edge.

The ingredients aren't the only thing here with an excellent pedigree. Slice reports that the oven comes from defunct Leonardo's down the street, and owner Mark Iacono, who was raised in this once primarily Italian-American neighborhood, uses recipes from his Italian granny and aunts.

And guess what? The candlelit restaurant is actually romantic. There aren't very many romantic pizza restaurants in NYC, and this one lets you BYOB, so our tab came to about $30 for two.

Lucali's Strategy

  • Go early and put your name in. The hostess will take your cell number and call when your table's ready.
  • There aren't any bars right near by. A good option a couple blocks away is Court Street's Minibar, which has a nice selection of wines by the glass.
  • Dress as if you'll be sitting outside for a half hour or more in the cold, because you very well may be.
  • There is nothing on the menu but pizza and calzones. Literally.
  • Don't forget to bring your own wine. Small corkage fee - $4?
  • If all else fails, Lucali's also offers take out!
575 Henry St
Brooklyn, NY 11231


Lila said...

Actually, they also serve calzones.

bellastraniera said...

You're right. Also, there's a small corkage fee. Corrections amended!