Southern Brooklyn

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria: Plain Pizza – The Bite

Photo by Robert Fernandez
Photo by Robert Fernandez

THE BITE: I’m going to dive into the great pizza debate that rages over Brooklyn.

Here in Southern Brooklyn, we are lucky to have two of the best pizza parlors in the world. Di Fara, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s personal favorite, and Totonno’s, labeled best by one of my favorite food writers, Robert Sietsema. But, there’s one other, a recent arrival to the neighborhood who in its original location vied for the crown, called Grimaldi’s.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria (1215 Surf Avenue, between West 8th Street and Stillwell Avenue) claims to have been  creating coal-fired pizza for more than 100 years. But I wonder if that claim is legitimate here. The Coney Island location is not listed or even mentioned on the chain’s website but it does share the logo.

Whatever. I really don’t care as long as the food is good, and at Grimaldi’s of Coney Island the food is good. Arriving on one of the coldest nights of the year, my wife and I sat down in a near empty restaurant and ordered a large “regular pie” (fresh mozzarella, crushed tomatoes and basil) with extra basil. This eight-slice pie costs $14 and a bargain compared to the other pizza giants. (The additional basil upped the cost to $16.) Totonno’s, located a couple of blocks away, charges $19.50 and Di Fara a whopping $28!

This, my friend, is a great pie. The crust is lightly charred from the coal-burning oven. Chewy, slightly doughy, it’s the perfect platform for the toppings. The sauce – is there a “sauce” or is it simply crushed tomatoes? Regardless, the sauce is barely sweet and tastes like summer-kissed fresh tomatoes. The mozzarella creamy and mild. The basil adds some needed snap with its slightly anise flavor. This pie is what I think of when I think of pizza.

So, dear readers, Grimaldi’s is my pizza of choice during the winter months.

Sorry, Di Fara – but you’ve priced yourself out. Totonno’s: well, you’re good – damn good in fact, but not good enough to justify the additional money. Totonno’s has one great advantage in the heat of  the summer. It’s less than half the size of Grimaldi’s. During the busy summer months Grimaldi’s opens and closes its pizza oven’s doors so often that the temperature is greatly reduced. So much so that they need to “refresh” their oven every evening between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. causing their pizza to often arrive a bit undercooked for my liking. Totonno’s doesn’t have this problem.

But it’s winter. And when winter is coming, I’m heading to Grimaldi’s.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, 1215 Surf Avenue, (718) 676-2630.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

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