Grimaldi’s Coal-Brick Oven Pizzeria

Written by on September 18, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

( – Brooklyn, New York City, New York

How I heard of this place: In February of 2008, I was on my way to NYC for Fashion Week and someone on the flight from Los Angeles, California mentioned Grimaldi’s. He said it’sthe place to go for pizza in the northeast. Of course, not having had the opportunity to partake of the delicacies which NYC has to offer, it made an imprint on my mind. For over three years I have wondered about Grimaldi’s. It came up again, while looking through a friends pictures (mobile uploads) on Facebook and coming across a steamy, bubbling, thin-crust pizza and learning that it, too, was from Grimaldi’s. Over and over the place has made a name for itself, both in my life, and, as I recently came to see, in nearly everyone else’s lives as well.

Type of cuisine: One antipasto, four pizzas (either small or large, regular or white), two calzones (small or large), a limited list of toppings and beverages, including sodas, juice, Snapple, still or sparkling water, beer or wine. And four desserts from which to choose, washing it all down with one of four hot beverages. Simple. Easy. But not mainstream.

Designed and built by hand, the coal-fired oven at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria delivers a unique flavor and consistency that is just not possible from wood or gas ovens. Weighing in at 25 tons and heated by 100 pounds of coal per day (cleanest burning fuel available and environmentally tested), the oven heats up to 1200 degrees. We also purchase special coal from Pennsylvania called anthracite. It actually burns cleaner and more Eco-friendly than gas or wood-fired methods. The intense heat of the oven and coal evenly bakes the pies to create Grimaldi’s famous crispy and smokey crust that Zagat has voted BEST PIZZA year after year. Combined with our freshly made dough, fresh mozzarella (delivered daily), and fresh, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, Grimaldi’s Pizza is the best in all of New York City.”


Ambiance: Their list of don’ts says it all: “No credit cards. No reservations. No slices. No delivery.” Apparently less is more at Grimaldi’s. Walk through the glass door at the front,only after being invited in by your host, an elderly gentleman wearing a pin-striped, dark grey button-up shirt with charcoal slacks, white suspenders and an almost-black fedora. The doors lead into a small lobby, which immediately opens onto the cramped quarters of what is Grimaldi’s Pizzeria under the Brooklyn Bridge. Red- and white-checked tableclothes cover each table, but can hardly be seen among the dozens of patrons, loudly conversing and making ordering decisions. Metallic lamp-shades make their way down, over the tables, from the ceiling, resembling lights you might see in a dark room where mobsters gather to play poker. The white walls are covered in framed photographs of celebrities, politicians and other famous types who have dined at Grimaldi’s over the years. Wait staff hustle and bustle through the mini-aisles created between tables and chairs to bring 18-inch pizzas to drooling, hungry patrons. Windows facing street-side at the front of the establishment give way to natural lighting, though the back still feels dimly lit. The wall to your far right and towards the back of the establishment, from where you enter, is full of boxes and supplies on garage-style shelving units. The kitchen, open to the restaurant, is blocked only by a marble-slab counter top and plexiglass, through which one can see the large containers of fresh vegetables, pepperoni and cheese. The coal-fire oven just behind, exude heat and flames, which light up the kitchen, as workers smile and toss pizza dough into the air until it is cardboard-thin. Pizza and calzones are placed on cubed stands  to allow for a bit of dining space, on plates, underneath. Two trays covering the entire table for four.  

What I ordered: My husband, good friend from Queens and I decided to meet at Grimaldi’s after a weekend in Brooklyn – me, for a conference, my husband, to hang out and take in the street festivals and sites – we could not leave without having finally sampled Grimaldi’s pizza. I skipped the afternoon session of my conference to get lost on the subway and wait in a 33-minute line, underneath some construction scaffolding, along Old Fulton, before being called in by the old man wearing a fedora, and pin-striped suit with grey slacks, held together by white suspenders. The simplicity of the menu made it easy to decide: one, large, regular pizza ($14), which comes with fresh mozzarella, crushed tomatoes and basil, and the addition of pepperoni, Italian sausage, sliced onions, mushrooms and fresh garlic (additional $2 each).

Pizza First

We also had to sample the large (18-inch) calzone ($16) with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, ricotta cheese, pepperoni and onions (additional $2 per topping applied here, too).

Calzone Second

To sip on, we had one Coke ($2) and two Olde Brooklyn Sodas ($2 each) in the Cream variety. When in Brooklyn…Right?

Cream Soda

What I loved: I loved the thin crust, the huge size of the calzone, the very fresh ingredients – from the soft and stringy mozzarella to the mushrooms and the basil, from the sausage that looked to have been rolled in house, to the crunchy, transparent onion slices…and, of course, the crunch of fresh chopped garlic, heaped to generous proportions on our pizza. 

Why I loved it: I love the simplicity of the menu and the bustling feeling of the space. I love the smallness of the interior and the greatness of the food. I love that there are nearly as many employees – from kitchen-staff to wait-staff as there are customers in the establishment. I love that we were squeezed in, between two other tables, and no one seemed to think anything of it.

Cost: Average to high ($12-$16 per pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil or crushed garlic; all additional toppings $2 each)

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