I expected this to be the most unwieldy of the pizza tours. Twice as many people as Queens, exceeding competition for pizzeria spots, and limited seating with some of the most popular pizzerias in the city. I concentrated on making it a great tour with variety of hype and styles. I think we did that.
The crowd was great. All good eaters, friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about learning new neighborhoods and new pizza tastes. I couldn’t have asked for a better group.
We met at Motorino around noon. This was one of two places I hadn’t been to before the tour. I took the recommendations of many people I respect and considered the naysayers when selecting this Williamsburg jaunt. That and being so close to the L train solidified it’s spot as the 1st stop on the Brooklyn leg of the 5-Boro Pizza Tour.
The staff was accommodating, knowledgeable, and passionate. They had reason to be. We got 4 pies for the 16 of us (1 Margherita, 2 DOC, 1 Soppressata Piccante). With a few bites, it was easy to see what separated this from the rest: the crust. Deep, sharp, strong flavors in there. Everything about the pie was taken to another level. Even the Soppressata was alarmingly strong. The sauce and the cheese (when present) were appreciated as well, it’s subtleties and strength making it one of Brooklyn’s best.
It was a bit expensive, though was the latest in the evolution of pies for our day. As it turned out, we were tracing the history of pizza…backwards.
Next was Roberta’s of Bushwick. And like everything Bushwick lately, it was in an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere. Do I need to say that this was my favorite entrance of the lot?
This was the other pizza I hadn’t been formally introduced to. And though it was my most anticipated, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would enjoy the entire experience, notably the lodge setting.
The kitchen welcomes you before the waiters do, and surveying those seated already with the blanketing dark brown decor, it made me want to sit and stay for the day. Some of the chairs were taken out of my kitchen 1985, and the picnic tables either came out of an Astoria beer garden or Germany itself. We took the longest table ever made and presented ourselves as patrons of the 2nd stop on the Brooklyn leg of the 5-Boro Pizza Tour.
We ordered 2 margherita, one White and Green, Guanciale & Egg, and RPS.
Roberta’s was one of the crowd favorites. People definitely appreciated the cheese coverage better than that of Motorino. They also may have been romanced by the complimentary corteze(?) specialty pies for us which had radishes, pickled onions, cilantro, Heritage pork, fennel sausage and a drizzle of a cheese.
We came here to compare on a level playing field. So the Margherita had a great mix of cheese and sauce and while the crust did not have the depth as Motorino’s, the cheese coverage was appreciated.
The future of pizza is looking very good.
Luigi’s Pizza (686 5th Ave (20th St & 21st St)) is extremely good pizza. One very few knew about and even less have been to. I think my exploratory Brooklyn tour partner and I were the only one’s who’d eaten here and Delmar before.
Great cheese and cheesiness, fresh tomatoes, upright herbs with an unnecessary and exceedingly appreciated drizzle of pesto. What is he doing??? He dropped the two pies on our tables and, stunned by it’s uneven roundness and the dots of pesto, it seemed like everyone took a few seconds to compose themselves as they realized this artist in a red sauce stained white t-shirt.
As I was leaving, I had a great conversation with the owner, Giovanni. What integrity! He says to me: “Tell me: what makes these ‘gourmet’ pizzas anyway??” “Well, I don’t even know. Seems like a small size and expensive.” We got into it a bit and he tells me he got into a fight with a guy over it. With him standing about 6 ft, 230 lbs, I was all ears… To the gourmet’s claims of higher quality ingredients, he says to me: “You know what?? I have the best ingredients out of all of them! My father, he grows the herbs and tomatoes in his garden. I have the best flour available. It comes straight from the mill to my shop. I am the only one who uses this flour anymore. It is very expensive, I have to buy it by the truckload. My father owns these few stores around here. You see the store next to us? I use it to store my flour.”
Giovanni knows himself as a working man and loves it. He cooks for the people, happy as a civil servant. I don’t think he could live with himself if he ripped people off with $5 slices. And here, at $12 per pie, this was likely the cheapest slice I’ve had all year.
Old school, new school, it’s a quality slice. Honesty, integrity. Luigi’s is undeniably one of the best slices in Brooklyn.
We went to Di Fara’s next. We arrived around 3:30pm, but unfortunately, they closed the gates extraordinarily early until 6:30pm. Determined, we put in an order (just in case) for 7pm and went on our way to Delmar in Sheepshead Bay.
Delmar is a traditional NY pizza amplified. The neighborhood is Brooklyn but weirder. The pies are saltier, sweeter, crisper and more satisfying than nearly every other pie on earth. We took over 4 booths with the orange curved seats and had a fun time with our childhoods.
On to our last stop, L&B Spumoni Gardens…
L&B was a wonderful place to end the tour. That place is timeless. The picnic benches, the pizza and ice cream, the distorted radio in the background. What a beautiful place. As expected (and hoped for), it was a polarizing slice. Many liked, many didn’t. (I loved). It summed up what the tour was about: good times, meeting new people and trying new things, searching for love.
We never made it back to Di Fara. It is a great pizza, but the lines are too prohibitive now. I suggest everyone to make the pilgrimage and go on a Wednesday or Thursday. Order a pie, watch the man and be satisfied with only an hour’s wait. It’s worth it.
This tour was unwieldy and I loved it. New places, new neighborhoods, new people and a greater picture of pizza in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is big and deep. There are still areas uncovered and my fears of ruining all the fun of discovery with this tour are unfounded. I haven’t even stepped foot in Canarsie and there is much more not covered by the likes of anything .com or penguin press. Life is good and I want to live forever.
Brooklyn is ripe. Staten Island is next.
Narrowly missed the cut: Elegante, Totonno’s (fire), DaVinci, Lucali (opens too late), Sam’s Restaurant, Fascati, Il Colosseo