“Welcome to Brooklyn,” I said, even though we’d been in the borough for 4 hours already. A half dozen Hasidic children darted by. I saw perplexed expressions wash over my customers’ faces. We all stood there as if shell shocked, holding what remained of our Grimaldi’s slice and staring off at the desolate Floyd Bennett airfield. Countless Hasidic families roamed the grounds oblivious to the shameful pizza we’d just eaten.
I’d picked up the Pattin family from their midtown hotel the morning after they’d flown in from Washington State. This was their first time in New York City: mom, dad, 10 year old Madeline, and 8 year old Marty. Before they saw the tree, before they did the hop-on hop-off double decker tourist bus, they wanted to eat as much of New York as possible, so they hired me.
When I met them, they’d already had one meal. “When we got in, it was really late at night . . . like 10 . . . so all we could do was order a pizza. It was so bad I couldn’t believe it. I think it was called Ray’s.” My heart sank. “Well, we’ll get you guys some great pizza today,” I stated confidently, as we headed down to the lower east side for our breakfast of whitefish salad bagels and pickles.
By the time we reached Grimaldi’s, the Pattins had already gotten a good taste of Brooklyn with Ferdinando’s rice ball and cannoli, Steve’s key lime piesicle, Nathan’s hot dogs, Spumoni Gardens thick slices and spumoni, and Brennan and Carr’s roast beef sandwich.
“There is a man named Patsy Grimaldi who is a legend in New York, and he just came out of retirement to open a slice joint right near here,” I said as Marty proudly handed me the last bite of our hot beef sandwich. “I’ve never been there,” I warned, “but if it’s true it’s Patsy Grimaldi doing it, it’s going to be good.” It felt strange to quote myself. The Pattins-- brave, adventurous, and super cool (they all joined in on a rousing rendition of “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” as we crossed the Manhattan Bridge)-- gladly agreed to the expedition.
When we arrived at Floyd Bennett Field, it was entirely overrun with Hasidic Jews. This is a common phenomenon in New York, particularly at The Bronx Zoo on Wednesdays. In Washington State, I’d imagine it’s unheard of. The Pattins, I could see, were surprised.
Marty realized he was the only boy not wearing a yarmulka. “Where’s your little black hat?” Madeline asked me innocently, knowing that I’m Jewish. “I don’t do everything God tells me to do,” I smiled.
We got one $2.50 slice to share. It was the last one in the pie, and it had either burnt during reheating or it was just born that way. Either way, no one liked it. Even though Patsy himself was nowhere to be seen, I kept the faith. “Wait,” I told everyone. “A fresh pie is about to come out.”
We got the first slice, still bubbling hot. It looked great. It smelled great. And then we tried to eat it.
SOUPY!?!?! There was enough sauce on that one slice for the entire pizza. We had to eat around the soaked center of the slice. The bites we were able to eat were pretty good though.
“I’d take that place off your list,” Mr. Pattin said. I'd hoped Grimaldi's at Aviator would be at least as good as Grimaldi's on Old Fulton. A Hasidic child broke free from his mom and made a mad dash for the basketball court nearly bowling one or two of us over. “Why are there so many Jews here?” one of the Pattins inquired. I glanced down at our sorry slice of Grimaldi’s, looked around, and told them, “Welcome to Brooklyn.”
Grimaldi's At Aviator, Aviator Sports and Recreation Center, Hangar 5, Floyd Bennett Field