I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is undeniably tasty pizza. It is reminiscent of DiFara’s right down to the unmelted grana padano sprinkled on top (are people into that?) and the long wait. I loved it that the owner stands there making pies out in the open next to his brick oven with all his ingredients laid out for everyone to see.
What concerns me is what this whole thing says about the state of New York pizza. A brand new place opens and within hours, there is a long wait just to get through the door. And every food writer in the city jumps on the story.
This shouldn’t be a story. Lucali’s is good -- very good -- but I wish it had gotten a little lost in a crowd of great pizza places. However, there just isn’t much of a crowd of great pizza places.
So many of the great institutions are not what they used to be. John’s of Bleeker Street seems to have stopped trying. Joe’s of Carmine Street is mediocre at best now. And after exactly one century of making pizzas ringed with deliciously charred, chewy crusts, Lombardi’s decided to start putting their dough through a machine, leaving the edges flat. Like no one was going to notice?
Lucali’s has the advantage of not being old enough for people to start claiming it’s gone downhill. But the last new pizzeria that garnered a buzz like Lucali’s, Una Pizza Napolitana, is now prohibitively expensive. Hopefully, Lucali's doesn't go that route.
Of course, there is still great pizza all over New York. But isn’t “New York pizza” the food New York is most known for (or is it “New York pickles”)? Go to Grenada and every falafel you find will be absolutely amazing. Go to Chicago and every hot dog you eat will make your heart skip a beat (or stop beating entirely). Go to Napoli and every pizza will be perfect. I constantly talk with confused, disappointed tourists who’ve had multiple bad pizza experiences before they meet me, and they can’t understand why. Telling them that most pizza in New York isn’t even good, much less great, feels like telling a Christian child that Santa doesn’t exist.
Lucali’s does gives me hope though. But New York needs about 100 more pizzerias as good or better. This groundswell of interest in and support for a tiny, new pizzeria at the edge of Brooklyn makes me think that this town is hungry, almost starving, for great pizza. I know I am.
Lucali's, 575 Henry Street, Brooklyn 718-858-4086