Before I moved to my new apartment, I ate out a few nights per week. I kept a running list of restaurants to try and regularly spent $50 and up for a single meal. With a mortgage to pay and spacious kitchen to cook in, I'm all about potlucks and cooking clubs and dinner parties. When I do dine out, I keep it cheap. Korean burritos at Momofuku Ssam, dumplings at Rickshaw, the vegetarian banh mi at Nicky's, and pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.
It's easy to find good pizza in Brooklyn, but up until Friday, I felt like there was a small catch at every spot.
At Di Fara, home to what I believe is the borough's best pizza, pies are made with the utmost care. At a snail's place. Unless you score a table, you're forced to stand and stare. It's fun the first and second time. The third and fourth? Not as much.
Grimaldi's is another favorite, but waiting in line for at least an hour every single time gets old fast. Once inside, you'd expect a warm and friendly welcome. Instead, the servers are cold and abrasive.
This summer, I fell in love with Spumoni Gardens where fat squares of sicilian are topped with cheese and THEN tomato sauce. I love the tacky dining room and the fact that Paulie Walnuts (aka, Tony Sirico) thinks it's the best pizza in town. If only Bensonhurst were just a little closer to my apartment!
At Franny's in Prospect Heights, the pizza is top-notch. But throw in some wine and appetizers, and suddenly, my cheap night out has become a total splurge.
And then there's Lucali, my new favorite pizza place. Sitting in between big, beautiful brownstones on a sleepy street in Carroll Gardens, this is exactly where I want to eat pizza from now on.
Just like the other pizza joints, they don't take reservations and there's always a wait. The difference is that Lucali doesn't stick you in a long, neverending line. Diners are actually encouraged to take a stroll or go pick up a bottle of wine since the restaurant is BYOB. Once a table is ready, they'll call your cell phone. How progressive! For those who aren't big on walking, there's a cozy bench right outside.
The menu consists of two options -- pizza and calzones -- and rather than get annoyed or leave while Daniel, our friends Mark and Allison, and I went back and forth and forth and back on what to order, our waitress just stood there smiling while we made what felt like A VERY IMPORTANT DECISION. She didn't dare rush us or even smirk. She understood the seriousness of the situation.
Lucali was opened by Mark Iacano, a Carroll Gardens native who had never made a pie of pizza in his life. He spent two years gut renovating the space and what was once his childhood candy shop is now a warm and cozy restaurant with a tin ceiling, hardwood floors, and wooden tables.
He visited Di Fara to get some pointers and his thin pies with a crackly crust taste almost exactly like Dom's. He uses a mix of mozzarella cheeses, grana padano and his grandmother's secret sauce.
We ordered three pies: two plain and one with peppers, onions and pepperoni. After all that indecision, it was the plain pizza, with just a few fresh basil leaves that won us over. It was sweet and simple, just the way good pizza should be.
And it was pretty cheap! $69 when all was said and done (not counting the bottle of wine we bought while waiting for our table). We weren't able to finish the third pie, which was fine by me since two leftover slices made a delicious late-night snack the very next night.
575 Henry Street (at Carroll Street)