By Jerry Del Priore
Who doesn’t love pizza? I love Pizza. It’s the food of the Gods, bar none. Coming from Brooklyn, its pizza, in my humble opinion, is arguably among the best the country has to offer.
I have put together a list of eight great pizza places in Brooklyn — some of which have been around for years, while others are rather newer — but in no particular order (it was hard to rank them because they’re all awesome).
Please chime in with a few of your own favorites.
By the Slice
Lenny’s Pizza – 1969 86 Street, Bensonhurst
The reasons Lenny’s made my list are twofold: First, if you grew up in the seventies, especially in Brooklyn, then how can you forget the beginning of Saturday Night Fever, when the lead, Tony Manero, played by John Travolta, orders two slices from Lenny’s?
Manero proceeds to load up the two slices on top of each other, paint can in tow, while strutting down 86th Street in Bensonhurst back to his hardware store job.
Yes, I am sure you attempted this maneuver, just like I did.
Secondly, to this day, I often visit Lenny’s to munch on one tasty slice at a time. The crispy, delicious crust, the mouth-watering savory sauce, and the unquestionably delectable mozzarella brings me back to my childhood, sans my white suit (yes, I owned one as a kid).
Di Fara Pizza — 1424 Avenue J, Midwood
At $5.00 a slice, you might think twice about grabbing a slice. Add in the at least hour-long wait and the uncertainty of when it’s open, you might skip it for a cheaper, quicker Neapolitan.
But don’t let those reasons deter you, Di Fara is that ridiculously good. Is it the sauce? Or is it the fresh mozzarella? Perhaps it’s the fresh-cut, homegrown basil placed on top of a piping hot pie. Who knows? But I know I can’t get enough of Di Fara’s slices, and it seems that way for countless customers.
Each pie is hand-crafted by the grandmaster himself, Dom De Marco, who’s spent over 40 years perfecting his pizza art. With several of his children providing support to him in the kitchen, this legend cooks up to 150 pies every day.
Many of the ingredients are imported from Italy and De Marco creates a one-of-kind taste that can’t be duplicated, and the proof is the saucy, cheesy product.
J & V Pizzeria — 6322 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst
Around since 1950, J & V is one of the lesser known pizza places by New Yorkers. But it’s a favorite of old-school Brooklynites.
I was happy to turn my buddy Sonny on to its slices, and he’s always hankers for one of its delicious offerings, with the perfectly balanced sauce that helps highlight the old-world crispy flavor that comes through with each glorious bite.
J & V also makes tasty broccoli and Margherita slices, plus a great sandwich by the name of the Jo Jo, a garlic bread chicken parmigiana sandwich, and it’s absolutely amazing.
Da Vinci Pizzeria – 6514 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst
I’ve been going to Da Vinci since my childhood days, and it’s still one of my most beloved pizza destinations to this day, especially for a Brooklyn Neapolitan (slice).
It must be the way the sauce and mozzarella (Mootz) – please pronounce it properly, or else – ceremoniously come together, creating a symphony of greatness.
Established in 1966, Da Vinci is owned and operated by brothers Angelo and Antonio Gnerre, who’ve been producing great pies founded on the recipes of their father, Fedele, a self-taught pizza chef who hailed from Avellino, Italy — the same town from which my parents originated.
By the Square
L & B Spumoni Gardens — 2725 86th Street, Gravesend
A testament to its long-standing popularity, L & B has been in operation since 1939. On wonderful sun-kissed days and beautiful evenings, as long as I can remember, you’ll find its parking lot filled to capacity, with cars double parked all the way down the block, as patrons mob the three-building (pizza place, spumoni and Italian ice parlor, restaurant) eatery in order to satisfy their Italian food craving.
While the ices, spumoni and slices are more than reasons enough to frequent L & B, make no mistake, it’s the one-of-a-kind, mouth-watering square pizza that has people from all over the city and tristate area clamoring to the Gravesend establishment.
First, L & B reverses the standard process, smothering the sauce on top of the sliced (not shredded) mozzarella instead of underneath it. That’s because the sauce is just simply superb, with an undeniable sweet-savory taste to it. But what makes the L & B Sicilian different from the rest of the pizza pack is its thick, doughy, delicious crust, with just the right amount of crunchiness. Bite after spectacular bite, you’ll escape into pizza nirvana in no time.
By the Pie
Paulie Gee — 60 Greenpoint Ave., Greenpoint
Featuring a Naples-imported, wood-fired pizza oven, Paulie Gee’s turns out such great pies such as “The Hellboy” (fresh mozzarella, Italian tomatoes, Berkshire sopressata piccante, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mike’s HOT honey — mikeshothoney.com); “The Cherry Jones” (fior di latte, gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto di Parma, dried bing cherries and orange blossom honey); and the “Ricky Ricotta” — Italian tomatoes, sweet Italian fennel sausage, Pecorino Romano, post-oven fresh ricotta dollops, baby arugula, and extra virgin olive oil.
Paulie Gee’s also has a slice shop at 110 Franklin Street in Greenpoint, as well as places in Miami, Florida, Columbus, Ohio, Baltimore, Maryland and Chicago, Illinois, for your relentless pizza cravings while you’re on vacation.
Roberta’s Pizza, 261 Moore St, Bushwick
Roberta’s opened in 2008 in a concrete bunker in Bushwick, and has been serving up awesome pizzas ever since.
Made from fantastic ingredients gathered from its backyard garden (two repurposed shipping containers were converted to grow produce and herbs), all of its pies are made in a wood-fired oven., for that special taste.
Roberta’s also supplements the rest of their produce from local farms, so its fare is always remarkably fresh. If that isn’t enough, the eco-friendly restaurant collects its own honey from on-site beehives, and houses a radio station in the back.
As for the pizza, which is the big draw for me, I am partial to the Margherita and the Little Stinker (tomato, mozzarella, Parmigiano, double garlic, onion and pepperoncini).
Note: Please don’t order this pie on a first date unless you’re hunting vampires with Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
Lucali’s – 575 Henry Street, Carroll Gardens
Lucali’s has earned its way into Brooklyn’s great pizza pantheon.
Sure, the waits are long, but get there early (around 4, though it doesn’t open to 6 p.m.), put down your name, and grab a drink at nearby watering hole as your party waits to be called.
It’s worth it, though, as Lucali’s pizza is becoming legendary; it’s rated No. 1 in New York City and No. 2 in the country.
The pizza is light and soft, but still crispy enough for a decent crunch. Additionally, the pizza comes with a plate of extra sauce and cheese, which you can dunk your crusts into when the need arises.
Hey, it’s known to be rapper Jay Z’s favorite pizza place, but I bet he doesn’t have to wait long, or at all.
Just remember that Lucali’s is closed on Tuesday.
Please check out my other blog at BrooklynSportsWorld.com.