Thursday, August 25, 2005

A day trip to Grimaldi's

8.26.05 - A beautiful warm sunny day in New York. JH had told me about a pizza place in Brooklyn – Grimaldi’s – which he said had maybe the best pizza in New York. Definitely the best pizza in Brooklyn. Another friend took her son there last Sunday for an outing and reported back that it was better even than a certain pizza joint in the Village.

I’m not a pizza connoisseur. Although, as any pizza lover knows, there are differences. The worst, of course, are the run-of-the-mill pizzas, dry and tired, in those joints that are a dime a dozen and the plain cheese slice is $2.75 and one is enough unless you’re famished.

This place, Grimaldi’s, however, also has the special allure of being under the Brooklyn Bridge in an area that has been fairly recently developed called Dumbo. Don’t ask; I’ve already forgotten. In order to get there, you can cross the bridge by car or bus or foot or ... you can take the Water Taxi.

I’d never taken the Water Taxi although JH has. So he and I met just before noon yesterday at 34th Street and the FDR where the Water Taxi comes in. We were going to take the 12:02 to the Old Fulton Street Landing on the other side of the River.
We embarked 34th Street at 12:02 PM and were soon treated to great views of The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the UN Building on the far right
Beneath the Manhattan Bridge, approaching the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan
There was a bigger ferry that came in just before us with a big line waiting for it. They were going up to Yankee Stadium for a game. What a great way to go to the game!

After the Yankee fans left, the Water Taxi – which is painted yellow like all the other taxis in the city – docked and we went aboard. There are two decks – the lower, which is enclosed and has comfortable cushioned seats, and the upper which is open. We took the upper.
Passing boats, ferries, and barges with a side view of Lady Liberty
Approaching the Brooklyn Bridge
Pulling up to the dock
What a beautiful ride it is down river around the bend going first under the Williamsburg Bridge and then the Manhattan Bridge, where Wall Street comes in view and the Statue of Liberty standing out there by herself. The city was sparkling under the blue skies and bright sun.

Manhattan is beautiful from the water. The massive skyscrapers clustered together, the FDR with the cars zipping both north and south; the passing barges and tugs and private boats. It’s about a fifteen-minute ride to the Old Fulton Street Landing under the great stone Brooklyn Bridge. Glorious! Heavenly! Beautiful!

We docked at the spot where George Washington and his troops embarked to cross over to Manhattan to escape the British troops on the night of August 29, 1776, exactly 229 years ago next Monday. It is also the same spot where the very snazzy and popular River Café restaurant sits today. From there we walked a half a block or so to a block of storefronts and especially to one called Grimaldi’s.
Our 12:16 PM arrival into Fulton Ferry Landing/DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass).
Grimaldi’s was called Patsy’s for years, the first name of Mr. Grimaldi, the owner. There was another in Harlem, called Patsy’s, that was founded in 1933 by Patsy’s uncle, Pasquale Lancieri. Sixty-four years ago, Patsy Grimaldi started working there for his uncle Patsy.

In 1990 Mr. Grimaldi and his wife Carol opened this Patsy’s on Old Fulton Street. The following year the Harlem Patsy’s was sold to a real estate group who used the name to start Patsy’s all over town. Hence the name change of the Grimaldi’s Brooklyn pizzeria in 1996.
L. to r.: "This tablet marks the Brooklyn Ferry Landing from which point the American Army embarked during the night of August 29th 1776 under the direction of General George Washington ably assisted by Colonel John Glover of Marblehead, Massachusetts"; Grimaldi's Pizzeria on Old Fulton Street.
Inside is a large Italian looking restaurant with red and white check tablecloths and lots of photos and memorabilia of Frank Sinatra on the walls. Must be he ate there. Or filmed something there. There were a lot of professional people at tables of two, four, eight including firemen, policemen, office workers, families. In the back of the long room was the counter where they make the pizzas and beyond that, the ovens.

On each table for two is a metal rack for holding one metal pizza tray. The menu offers two sizes: 18” for $14 and the 16” for $12. White Pizza is $2. extra. I don’t know what that is, white pizza. Large Calzone is $16 and small is $14. All toppings are $2. extra except for Red Sweeet Roasted Peppers and Sun Dried tomatoes, which are $4. Extra grated cheese: a buck.

Then they’ve got the wine, the beer (including Brooklyn lager or pilsner $4. each) and the water and soft drinks. On the bottom of the menu it says: No Slices, No Credit Cards (underlined), No Delivery, No Reservations, Open 7 days a week.

We ordered a large half mozzarella and tomato sauce
and half the same also with garlic and pepperoni. About five minutes later it was served steaming hot on the table rack. The ovens are SO HOT that the pizza cooks in about a minute. JH said the oven is so hot, the ingredients fairly explode once put in.

And it was – for me anyway – the best pizza I’ve ever had, I think, ever.
The ample tomato sauce really tasted tomato-y, the cheese was fresh, the crust was thin and crisp. And we devoured the pie in a matter of minutes. Then JH said he could eat another. I agreed. He said, maybe the smaller one this time. I said, yeah, maybe. I was tempted. Except it’s all too much. He agreed. And so we didn’t.
Ahhh, the masterpiece, half plain (for JH), half pepperoni and garlic (for DPC). Polished off in no less than 5 minutes.
After this delicious lunch, we took a stroll over to a park on the riverside, right by the bridge. There were a lot of people out sunning themselves and watching Manhattan across the way, and the boats go by and the planes and the helicopters flying over. And quite a few wild geese feeding until a parks cart came along and rustled them up and they all spread their wings and flew like the elegant Concorde over the railing and into the river, squealing their disdain all the way.

After a half hour of digesting our magnificent pizza lunch, we strolled back over to the Old Fulton Street Landing where in a narrow old clapboard house they sell homemade ice cream. In cones or cups. There was a line inside. A single cone for $3 was big. I had chocolate. It tasted like no ice cream I’ve had since I was a kid working on Saturday’s in Friendly’s Ice Cream parlor. Back then, not the ice cream you get now. God it was good. Just as we got the cones, the yellow Water Taxi was pulling up to the dock. We got on, paid our fares, went up to the open deck and headed back to Manhattan.

It was 2:16 when we arrived at the 34th Street dock. JH reminded me that this was less time from beginning to end than a Michael’s lunch, and we’d been to Brooklyn. I was sated, and the trip across the water was a close second to a yacht in the Mediterranean. Brief of course, but beautiful. Although, I could have had another pizza and ... another chocolate cone. However, too much of a good thing ...
Inside Grimaldi's
The forgotten bridges, the Manhattan Bridge, in the foreground, and Williamsburg Bridge, in the distance
Ivy grows envious of the Manhattan Bridge; A Police helicopter in flight; A goose about to take flight.
Scenes from the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
Making our way back to Manhattan and eventually docking whence we came on East 34th Street.