On a recent trip to NYC, I tagged a photo of a pizza with “The pizza against which all pizza is measured.” In a city known for its pizza, what could possibly be considered that good (at least in my mind)? Why Patsy’s, of course…er, Grimaldi’s… er, Juliana’s.
In Brooklyn in the early 90’s, under the Brooklyn Bridge, there was a pizza place called Patsy’s Pizza. This was before Brooklyn became uber hip. This was when, as kids, we weren’t allowed past Court Street. (Smith Street? Bushwick? Definitely not). Most pizza in NY at that time was Ray’s, or some version of it. Crust, sauce and lots of cheese. Served by the slice behind a counter.
Patsy’s was different. It had a chewy crust with burnt spots, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce that actually tasted like tomatoes. There was always a line and they didn’t deliver. Manhattanites even came to Brooklyn to eat at Patsy’s, braving the F train or the long walk down Squib Hill (remember, this was the early 1990’s – people from Manhattan did not come to Brooklyn).
It turns out, that the story of Patsy’s pizza is a bit of a soap opera – Eater called it a “Pizza War.”
In 1995, a lawsuit forced Patsy Grimaldi to change the name to Grimaldi’s Pizza. Three years later, he sold the restaurant and the name to Frank Ciolli, who moved it two doors down. Ciolli turned Grimaldi’s pizza into an empire with locations all over the world.
In December 2012, Patsy Grimaldi returned to the original space to open a new pizza place called Juliana’s, named after his mother. The restaurant is new, but not really. It’s got the same limited menu: pizza, soda, chianti, one salad offering (a recent visit with a friend’s 3-year old revealed that they don’t even serve milk). And the pizza… it is as good as it ever was. It needs to be eaten right out of the oven so the cheese and crust are hot.
When I was there, Juliana’s had been open 3 days. It wasn’t as crowded as Grimaldi’s down the street. Give it time, we said.
Now there is news that Grimaldi’s is coming to LA. I’m excited, of course. It’s a taste of home. But it should be known that this is not the pizza of Patsy Grimaldi. Only that can be found in Brooklyn, under the bridge.