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Cold Line, Hot Pizza

January 7, 2009 - Phyllis Sigal

I really never thought I'd stand in line for an hour and a half just for pizza.

On a cold December day, no less. But, it was for the sake of food — a worthy cause. And, according to my son, apparently it was for the best pizza in New York City.

And for New York City ... well, let's just say there's a lot of pizza in the Big Apple. A lot of good pizza, at that.

So this cold day in December we stood in line for Grimaldi's Pizzeria in Brooklyn, just under the Brooklyn Bridge. (Thank goodness for my nice, warm, wool-lined boots!)

The line grew and grew behind us and we inched closer and closer to the door. We could smell the garlic and basil and tomato sauce as the wind brought the scents down the street.

Several people in line went to a nearby Starbucks to get something warm to drink while they waited. (Had I thought of it sooner, we could've waited in shifts ... two in line, two at Starbucks.)

There were small groups of people who would approach the door — not in line — apparently just checking out the situation or reading the menu posted near the door. But you should've seen those of us in line, territorial at the very least, a bit hostile, perhaps — glaring at the newcomers who didn't retreat to the back of the line.

A giant clock ticked the minutes away on the front of a warehouse just across Old Fulton Street. A wedding took place on the waterfront down the street. A UPS worker delivered six boxes to a door near where we stood, only to have to take them back to his truck. He was not happy. A limo took people away from the pizzeria; we wondered if they were famous. We also wondered if they had to wait in line if they were.

Finally, we were close enough that we were asked the number in our party. We could almost taste it. The excitement was building. Then, we were next. Finally.

And, soon, in we went. It was small and crowded and bustling and seated about 100 or so. Tables were very close together; in fact, I swept my plate and cutlery onto my seat as I tried to squeeze through two tables, catching the tablecloth (red-checkered, if my memory serves) with my coat.

The waiters were very nice. I was afraid with the crowd outside, it would feel rushed inside with impatient servers. But happily, it was quite relaxed for all the activity.

There weren't a lot of choices to make; size of pizza, toppings, beverage.

We got two; one with sausage and mushrooms; one with extra fresh mozzarella and fresh basil.

The kitchen and the coal-fired stove were right in view. We could watch the men pat out the dough, toss it in the air, place the big slabs of fresh cheese and other toppings, then shovel the pies in and out of the huge, hot, coal oven.

They were quick; before I even got back to the table from the restroom (another line!), our pizza had arrived.

It was steaming. I cautioned everyone not to burn the roof of his or her mouth with the hot cheese. Wouldn't that just be awful! Waiting all that time for the best pizza in New York, then burn your mouth numb!

The crust was New York thin — crunchy, yet chewy — and the sauce was perfect. The toppings were generous, and the sausage was quite tasty. The wine was good; a decent selection at a good price. My only complaint was that the pizza was a tiny bit soggy toward the middle of the pie.

Then, dessert. Tortoni, tartufo (chocolate-covered gelato) and of course, cannoli. So good. A sweet finish.

Was it worth the wait? A gentleman asked that question as he slid into his seat at the table next to us. "That is the $64,000 question, isn't it?" I replied.

I think it was worth the wait.

I'm not sure I'd do it again ... just like New Year's Eve in Times Square many years ago ... There are some things in life that it's just nice to say you've experienced.


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Grimaldi's Pizzeria, Brooklyn


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