Is there anyway to go to New York City and not overindulge in pizza? I know I can never have enough and I wanted to find at least one quintessential New York Pizzeria.
Our day had already been pretty full with a stop at the Carnegie Deli, Lindy’s, and a taping of the Late Show. After Letterman, we still weren’t really hungry, but didn’t want to go back to our hotel. If we did that, we both knew we would get lazy, lay down in bed, and grudgingly find something for dinner in the area.
Instead, we decided to keep exploring NYC. J needed a new case for her iPhone and we saw the Apple Store was within walking distance of the Ed Sullivan Theater, so that’s where we headed. It was ridiculously packed on a Tuesday afternoon, but we got what we went for then headed next door to FAO Schwartz. After resisting the urge to buy everything in the store for our nieces, we decided it was time to start heading towards dinner.
Lombardi’s Pizza is on Spring Street in the Nolita neighborhood. It’s a short walk from the Spring Street-Lexington MTA subway stop which worked out perfectly. Almost as soon as we made it back to street level, the skies opened up again and it started to rain pretty hard.
We made it to the restaurant right as the hardest rain we had seen that day started, so we quickly ducked inside. The hostess was even joking that the only reason we even stopped in was because we wanted to get out of the rain.
All joking aside, we were stoked to be at Lombardi’s. They claim to be the first pizza joint in New York and quite possible the first pizza joint in the United States. They are the first documented pizzeria in the US. That’s not disputed.
Lombardi’s opened in 1897 as a grocery store. In 1905, they were issued a New York merchantile license. The original store was actually closed in 1984. In 1994, a childhood friend of the grandson of the original owner actually reopened the store in the current location.
Lombardi’s today is a bar and pizzeria. When you first walk in, you come to a small bar area. There are tables in this area as well as a pretty old looking bar. This area was full so the host pointed us to the back room where another guy had a couple menus and he took us to a table for two.
This area is pretty interesting. It looks like a total afterthought. It’s not much more than hallway with tile floors that they squeezed some tables in to.
We were seated pretty close to the table next to us, so we did our best not to look like a couple of tourists giddy over what lied ahead.
We both started with drinks while we looked over the menu. I got a RC Cola which costs a little over $2. Not bad except there are no refills. They did bring tap water for us to drink as well which was good because one drink would not have been enough. Since there were no refills, J decided to order an Italian soda. Tastes better than a pop, costs the same, and since there’s no refills, why not?
The menu is not huge and all we really wanted was pizza. We chose to go with the large which is an 18″ pizza. The pizza price is just for cheese. Every item you add is another $3. We don’t agree on a lot of pizza toppings, but one we could both agree on was pancetta, so that’s what we got.
We sat there expecting to wait quite a while for our pizza, so it was a little surprising when our pizza was delivered less than ten minutes after we ordered.
The pizza is a traditional New York style thin crust that is cooked in a coal oven. It’s got a great smoky flavor and a very crispy bottom crust. The sauce was a great chunky style sauce that was used sparingly. The pizza was a perfect combination of flavors. There was just the right amount of fresh mozzarella cheese used and the pancetta was cooked just enough that is was not crispy and burnt, but still had a little bit of a crunch to it. The pizza was topped off with fresh basil after it came out of the oven which was J’s favorite part.
Lombardi’s still doesn’t top our favorite pizza place in Chicago, but it probably comes in second. The pizza was fantastic. It had a nice crunch to it and worked perfectly as a folded over NY slice. Our bill was a little over $30 and we left with a few slices left for a midnight snack. I felt ridiculous when I realized we left the hotel with one slice left in the fridge….I hope housekeeping at least got to enjoy it.