Pizza-loving foodies in New York City have been arguing for years about which famous pizzeria makes the best pie. The oldest contender is Lombardi’s, where the original New York-style pizza was supposedly invented in 1905 when Gennaro Lombardi, an immigrant from Naples, started selling tomato pies in his grocery store.
If you go by Zagat’s ratings, the best pies are from Grimaldi’s, a no-frills parlor tucked under the Brooklyn Bridge. Michelle Obama raved about their pizza when she and the First Daughters stopped in last March (and we can be sure the three of them didn’t have to wait on the lines usually snaking around the block).
Patsy Grimaldi learned to make pies as a boy working at his uncle’s legendary pizzeria, Patsy’s, in Spanish Harlem. (Yes, his uncle was also called Patsy.) Grimaldi opened his own place in Dumbo in 1990, and has lately been branching out. This month, one tentacle reached New Paltz. Yes, pizza fans! There’s a Grimaldi’s in New Paltz! Now we in the mid-Hudson Valley can sink our teeth into the smoky, coal-fired, thin-crust pies beloved of such luminaries as Frank Sinatra and Rudy Guiliani.
I love the wood-fired, Isabella sourdough-crust pizza at Baba Louie’s in Hudson, topped with (among other things) roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips. (I can hear you purists squawking from here, but it’s delicious.) I also like the pie with eggplant topping at Chefs on Fire in High Falls. When I worked in Poughkeepsie, I often used to get a slice from (of all places) O’Shea’s Sports Grill on IBM Road, whose owner had inherited a brick oven from the former Italian occupants. I think the place is closed now, which is too bad — that slice was a splendidly cheesy, messy affair, and cheap, too.
I’d never had a Grimaldi’s pie, so as soon as the New Paltz outpost opened, I stopped in. It’s in the space where Toscani’s once had a restaurant and piano bar. The former restaurant side now has tables and a pizza-making station in front of the oven. The piano-bar side is more softly lit, with the bar and the piano still in place. Slate blue walls, a wood floor, and tables with red and white checked cloths make it casually comfy, and there’s a big backlit photo of the Manhattan skyline, presumably the view from the Brooklyn Grimaldi’s.
I got a small, 16-inch pie to go, and the crust lost some of its crispness after being driven for 20 minutes and then reheated. Still, it had that slightly charred, smoky taste. Melted mozzarella and small pools of tangy sauce were strewn with basil leaves, and the whole thing was surprisingly light, delicate, clean, and fresh. A small pie ($12) was plenty for two of us along with a Caesar salad (which was tasty enough, but not remarkable). Next time, we’ll eat in and try some toppings. Check it out. So far, there are no lines, but it’s early days.