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For the Very Best Pizza Brooklyn Has to Offer: “Patsy’s Pizza”

We are well into the new year and I have officially gone to my first new pizzeria of 2017, Patsy’s Pizza. It is has been on my annual to do list since last year. I have to say Patsy’s Pizza is my strongest and latest love affair.

Last week I went with a friend for lunch. I expected us to be alone but for a weekday there were many patrons sitting down for a meal. Immediately upon entering we were greeted by the most friendly and funny bartender I have ever met. It felt like the Italian version of Cheers. Many other customers were even given kisses on the cheek upon entering. I hope to accomplish this high status after a few more visits.

The entire staff could not have been more welcoming and accommodating. We each had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, a white wine I would never normally order but this bartender, sad to say I did not get his name, recommended and it was incredible!

The most popular dish is the Margherita pizza but we went another way. We both wanted the Vodka Sauce pie so that’s what we got. There are no slices served here as it is family style all the way, so you have to order a whole pie. What you don’t have to do is eat the entire thing unless you are me and my friend. We felt compelled to. To leave a slice or two remaining or to have it wrapped to take home seemed like a sin. The real sin I now know is having never tasted this pizza in the first place.

The smell of the sauce on the pizza hit me before I even saw it. It was a thin crust pizza with the homemade sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese- one of my most favorite! I can eat that cheese a pound at a time with literally nothing else. It is certainly the food of my soul.

If I thought the smell was heavenly then the taste set me right over the edge. My friend and I both were instantly addicted. The first few slices went down pretty fast but that is not to say we weren’t savoring each bite. When it was all over I wasn’t even sure how much I had eaten until I asked my friend. It turns out I got three and a half slices down. I would like to note that we ate lunch around one thirty in the afternoon I was full until eight o’clock at night at which point I only had a small salad.

But I am forgetting one of the most important parts of our meal. The rice balls!! I am a rice ball aficionado and have had them just about everywhere. A good place to start to confirm my story is to read every pizza or Italian food related blog. But ooh Patsy’s how you make me a true believer!! These rice balls were the crunchiest I have ever had. Truly I did not realize how flat every other kind I have had was. This crisp crunch is not something I could ever give up, although I am sure when lesser balls are put in front of me I will still eat them, just for nourishment though.

As for the inside that too was just how I like it, only white rice and cheese, no meats, peas, or sauce. These had a blend of cheeses that made my mouth sing. It felt like I could do that scene from “A Sound of Music” where Julie Andrews is singing in the Alps on the mountaintop. I am now convinced she had some of Patsy’s rice balls shipped to her right before she filmed that scene. If not I am just imagining how much more epic that really could have been done.

While my experience at Patsy’s was delightful researching it’s past was not so much fun. The complicated and confusing back-story has only just been clarified due to a post I read on “Slice: Serious Eats” by Adam Kuban. I owe him a big shout out! Thanks Adam!!

I will do my best to repeat what I have learned.

As the story goes the original Patsy’s opened in Harlem in 1933. Original owners Patsy and Carmella Lancieri created an establishment where Italian immigrants could taste and feel a bit closer to home. The quality of the food and atmosphere made Patsy’s legendary especially after it had a cult like following with visitors like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola was such a big fan he used it as a place to authenticate the actors performances in “The Godfather” and since many movies have been filmed there. But Patsy’s does not only cater to the rich and famous. Many politicians on both sides of the aisle have hosted galas there. Not to be outdone Patsy’s does plenty of good deeds serving food for the community and sponsoring numerous of their own initiatives.

The confusing part is that although the original owners of Patsy’s no longer hold the title to this restaurant when you check their website you will notice several additional N.Y.C. locations. However this site does not mention the Brooklyn shop. The new ownership has fostered different branches but technically they can all trace their history back to that first shop in Harlem that opened in 1933, which is still in existence if you care to gander a visit. For me I am quite happy with my Brooklyn location although I do have a soft spot for original and historical locations.

The last remaining pizzeria I want to try from my to do list is Juliana’s Pizza and coincidently that has a connection to Patsy’s I was previously unaware of. You see the owners of Juliana’s, Patsy and his late wife Carol, were also the original owners of the Grimaldi’s chain, which has since been sold, name and all, to a former customer. Way back in 2011, I had been to Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge and enjoyed it quite a bit. But since then I have been to MANY other pizza places and I have to say I no longer think it is a part of my top five. I should say that this list is constantly evolving and the more pizza I eat the longer that list will get. Grimaldi’s now has a second location now in Coney Island.

The Patsy’s that created the Harlem location is the uncle of Patsy Grimaldi would now owns Juliana’s. Similarly Juliana’s serves thin crust pizza with only homemade and locally grown ingredients over a coat fired oven, the first one to be commissioned in over fifty years. Juliana’s is so named for Patsy Grimaldi’s late mother. 

I hope to report back in the next few weeks with as much love for Patsy’s sibling restaurant, Juliana’s. But I expect I will have a reunion with dear old Patsy’s once again before that time comes.

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