Thursday, August 6, 2009

NYC - L& B Spumoni Gardens

L & B Spumoni Gardens
Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Gravesend
2725 86th St

(between 10th St & 11th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11223
(718) 372-8400
Nearest Transit: 86th St (N) 25th Ave (D)

L & B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn was the second pizzalicous stop on our NYC trip. After a day at the Met, an inferior slice at Famous Ray Bono Pizza and a delightful trip to Coney Island, Alex and I follwed my sister Rose, her main squeeze, Dave, and the crew from IFP to L & B Spumoni Gardens on the recommendation of Jonathan. Jonathan is an Italian, Brooklyn native who grew up in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn which is also home to the fabulous L& B Spumoni Gardens.

At Coney Island we met up with Rose and IFPeers at Cha Cha's, a really quirky bar favored by both locals (mostly bikers and weirdos) and tourists with a view of the beach. Cha Cha's decor somewhere between Wonderland in Richmond and some kind of freakshow tiki hut, with skulls and leis all over the joint. It was gray skies and dreary rain outside but inside Cha Cha's it was salsa music and margaritas on the rocks. We bopped around to the music and it was really great to finally meet the IFP crowd since I have been doing some free lance graphic design for them for a while now. Everyone was so friendly.

Alex and I took a brief break from Cha Cha's to check out the real Nathans hot dog stand and home of the famed fourth of July hot dog eating contest. It was here that Alex had his first ever REAL all-American hot dog with grilled onions, sour kraut, mustard and ketchup. I of course documented this momentous occasion in a series of photographs. Nathan's has the best hot dogs; they're Kosher and so delicious! A Nathan's hot dog is the perfect nosh for the beach even if it was rainy outside. Then it was back to Cha Cha's for one more cocktail and lurking on passers by.

After that we headed to this freaky bar and side show. The side show was unfortunately closed so we had a few beers and chatted. We saw some of the side shows and the girls from the burlesque show relaxing and having birthday cake. We also talk about Amy's new documentary about a female prison rodeo getup. Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo debuted at SXSW and was recently picked up by HBO. I can't wait to see it!

On to pizza!
After freaky beers we took the train a few stops into Brooklyn and followed Jonathan over to L and B Spumoni Gardens. The smell of the pie was magical as we approached the neighborhood pizza parlor. On the walk there we passed by a sketchy amusement ride place that repaired and sold small, rickety rides and amusements. Finally we saw the sign for L & B. Cue the choir.

The place is huge and complicated. There were several places to order and eat and sit and only a true local would have really known how or where to order what they wanted. The guys running the joint are not jerks to pizza tourists but you should expect them to chuckle at you trying to navigate the place. From what I gathered there is a place indoors for people to sit and be waited on. There are also a ton of picnic tables outside under a tent for people to sit after ordering at one of several different counters. I think there is one counter for pizza one counter for spumoni and one counter for everything else.

L & B serves up Sicilian style square pies on thick soft crusts. Some people in our group referred to this as a grandma slice which is a thick, square slice topped with a little cheese and crushed tomatoes on top of the cheese. The crushed tomatoes cook down in the oven to make a kind of thick sauce on top of the pie.

This was seriously one of the best pies I've had in my whole life. The sauce was nice and sweet and there was cheese but not to much cheese. The crust was soft and thick like a nice piece of focaccia. The novelty of the square slice was not wasted on me or anyone else in the group. We all appreciated it, especially those of us who got a perfect center slice with no "crust." This was more than just a pizza! It was like if a pizza and a pastry had a baby. I wanted to kiss this pizza so it could turn into a prince and ride off into the Coney Island sunset with me (on the Cyclone of course)

The other savory specialty of L & B Spumoni Gardens is the rice ball also known as "arancini." Arancini is a Sicilian dish which is typically made from meat, peas, rice and mozzarella. Meat, peas and Parmesan cheese are made into a loose meatball and then cover with rice and shaped into a ball. That is then deep fried (sometimes baked) and then topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Arancini get their name from the Italian word for orange, arancia. This is because after they come out of the fryer they look vaguely similar to the fruit. Sicily is a large citrus producer in Italy. This is straight up Italian comfort food and paired with the pizza on a rainy day it was just awesome. It totally hit the spot.

Ordering this dish was so was a riot. Enter Tony, running one of many counters at L&B SG who upon my taking his picture asked me if I was from the FBI. I just told him I like to take pictures of handsome men and he told me he liked serving up pizza to pretty ladies. So rad.

Last but certainly not least we had spumoni. Like pizza, spumoni also has an origin in Naples, Italy. Spumoni is a delicious frozen dish similar to ice cream usually matched in a trio of flavors; typically cherry, chocolate and pistachio. Whatever the combination it usually contains chunks of fruit or nuts. It is the mother of the smoother and more modern Neapolitan ice cream. Now it is more of a rare specialty. It differers from ice cream because it is sweeter and has a more slushy texture. Don't mistake it for gellato. While they have similarities, Spumoni definitely holds its own. Alex bought a quart of spumoni (chocolate, almond(?) and pistachio) and we all grabbed a spoon. It was really cold and was so refreshing. It was super sweet and it made everyone smile and so curious about this rare frozen dessert.

A VERY big shout out to Jonathan who lead us to this delicious oasis of pizza and spumoni! I fell in LOVE with this place. Jonathan told me that the only place to get better pizza is at his beautiful mom's house. I hope they keep me in mind when their next pizza party comes around.

Three things I love: Cute Boys, Pizza and Spumoni!

Jonathan gets a slice!

Iyabo dresses up her granny slice.

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