Let me tell you about a quest for pizza. Yes, it turned out to be a quest, in perhaps the lighter sense, however many obstacles appeared to be in the way of getting inside the door of Lucali’s in Brooklyn, NY.
It began with word of mouth, possibly the best way to get informed of new restaurants. Jasmine and I looked Lucali’s up online, and decided to go. Jasmine wound up there first, and did attest to the greatness of Lucali’s, so of course I just wanted to go all the more. My birthday rolled around, so I naturally picked this restaurant for my dinner for three. They don’t open until 6pm, and at Jasmine’s suggestion, we arrived shortly after their opening to snag a table. However, the restaurant was already packed. The wait, around 3 hours (my memory is a little hazy on the details but I remember being baffled). Since Jasmine lives nearby, I opted for take-out instead. The wait for that? Two hours. Oh and they don’t deliver. I turned with my tail between my legs, knowing I was not having pizza from Lucali’s on my birthday.
The next day came around, and I still finding myself on Jasmine’s couch, thought, why not try again tonight for dinner? This time we wanted to be there at exactly 6pm. Of course the subways weren’t running on a normal route, and shuttle buses replaced some subway stops. Since we were coming from Manhattan we were going to take the subway to the closest stop to Lucali’s, but instead found ourselves on a shuttle bus, which was an express bus to nowheresville Brooklyn, instead of on the local bus which was what we needed (we were shuttle bus newbies). I called Lucali’s at 6pm from the bus, and found out the secret to the place. Even though they don’t take reservations, call them the night you want to eat there, and they add you to a list, and will call you probably 15 minutes before your table opens up so you can head over. Finally! Well, while we’re heading to the middle of nowhere and then back, they called us to tell us our table would be ready. So we ended up sprinting from the bus stop to the restaurant. Have I sprinted to an open table before? No, definitely not.
We arrive huffing and puffing, and mostly hungry. The restaurant is crammed (it only has about 10 tables or so), and when the hostess gets annoyed by people coming in from the street, she puts up, NO JOKE, a red velvet rope in front of the door. Yes, the kind you will find by a bouncer at a club. May I remind you that we’re at a pizza place.
We end up waiting another 20 minutes before being seated (feeling like idiots for running). The party next to us asks for wine glasses to start on their bottle of wine outside (pretty antsy, giving the hostess some ‘tude). We all just want to get intoxicated on mozzarella and sauce already. Tensions are high.
Finally, the hostess emerges and calls my name, and I want to run to the table before someone else occupies it. Once inside, you sit down and you feel like you’re in someone’s kitchen. It is warm, cozy, and lit by candlelight and dim lamps. The main chef (possibly owner) overlooks his diners while making his pizzas and calzones (it was a little awkward because the place is so small). He looks like he’s making pies for his patiently waiting family, sometimes stopping to sip wine, kneading the dough as if he’s dreaming about his days in the Tuscan countryside (haha just kidding), observing the tables intently (possibly judging if we’re worthy?). There’s a huge bowl of fresh peppers and mushrooms and tomatoes, which I thought was pure decoration (it looked too perfect!) and then the chef reached in, chopped, and sprinkled on a pie. A+ on atmosphere.
Now, for the main event. Instead of a menu, you glance at the chalkboard for your dinner options. Lucali’s only serves pizza and calzones. Nothing else. Your only choice of meat is pepperoni (from what I remember). Other options include mushrooms, peppers, artichokes, garlic, and fresh basil (the last two come for free, the other options cost extra). We got a calzone with garlic and basil, and a pizza with half artichoke and half garlic/basil.
Somehow, they brought the wrong table our calzone, and after waiting for what felt like half an hour or more after our pizza came out, they realized, apologized, and gave us a free calzone. The owner/chef apologized to us in person, which felt very sincere. We hadn’t complained because we just thought they were busy (and to be honest, I was afraid of a “no soup for you!” situation). The large calzone is the size of half a pizza tray. I ate a few slices of pizza, and one and a half slices of calzone, and I was done in. We brought back a full pizza box of leftovers.
To be honest, I wasn’t majorly impressed, but Jasmine said the food felt a little off that night. The ingredients were fresh and simple and delicious, but it just didn’t seem worth the wait for me. It felt like any other specialty pie place. I want to go back again to see if it is different the second time around, and I plan on getting different toppings in my calzone and on my pizza. I did enjoy the atmosphere and food enough to give it a second try.
As a side note, this place has some of its fame from being frequented by Jay-Z and Beyonce. I questioned this claim in my head, and joked around with Jasmine, asking if the place closed up when they came over, or which “perfect” table they picked for them. Halfway through our dinner, I realized a table had been empty for quite a while in the far left corner, and wondered how in the world that was possible with the waiting diner milling outside. Not another fifteen minutes passed and an Escalade pulled up (after creepily circling around as Jasmine noticed), and none other than Jay-Z and Beyonce strolled in. To answer my question, I guess they really do come in pretty often. The entire restaurant didn’t move a muscle, and no one even seemed to notice them. With that kind of treatment, no wonder they come often. The chef walked over and welcomed them personally, and that’s when I stopped looking too.
PS. Beyonce is really pretty.