When someone invites you on a tour of some of the best pizza spots Brooklyn has to offer, you’d be CRAZY to say no, so when Tony and Allison of A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour reached out to me to do just that, I was more than happy to jump on the opportunity.
So yes, guys, I did it…after having lived in Brooklyn my entire life, I finally went on one of those a guided bus tours, and I’m not ashamed to say that from start to finish, I had a really fun time!
Starting on a beautiful, unseasonably warm Saturday morning in Union Square, we got picked up by our coach bus and also met our tour guide, Michelle (a native Brooklynite herself) who seemed to be a walking encyclopedia of all things this borough has to offer.
After rolling out, we drove over the Manhattan Bridge to get to our first destination, which also happens to be one of my favorite spots in the city – Brooklyn Bridge Park – to take in the sights and get in a few photos, while building up an appetite.
And what would a pizza tour be without pizza?? Our first pizza stop was at the famous Grimaldi’s in Dumbo, a place I’ve walked past so many times, but with a line of people always waiting to get in, my more sensible side usually always tells me to keep on walking. Nevertheless, I was so glad to finally give this place a try because it was really good!
Being one of the last places in New York that still uses a coal burning oven, which cooks each pizza in 3 minutes flat, each bite you take is filled with a nice, subtle smokiness that worked well with the sweet and salty flavors provided by the sauce and cheese.
We were able to learn about the infamous Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s (another pizza place located right next door) feud and also that the building that houses this particular Grimaldi’s location was once Brooklyn’s first safety deposit bank and is older than the Brooklyn Bridge! Imagine that.
As we made our way to our second location, a place called L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst, we drove through other iconic Brooklyn neighborhoods including Red Hook and Bay Ridge (once called Yellow Hook and my old high school hood, woot!) and along the way, got to see some pretty amazing mini mansions that house the rich and famous (well, maybe not famous, but definitely rich!), see the military base that Tiger Woods and his family were stationed at when he was a child and where he started his golfing career, and also where scenes from famous movies like Saturday Night Fever and Good Fellas were filmed.
Finally making it to L&B Spumoni Gardens, a family business that’s been around since 1939, it almost feels like you’ve gone back in time. With its long communal, family-style dining tables and old-school Italian charm, it’s really hard not to love this from the moment you walk it, not to mention that their pizza is pretty damn awesome.
The trick to getting their Sicilian pizza just right is their unique preparation style. The first step is allowing their dough to rise twice, which is supposed to produce a lighter, airier crust. Next, they place the cheese onto the dough first and then add the sauce on top, which prevents the cheese from sliding off after you take your first bite and also creates a nice cheesy barrier that doesn’t leave you with a soggy crust. Ingenious, no?
I loved being able to meet people from all over the world, including a mother and daughter duo from Manchester, England who visit New York every year; a nice southern gentleman from Georgia; a witty older woman traveling from Los Angeles; and another from Minnesota who I believe said she’d done this tour 8 times already! If that’s not a testament to how enjoyable it is, than I don’t know what is.
At almost four and a half hours later and with a stomach full of pizza, our last stop on the tour was at Coney Island and while we didn’t stay long, it was nice to see how peaceful this place could be without the hoards of people and all the noise.
After all is said and done (and eaten, of course), it’s easy to see why this tour is so highly rated. I was so impressed by Michelle’s knowledge of this borough and how she was able to seamlessly rattle off fact after fact while simultaneously keeping us entertained with her wit and humor. And despite having grown up here, there were so many new things that I was so glad to learn.
So the next time you’re thinking of going with another tour, ‘fuhgeddaboudit’ and check out this one instead, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
For a list of their other tours, including one that takes you through the can’t-miss Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, check out www.asliceofbrooklyn.com.