Day One: Lombardi’s
Here we are! New Yawk Citay. Our first dinner at Lombardi’s, not only the oldest pizzeria in NYC, but the oldest in the country. And having been here for our first dinner for the previous two years, I had a more focused view of the experience this year. Not only knowing the history of Lombardi’s, and having our own with it, but to finally be able to enjoy my experience on a higher level beyond the blinding gastronomic pleasure.
We were met by one of the most ebullient people I’ve ever had the pleasure of learning from, Scott Weiner, who does pizza tours here in NYC. While we were enjoying our appetzers, Scott told us not only about the history of Lombardi’s but about the nuts and bolts of the 1000 degree coal burning oven, a staggering 12 feet deep, where pizzas cook in a hot 3 minutes. We were sitting on the second floor directly above the oven, and you could feel the heat in the brick wall and the floor at our feet. Ovens like this are certifiably illegal in this day and age, but this oven has been rocking pizzas out since 1905 and will not be stopped.
I think we ordered over 15 pizzas, and not one dissapointed. White pies with subtle and light ricotta browned on it’s peaks with tender meatballs and savory mushrooms. Crispy crust supporting a simple, acidic and tangy tomato sauce supporting islands of fresh mozzarella. Pancetta and chunky, hand-chopped red onion. All flavors swirled in with amazing Chianti, Pinot Grigio, and Montepulciano.
There are so many reasons we start out here every year. Scott took us in groups of five to see the kitchen and explain the oven. It was incredible to see 8 or so men crammed into a kitchen the size of a fancy bathroom moving at a seemingly chaotic speed, yet perfectly deliberate and focused. I will stop here to digress on two points. One, most of the men in that kitchen are of Latin American descent, as are many of ours, and it is absolutely humbling to see how amazingly talented and badass they are. Businesses like this are born out of an immigrant spirit of family and hard work and would never survive without that. Second, although the servers and food runners had to move at lightning speed and, most of the time, had to cut your tourist, drunken ass off to get where they needed to go they always said ‘pardon’ or ‘excuse me’ when they did.
I could go on, but we have 3 pizza eating experiences tomorrow to get down with, so I will bid you and the interweb adieu. Check back tomorrow.
And, Austin, we miss you.