This is a guest post from Just Go Places
In the last two decades the borough of Brooklyn in New York City has become a byword for all things cool, trendy and hipster. Back in 1998 I remember wondering why David Beckham would hole up with Victoria in Brooklyn. We know he did because they named their son conceived at the time, Brooklyn. Of course, the Beckhams were ahead of the trend. Of course.
The trendiness of Brooklyn has become a generational divide I fear. For example, I don’t understand the hit TV show, Girls, the story of a group of 20-something college grads living in Brooklyn. When I graduated from college, the equivalent neighbourhood would have been Yorkville on the Upper East Side. Most of Brooklyn was still a no go area. We had a friend who lived in Brooklyn Heights but he was considered particularly adventurous.
Brooklyn had its ethnic enclaves occasionally marred by fighting such as the Crown Heights incidents where the Jewish-Americans and African-Americans went to war. Many neighbourhoods were known for their strong single ethnic identity, such as Bay Ridge which was deep in the heart of Saturday Night Fever country. You were in Brooklyn because you either grew up there, wanted to score drugs or worked for the Mafia. Nice Indian girls from Westchester like me did not venture into Brooklyn in the 1980’s.
A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tours
As far as I’m concerned, Brooklyn still seems like a foreign country. This past December I took my kids on a pizza tour of Brooklyn. Great Italian food (especially pizza) is a given in Italian neighbourhoods. Before we ventured into the new trendy heart of Brooklyn, I figured we’d see the old neighbourhoods first.
I love pizza. I could live on pizza. I considered pizza the food of the gods. Nothing says comfort food to me more than a slice of New York pizza, warm fresh out of the oven, dripping in tomato sauce and smothered in cheese. My children likewise have a love of pizza.
The pizza tour of Brooklyn organised by A Slice of Brooklyn is highly convenient because it leaves from Union Square in Manhattan. Let’s face it, I know nothing about Brooklyn so I was ready to be fed, watered and go into a carbohydrate coma with the minimum of effort on my part. We were on a coach which was nearly full of Australians. I was a little surprised but apparently Australians love pizza.
Napolitano v. Siciliano: The Showdown
The tour introduces you to the two different types of New York pizza – Napolitano which is the thin-crust triangle shaped slices most commonly served and Siciliano which is rectangular and on thick-crusted bread.
We tried the Napolitano thin crust pizza at Grimaldi’s located underneath the Brooklyn Bridge in a grand old building which used to be a bank. It’s been consistently voted the best pizza in New York City for several years. The secret? Fresh ingredients and a coal-fired brick oven produce pizza that you don’t want to desecrate with any additional toppings.
L&B Spumoni Gardens
We went for the Sicilian style pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens located in Bensonhurst which is practically on the opposite side of the borough. Thank goodness for the luxury coach and the interesting patter of local info and trivia from the tour guide.
I have never liked Sicilian pizza because one bite and practically the whole layer of cheese slides off the pizza into your mouth. You wind up eating the rest of the slice as a piece of bread with some remnants of tomato sauce on it. Apparently, the Sicilian pizzas at all those other pizzerias have been doing it wrong. First of all, you need proper focaccia bread (not just more regular pizza bread). Then, you should put the cheese on first and then the tomato sauce so you don’t get the cheese sliding off. Simple! Genius!
Who was the winner?
What was our favourite? My daughter loved the Sicilian slice and my son loved the Napolitano version. If I had to choose, I’d go with the Grimaldi’s slice. Less bread means you can eat more pizza! Our tour group was equally split on their preferences.
In addition to the pizza, the tour with A Slice of Brooklyn also takes you to see Coney Island, a historical boardwalk and amusement park in Brooklyn which is slowly becoming gentrified. The pizza tour departs daily at 11 AM from Union Square in Manhattan and lasts approximately 5 hours. The cost is $80 per adult and $70 for children under the age of 12. My children and I were hosted by A Slice of Brooklyn Tours.
Note from Brenda: We really miss a great NY pizza during our travels, nothing really compares to a great NY pizza. This post made me very hungry, you? Have you tried these 2 places in Brooklyn?
Shobha loves a great hotel and during their holiday in NYC, she and her family stayed at the W in Downtown Manhattan, a great luxurious hotel with a convenient location.
Shobha George’s brief bio: My family and I love to travel, to learn more about different countries and to experience new cultures. We also like our hotels, good food and other comforts. Join us on our adventures! Also follow Shobha and her family on her blog: JustGoPlaces, Instagram and Facebook.