Fact: Everyone in New York knows - and will tell you where you can get the best pizza in New York.
Fact: Everyone will tell you a different place.
I'm still in search of my favorite. And in this search (and out of curiosity) I had to check out Grimaldi's and Juliana's under The Brooklyn Bridge. These pizza places might be more famous for the rivalry between them than they are for their pizza, but I had to find out if a visit to either was worth the long lines often winding down the block - especially on a Saturday. I should have been more scientific about my comparison, but I wasn't. I took one friend to Juliana's first (last week) and another friend to Grimaldi's today. I didn't even get the same kind of pizza, so I'm not quite sure I can speak to one being better than the other... (I know, I know, What good am I?)
You're probably wondering about this infamous rivalry. And if you want a detailed report, read this article. The same article is hanging in Juliana's front window, so you could wait until you visit to read up on the details. To make a long rivalry short- the original pizzeria was owned by Patsy Grimaldi and called Patsy's. But when a group took over his uncle's pizzeria (the original, so to speak- of the same name) in Harlem in the 90's, he was forced (by way of an expensive legal battle) to change his own Brooklyn pizzeria's name from Patsy's to Grimaldi's. In 1998, wanting to retire, Patsy and his wife, Carol sold the business to Frank Ciolli. What began as an amicable relationship between Ciolli and the Grimaldi's began to wan over time, as did the quality of pizza- according to Grimaldi that is. Despite the pizza not being made to Grimaldi's high standards, restaurants began popping up around the country. Recognition grew- but the institution began to turn into a chain much to Grimaldi's dismay. After a separate legal battle involving Ciolli, the Grimaldi's decided to open up a new pizza joint in the original location, with the original pizza oven. They named it after Patsy's mother, Juliana.
I decided to head to Juliana's first. My friend, Sarah and I arrived around noon on a weekday, hoping there wouldn't be a line. When we arrived, there wasn't a line, but I'm pretty sure we got the last available seats at the bar in the back of the restaurant facing the chefs and pizza oven. It was busy, and we had to wait awhile for our pizza. So long that by the time it arrived I completely forgot to photograph the pizza itself because I was so hungry. We ordered the No.4 (tomato, mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto) and while it was good- I would have liked more mozzarella and an unanticipated wave of nostalgia for a pizzeria in Seoul washed over me. Strange, right? But you see, the pizza in Seoul was served with a warmer- and the pizza at Juliana's could have benefited from something similar. By the time I reached for my second slice, the pizza was already cool. Perhaps we were talking too much, or eating too slow, but it wasn't as hot- not even as warm- as I would have liked it to be.
A week later, I went with another friend to Grimaldi's. Again, I suggested a weekday and we arrived to the restaurant a little after one in the afternoon to a short line, but no wait at all for a table for two. We compromised on our order and got a regular pizza with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. I liked Grimaldi's grittier setting. I felt like I was in an old school pizza joint compared to Juliana's more modern approach. I wasn't as fond of the waiter yelling at customers for sitting in the wrong spot while we waited for our pie. I read later that the waitstaff's gruffness is a standard, one that I'm not really a fan of. Grimaldi's felt much bigger, but our pizza came much quicker and seemed cheesier than Juliana's. It also seemed to stay hotter longer. By the time we left, a longer line had formed, similar to our experience at Juliana's. But I didn't feel rushed at Grimaldi's like I had at Juliana's. I want to like Juliana's more than Grimaldi's but I'll probably head back to Grimaldi's first, and then perhaps Juliana's immediately after for a more proper comparison of the two. Who's with me?