It’s a 2.1 mile walk from the Donut Plant in the Lower East Side to Grimaldi’s Pizza in Brooklyn. Despite the chilly January temperatures and a brisk wind we decided to tackle it, predominantly because there was this little thing called the Brooklyn Bridge along the path. I’ve heard from some people the walk across was a “nice stroll” and from others that it was a “life changing experience”. No matter what it turns out to be, the reward on the other side is a Grimaldi’s Pizza so my guess is it’s totally worth the hoof.
On our way we get a nice look at some of the flavor of Chinatown and a few markets, we saw graffiti covered delivery trucks, the Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse and a number of other classic New York scenes. It’s cold and blustery, but we are armed with long underwear and a smile, most of the time at least. I’m amazed how many people are out and about on a bridge in a windstorm in the middle of January. I can only imagine what this place is like in the peak of the Summer on a high tourist Saturday. Along the bridge we pause at intervals to take photos both solo and together when a suitable “picture trade” couple appears. I’d like to say that my walk across the bridge sided closer to the “life changing” side of the equation, but I’m afraid it didn’t. It was better than just a nice stroll though and I’m glad that I did it. To look to the north and see Lady Liberty in the distance is moving to say the least. A glance back at the Manhattan Skyline dwarfs my home city by a long shot. The shaking of the bridge, the texture of the boardwalk under your feet, the stark contrast of the Brooklyn warehouses on the other side are all awakening and beautiful parts of the overall experience.
To me on this day though, one of the most interesting sights on the bridge other than the bridge itself is a poster that had been plastered over a sheet of plywood. The plywood divides off an area of the bridge that was being painted recently. The plywood is painted white but is also covered in graffiti. The poster is torn in the upper right corner but it hangs on to it’s mount all the same. The Downtown New York skyline behind the bridge to Brooklyn sits in the background. The poster says “Rise Up: We are the 99%”. I make no statement about politics or express political opinions typically in this blog, but there is something very poignant about this whole snapshot of a moment in time for me/us.
About that Pizza? Grimaldi’s is located at 1 East Front Street underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. It has been rated New York’s number one pizza by Zagat and has been given “top 5 pizzerias in America” distinction by the Food Network. The lines are always long and the place has changed hands a few times since it opened over 50 years ago, but certain experiences should not be missed. After a tolerable 20 minute wait outside the front door we are seated at a community table up front. This sort of stuff doesn’t bother me at all I consider it part of the ambiance. We order a half bottle Chianti, a Brooklyn Creme soda and a small 6 slice cheese pizza. Our pizza arrives before our beverages, which is not to say that our beverages took too long, but rather that our pizza literally arrived 4 minutes after we ordered it. They “toss” these things out in seconds and put them in a 1200 degree Farenheit coal burning oven. I guess it makes sense. Was it the best pizza I have ever eaten? I really didn’t think so, but that could be a combination of the fact that I set my expectations so high AND the fact that I had already eaten a corned beef sandwich, potato latkes and a Valhrona glazed chocolate doughnut in the previous four hours. It was really damn good though. Garlic salt, dried Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes are all available to play around with. CJ finds that a little salt brings out the flavor in the fresh mozzarella used on the pizza. In the end the whole thing was an experience worthy of “icon” status from the pie, to the Sinatra mug shot on the wall, to the community seating to the bulk Chianti. The only thing I could have been left wishing for was a seat next to John Gotti’s attorney and a glass of Sambuca, but that’s a whole different story. After lunch we took a stroll on the Walt Whitman promenade and looked both at the Manhattan skyline and back into Brooklyn knowing that one day we would come back and explore her history and streets more thoroughly. And very likely give that coal oven fired pie a second look, next time on an empty stomach.