My Slice of Brooklyn

by James Boo on August 2, 2010 · 16 comments

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As a newly minted resident of Park Slope, I’ve been asked more than a couple times how I plan to enjoy the alleged boredom of my gentrified milieu. Is there really good food in yuppie land? Can I have a good time without being among the hip, young and tasteful? Do I miss the excitement of living in Williamsburg, the epicenter of ground-breaking ceremonies in New York’s restaurant culture?

I direct much more pertinent questions to my past self: How did I manage to ever live in a neighborhood without an honest sushi bar? On how many of those nights at Lucky Dog did I really feel at ease with my beer? All meals considered, should I have actually considered myself a commuting resident of Greenpoint?

Most importantly: How did I get by for almost two years without access to a truly great neighborhood slice?

Luigi's Pizza - 686 5th Ave - Park Slope/Greenwood Heights - Brooklyn, NY - Photo by Jill Harrison
This question is the soundtrack backing my walk down 5th Ave. to Luigi’s Pizza, a pizzeria of South Slope’s old school. Serving since 1973, Luigi’s is a true New York classic and home to one of the best slices of pizza in the city – and on June 1, 2010, it became my slice of Brooklyn.

The joint itself can be described as a quintessential den of pizza. Inside, a single counter surface is warmed by faded and dated overhead lamps, which shine just enough light on the cramped, unadorned back dining room to offer customers the most subdued setting for a slice imaginable. Breaching the border of Luigi’s on a weekend day brings me face to face with a rat pack of teenage employees, the most fortunate of whom are learning the art of the New York slice under the supervision of Giovanni, the joint’s owner. Business is gruff but warm (Gio’s enthusiasm and readiness to educate his customers make him a local legend), and it seems like someone from the neighborhood is always lounging with the staff as I look over the rightfully limited choices of pie on display.

Plain Slice - Luigi's - Park Slope - Brooklyn, NY Plain Slice Crust - Luigi's - Park Slope/Greenwood Heights - Brooklyn, NY
Luigi’s plain slice – which, along with every other cheese slice here, sells for less than $3 – is an edible definition of New York pizza. Luigi’s plain crust is crunchy and chewy from end to end, forming a beautifully rolling landscape of dough with a porous, fluffy topside. The tastes and texture of sauce and cheese coat this crust in perfect balance, blended into one delicate layer and crowned by a layer of grease that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Grandma Slice - Luigi's - Park Slope/Greenwood Heights - Brooklyn, NY
Gio’s “momma” slice, a powerful rendition of the grandma, sneaks hints of fresh mozz beneath a layer of sauce, herbs and crushed garlic. The swirling mixture sits atop what seems like Luigi’s toughest crust: a thin and hefty square layer with burnt edges and a bubbly underside. It’s probably the pizzeria’s weak link, as the strength of the crust borders on difficult; still, the overall chew is a worthy experience, and flavor is nigh in every crunchy bite.

Square Slice - Luigi's Pizza - Park Slope/Greenwood Heights - Brooklyn, NY
Luigi’s Sicilian improves upon the grandma by allowing that pie’s hearty edge to blossom into a full-blown bed of fluffy, chewy dough. Topped by a layer of the joint’s heartiest tomato sauce and dressed in the golden brown tones of an expertly burnt sheet of mozzarella, this slice is a construction as delicate as it is strong.

Fresh Mozz Slice - Luigi's Pizza - Park Slope/Greenwood Heights - Brooklyn, NY
The fact that most of Luigi’s pies are as enjoyable as its star, the fresh mozzarella slice, is a testament to the quality of this pizzeria. Still, the fresh mozz comes out on top with pocket change to spare. As with the plain slice, the crust of Luigi’s number one is perfectly taut, its crunchy, uneven bottom yielding to a springy, doughy upper layer and encircled by a crisp, air-pocketed edge. Unlike many of its rivals, Luigi’s slice drapes a full blanket of tender, fresh mozzarella across a generous coating of sauce. Each thick dollop of cheese melts into the next, and all are sprinkled with a homemade basil-based pesto, lending the final product an extra note of flavor and a beautiful splash of color.

It’s a slice worth a cross-borough journey, but what makes this pizza enduring is the fact that it can be it mine for a thirty-minute walk and less cash than it takes to fill the washing machine. Peering into the windows of neighborhood spots – old and new – along the way, knowing that I don’t have to wait in a line for some of New York’s finest, is a heartening start to my tenure in west Brooklyn and a gratifying kiss goodbye to Bedford Ave.

Luigi’s Pizza
686 5th Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Adriana August 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

Welcome to the Slope! We’ve been going to Luigi’s for years. My husband’s art studio is right around the corner and he practically lives there. Ask Gio about DiFara’s and he’ll let loose an amazing stream of vindictive outrage–and who can blame him? Love that basil pesto.

James Boo August 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Thanks, Adriana – it’s great to be here. And, I’d love to hear Gio’s manifesto… but I am a Di Fara booster all the same :] Line or not, I relish my trips out to Avenue J!

Any words of wisdom on the neighborhood (or surrounding areas)? I’m excited to be exploring again. The idea of “Langos Monday” at Korzo has got me extremely excited.

Danny August 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Lots of folks enjoy Tomato and Basil. It’s on the Southwest corner of 4th and Union. I think it’s better than most of the slices joints in the Slope. At the very least T&B is closer to you in the event you want a shorter walk to your pizza somedays. I wonder if that new Lucali outpost in south slope is going to draw a fantastic line in the near future the way DiFara and Lucali’s do…

Doug August 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Luigi’s was my breakfast slice one of the days I was in NY last time.

James Boo August 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Danny – T&B is on my hit list… right after Lenny’s. It helps that T&B is right across the way from Mission Dolores! You ever see Adam Kuban’s Park Slope slice roundup?

Doug – Such noble words are rarely spoken.

Danny August 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm

yea I saw Adam’s roundup, that’s how I came across Tomato and Basil. haha. Then my friend started living on 4th ave and eating it all the time, telling me how it’s awesome.

JO August 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Luigi’s is the Best. I’m serious. and Gio is the man. I wish I lived 15 minutes or less from here.

Another slice in the area I dig is Peppino’s. Not as nuclear as Luigi’s, but still strangely great. The daughter won the lottery last month, so maybe they drop the prices a bit. seriously, she won the lottery.

James Boo August 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

I’ve got no problem believing any of this. I’ve passed by Peppino’s a couple of times too…. will add it to the list!

Kate August 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm

omg- i just moved to park slope too but didn’t know that this was around! will definitely have to check it out and explore more..

Tory August 4, 2010 at 7:51 pm

As a going on four years resident of the Slope it’s pretty disgusting that I have not had one of these slices. Epic fail. Also: I am now famished.

Joon S. August 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

James, I am very excited to explore your new neighborhood! I hope that this pizza joint will be part of the itinerary. =)

James Boo August 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Tory and Joon – let’s go have a slice sometime soon!

Tim Naylor March 23, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Simply the best at a price that shows he puts all the money in the pizza.

JoeBoo36 April 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm

I like to think that I was the very first customer at Luigi’s. It opened in 1973 and, prior to that, the building was a hair salon for women. My mother would drag me in there for hours at a time. I was so happy when it became a pizzeria that I think I was at the door when it opened. They had a lunch special to try to lure customers away from Gus’s across the street. I still stop in from Long Island every few years or so.

tiffany February 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I grew up in Park Slope on 21st, and till this day nothing will beat Lugi’s pizza.

Christian Grey November 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I frequent this spot even im a germaphobe, one of the rare places I eat pizza from & gio is aces Nameste welcome to brooklyn

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