Manhattan, New York – Lombardi’s Pizza

Restaurant: Lombardi’s Pizza
Cuisine:
Pizza/Italian
Last visited:
September 3, 2011
Location:
Manhattan, NY (Nolita)
Address:
32 Spring Street 
Nearby Subway stop:
Spring Street (the number 6 subway line is a block away)
Price Range: 
$10 or less

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Since 1897
  • New York’s most famous pizza
  • Multiple award winning
  • “Best Pizza in the City”
  • Local & tourist favourite
  • Long lines at peak hours
  • Home made meatballs
  • Home made cheese
  • Coal oven pizza
  • Limited beer & wine
  • Good for groups/families
  • Cash only
  • Dine in/Take Out/Delivery
  • No reservations Fri-Sun
  • Sun-Thu 11:30am-11pm
  • Fri-Sat 11:30am-12 Midnight

**Recommendations: Meatballs are good. Go for the experience more than the pizza. Try Grimaldi’s Pizzeria f you’re in it for the food.

I’m not sure if you’ve caught on yet, but I had to get the “New York food institutions” out of the way. Along with Katz’s Deli and Shake Shack I had to add Lombardi’s Pizza to the list. Pastrami sandwiches, burgers and New York style pizza, those are only a few of the “must try” staples if you’re going to play foodie in New York.

So what is New York style pizza, or pie, anyways? It’s similar to Napoletana style pizza (pizza originating from Naples, Italy) where the dough is hand tossed and thin. However the New York version is much larger in size and it’s often folded when eaten. Both are much lighter in sauce and toppings compared to American style pizzas, and I found Lombardi’s to be an Americanized version of Napoletana pizza. I guess that’s kind of what New York style pizza is to some degree though.

Lombardi’s is another guaranteed line-up of locals and tourists, but I’d say mainly tourists. I confess, after my experience I kept referring to it as a “tourist trap”, but I think that’s a bit harsh. The pizza wasn’t bad, and it’s not like it’s overpriced, but there is better for the same price and I had it later on in my trip. It was at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria which I’ll post about soon. So hold tight!

Really? The “Best on the Planet?” The planet is a very big place. But if Zagat Survey says it’s “Best on the Planet” then it must be right? Welcome to New York! Almost every single restaurant is Zagat Rated so it loses its affect quickly. It’s not like I flock to “Zagat Rated” places, but when a restaurant has won so many awards, and is consistently on every top 10 pizza list, and is named “best on the planet”, it does spark my curiosity.

If you’re going for the experience, then yes you should try it, since it was licensed by the City of New York as “America’s First Pizzeria” in 1905. It has history. On the other hand, if you’re going purely for the food and the pizza, then I wouldn’t call it a “must try”, although it gives you a nice standard to compare all the other credible New York pizzerias to. For me it was slightly underwhelming because I’ve had better, but it was decent and most ingredients are home made, which I appreciate.

I did experience better pizza than Lombardi’s Pizza in New York, but also in Vancouver, BC too. Perhaps incomparable since I’m referring to authentic Napoletana pizzas instead of “New York pizza”, but I did prefer Nicli Antica Pizzeria and Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca. So if you’ve tried these, then consider yourself lucky to be in Vancouver, if not Italy. But again, in the context of New York style pizza, I’ll still recommend Grimaldi’s, although I heard Florio’s in Little Italy is good too. Anyways I have satisfaction in knowing that I’ve gone to the legendary Lombardi’s Pizza, but it’s not somewhere I’d have to revisit.

On the table:

**Original Margherita Pizza3/6

  • Our original Margherita pizza is made with fresh mozzarella, san marzano tomato sauce and topped with Pecorino Romano and fresh basil. Small (6 slices) $16.50 Large (8 slices) $20.50
  • Toppings $3. Toppings on half of pizza $2 each.
  • This was a large and I ordered half Margherita and half with home made meatballs.
  • I’m a bit of a purist, but a classic Margherita is how to “judge”” any Italian style pizzeria.
  • Just by the presentation I was already a bit underwhelmed by this “Zagat Rated Best on the Planet” pizza.
  • I wanted to see some charred blackened spots on the crust, which is a traditional characteristic of both New York and Neapolitan style pizzas. It enhances the flavour.
  • I also prefer whole leaf basil instead of shreds, so the basil flavour was lacking. Authentic Napoletana pizza does only have a few leaves, but regardless, whole basil leaves are the way to go.
  • There was lots of ooeey gooey melted stringy mozzarella cheese which is apparently made in house daily.
  • I prefer Fior di Latte or Buffalo Mozzarella, but making mozzarella in house is hard work and commendable.
  • The cheese was stretchy and chewy and it had a very mild cow’s milk flavour and somewhat rubbery texture rather than a creamy melt in your mouth one.
  • It wasn’t too salty and the tomato sauce was a bit sour with some oregano, and I could taste lots of mozzarella, but not the salty Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • The ingredients were pretty fresh, but the san marzano tomato sauce seemed cut with tomato paste or other tomatoes.
  • The crust was thin and the edges were crispy and chewy, but on the dry side and not very flavourful.
  • The centre of the pizza was soft and tender, as it should be, and it was foldable, but the edge of the crust wasn’t very enjoyable.

  • The underside of the pizza crust should have some leoparding or blackened charred spots from the coal oven baking, but it didn’t.
  • There should be a slight bitterness and charred flavour to the pizza, so I did miss that.
  • The pizza would be considered excellent compared to the standard New York $1 a slice pizzerias, but in the context of “the best NY pizza” (which is the cateogry it runs in), it can be beat.

Original Margherita Pizza with Home Made Meatballs (1/2 beef, 1/2 pork) – 4/6

  • Our original Margherita pizza is made with fresh san marzano tomato sauce and topped with pecorino romano and fresh basil. 14” Small (6 slices) $16.50 18” Large (8 slices) $20.50
  • Toppings $3. Toppings on half of pizza $2 each.
  • I went for the meatballs simply because they were home made.
  • The meatballs were made with half pork and half beef which gave them incredible texture and flavour.
  • The meatballs were savoury, with no strong seasonings, and so tender and soft that they almost melted in your mouth.
  • There may have been some bread crumbs in it, or maybe even milk to get it that consistency, but it still had meaty flavour and texture.
  • They were lightly browned and the ground meat had a good amount of fat, so they were nice and juicy not only moist.
  • I could have had a side of these alone.

White Pizza (No Sauce)3.5/6

  • Mozzarella, Ricotta, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, garlic infused oil, oregano, black pepper & basil. 14” Small (6 slices) $18.50 18” Large (8 slices) $22.50
  • I wanted the Clam Pie, but they ran out of clams so I just ordered the White Pizza.
  • Usually when I see piped ricotta cheese I immediately think “added fillers”, so I was hoping they didn’t sacrifice quality.
  • The little mounds of piped ricotta tasted like fluffy baked creamy mashed potatoes with ricotta cheese whipped into it. It was very good, but it just wasn’t the real deal.
  • I can’t confirm if it was mashed potatoes, but it really tasted like mashed potatoes with a bit of ricotta.

  • Again there was lots of stretchy stringy home made fresh Mozzarella cheese, which was the main cheese I could taste.
  • The pizza was drizzled with some garlic infused oil, but I was hoping for whole roasted garlic cloves on top too.
  • It had savoury flavour, but besides the mild mozzarella and fluffy ricotta mounds, there were’t many other flavours.
  • Just like the Margherita pizza the crust was foldable, thin and chewy with a soft centre, which is great. However the edges of the crust were chewy and on the dry side and lacked the blacked spots that give it a nice charred flavour.

The leoparding wasn’t happening on the white pizza either and I missed the charred blacked spots on the underside of the crust.

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14 Comments

  • KimHo says:

    On my trip to NYC, I wanted to go to Lombardi’s only for historical reasons. However, several factors prevented that from happening, the main one being transportation (I was walking all around) and, probably the main reason why I didn’t go as a result, they only sell whole pies. I won’t have had any issues ordering the whole pie, just that it would have been a waste, even if I could have had half-and-half.

    I am not sure if a Nicli/Verace comparison with Lombardi’s would be a fair one. We are talking about different beasts here. Granted, they are shaped the same, borderline same type of ingredients; however, if we were to use the same comparison, we would be comparing ice cream with egg tarts with flan with creme brulee and so on. (And, in the case of pizzas types, you still have St. Louis style, Chicago deep dish – though technically is a pie – and so on). Hope to read your Grimaldi vs. Lombardi (vs the rest) comparison!

    Having said that, I am a bit ambivalent about basil chiffonade vs whole basil. However, I do prefer fresh basil over putting it before it is baked.

  • Mijune says:

    @KimHo – I did say “perhaps it’s incomparable”…. regardless.. there is better and that’s all that need to be said in the end. Thanks for your comment!

  • Mijune says:

    Kim – A whole pie can be finished by 2 since the crust i thin… I just gave away food to homeless people if I had left overs… easy solution 🙂

  • Drew says:

    Hi Mijune,
    I am a native New Yorker transplanted to Van who reads your Blog everyday (which is awesome by the way). I so wish I could have given you a list of my favorite NYC spots. But for future, John’s Pizzeria (the original on Bleecker St. ) is a great New York pie.
    Esa Bagel or H&H for Bagels.
    Zabar’s is a foodie mecca
    +++
    PS – It is worth mentioning that Katz’s Deli is open 24 hours and is the best drunk food in the world (so long as you don’t loose your ticket, which I have).

  • patti wan says:

    Old school New York pizzas like Grimaldi’s , Patsy’s etc. are very different from the new ones. One old style place-Di Faras makes all the pizzas by hand- by the owner and it is very famous and expensive but in a horrendous location .Probably the best new ones are Keste Pizza- the owner is the president of the Neopolitan assoc. for authentic pizza in the U.S.A. His oven is supposed to be handcrafted from clay of Mt. Vesuvious!The pizzas are Napoli style made from top ingredients , another of this type is Motorinos . They are more akin to the new ones here in Vancouver , whereas the New York style is really a style unlike any other- just not real Italian , but I like them too .I did like Kestes the best – it’s on Bleeker St. , accross from John’s pizza , but the styles are very different . John’s is a typical New York slice and popular with tourists too . Love your posts- drool inducing

  • patti wan says:

    Oh- don’t forget to see Eataly- the huge food emporium that opened a yr. ago .It is amazing for foodies .

  • Mijune says:

    @Drew – wow!! Thanks so much for reading!! I’m so glad you enjoy my blog! On another note.. aww crap! I wish I got these from you before! But I’ll go back to New York for sure!
    You’re the first to recommend John’s Pizzeria and Esa Bagel or H&H for Bagels! Love it! Locals choice it sounds like!
    Zabar’s was on my list, but it was a bit out of the way and I never made it there. I had it on my “must try” too. Known for pastrami?
    I also wrote about Katz’s Deli already! It was my first post for New York! Drunk or not, I think it does a fine job although it may not be “best in NY” 🙂
    I have a TON of NY posts coming!!

    @patti wan – Ohhh I hit up Eataly 🙂 Thank you Patti!! Love your insight and recs!! I value your comments! I should have talked to you before I left as well! There will be a next time! Keste Pizza… that wasn’t mentioned either.. I gotta try it!

  • Linda says:

    mmm i can’t wait to try all the OTHER places that patti and drew suggested! 🙂

    i’ve heard of lombardi’s from a bunch of ppl and some even saw that sbarro’s is better? when i first saw the white pizza, i thought the cheese domes were meringue and i thought you ordered some sort of white chocolate meringue pizza lol 🙂

  • patti wan says:

    I was reading some of your older posts and noticed you like burrata cheese- Keste Pizza has a special burrata cheese pizza where they get the cheese in from I taly , but I think they only have it on Fridays because when they run out , it’s gone . They use San Mazano tomatoes and buffalo mozza on their pies , but the burrata is the best if you can get it . They hand out samples to those waiting in line . I think Motorinos may have burrata too – there is always debates about which place is best . My I talian friends say Keste but that may be because the staff are all from I taly ! It’s a small place and no reservations . In West village . You certainly have stamina Mijune for such a tiny person !

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – now I’m jealous that you get to try them all! lol that does look like meringue ahah… you haven’t been to Lombardi’s yet?!?! Giiirrlll…. you’re next visit is going to be such a FOODIE visit!

    @patti wan – I love burrata patti!! lol u are so sweet for sharing your recs with all the readers!! thank you so much!! If it wasn’t for the walking in NY I may be 1000lbs lol

  • Marguerite says:

    Hi guys, can’t believe I found all this important information! We are heading back to New York after 17 years!!! Taking my grown kids to experience what my husband and I lived so long ago.
    Any help in what to do and see and eat would be so invaluable. I think we will skip Lombardi’s and head to Grimaldi’s. I need real great pizza, Chinese food (soup without frozen peas and carrots). We are here in Seattle, no good NY food! Thanks for your input!!!

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