Sunday, June 12, 2011
Review: Lenny's Pizza, Brooklyn (Bensonhurst)
There are several "Lenny's" in New York, including three in Brooklyn, and one broken link on Google maps that takes you to "Lenny's Sub Shops." Just to be precise, this review is about Lenny's Pizza on 86th Street in Bensonhurst. This Lenny's will always be famous for the opening scenes of "Saturday Night Fever" when John Travolta's character Tony Manero stops into Lenny's for two slices and then proceeds to fold them together and eat them as inelegantly as Donald Trump might.
Nice bit of history, but how is the pie? We stopped by on a Saturday night to find out. Lots of Brooklyn has been gentrified and cleaned up since 1977 when Tony Manero struggled to escape the drudgery of life in Bay Ridge, but this stretch of 86th Street, under the elevated railway tracks, looks and feels like the tired and worn New York of the pre-Giuliani years. Given the history, the time-warp feel was sort of appropriate.
On the counter we saw a thin "Gran Ma" pie, a conventional plain pizza, and a "margherita" which was mostly a regular pie where the dry mozzarella was replaced with fresh mozzarella. We ordered a slice of each ($2.50 or $2.75 per slice) and settled in to try them.
The plain pie was, except for its thin and crisp (but NOT tomato pie style) crust, unremarkable for the most part except that it tasted really good! Was it the ghost of Tony Manero? I dunno, somehow this pie reminded me of when "ordinary" pizza tasted great. Not magical, but clearly a cut above the ordinary.
The margherita had an identical crust, and the cheese upgrade should have elevated it above the conventional slice. Well, it was a good slice, but no better than the regular slice. A hint of fresh basil would have helped.
Finally, the "Gran Ma" slice. "Grandma" pizza seems unique to New York. It's best described as "Sicilian Lite." A thin a crispy crust, with a balanced topping of cheese and sauce. This was a delight -- sweet sauce almost dripping off, nicely browned cheese, and a thin crust with good flavor sturdy enough to hold it all together.
Lenny's is very good pie, the kind that would enhance any neighborhood. It's not "destination" pie like DiFara's, but on the other hand you can walk in a get a slice without a two hour wait. "Worth the trip" if you're coming from Dyker Heights, for sure. Otherwise, let's call it a "can't-miss" place if you are in the area. I give Lenny's 7.5 stars out of 10. Not New York's best, but miles ahead of West Chester pie.