Twenty years ago, when my wife, Jamie, and I first moved to Boca Raton, Florida it was a virtual desert for food. Being New Yorkers and skeptical to begin with, the local replications of our native diet did not tempt us and when we fell into the trap of listening to locals, the restaurants paled by comparison.
Today there are plenty of ethnic eateries in South Florida and many of them are beginning to live up to their hype, twenty years ago, they were distant cousins. The first thing we would look for was the obligatory signs in the windows that blatantly claimed, "Authentic Chinatown dishes, New York style Italian food, Kosher style Deli and Brooklyn pizza." None of them lived up to their self designated reputations.
Jamie and I have sampled many of these foods throughout the United States and most of the places we visited out of the country. For example, we have dined on Chinese food as well as pizza in Spain, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, Egypt, and Great Britain, throughout the Caribbean, Canada and even Israel. The best Chinese food we found on our varied vacations and outside of New York was in Lima and the worst in Boca Raton.
As far as pizza, my son used to say, "The worst pizza in New York is better than the best in Florida."
That still stands and now we get ugly.
This summer we were visiting our daughter and her family. They live in West Orange, New Jersey, not the culinary pizza capital of the world, but they produce some halfway decent, "Roof of your mouth burners." Still, Jersey pies cannot hold a candle to New York's.
I told you it was getting ugly.
Now I am a Bronx boy at heart, an old time Yankee fan and an experienced subway navigator. There are sections in that borough where you can smell a slice cooking from a subway car two miles away. It is good stuff and to me, it was always the best.
Brooklyn always claimed to be the pizza capitol of the city, but you know Dem bums. They could not even keep a baseball team so what do they know about good pizza.
This past summer, I found out just how much they do know. Now I am eating crow instead of tomato sauce.
In the past, I mentioned that my son, Jeremy, was a follower of a jam band called the Disco Biscuits. After Jeremy passed away there was a lot of chatter about him on the Biscuit's message board and through that we became email friendly with a young man named Tony Mula, a long time Brooklyn resident and self proclaimed champion and king of Brooklyn pizza.
Tony runs a tour called A Slice of Brooklyn pizza tour and probably the only one of its kind in the city. It is a four plus hour trip that takes you from the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, through the DUMBO section, all the way to the Coney Island boardwalk and the infamous Cyclone roller coaster. Along the way, he narrates the trip and shows clips of movies made in Brooklyn while following the actual steps of these famous films.
The highlights of this tour are two pizza stops, first at Grimaldi's, one of the oldest coal-oven pizza parlors in Brooklyn, and another spot, the L&B Spumoni Gardens.
Grimaldi's makes a thin Neapolitan pie that cooks in their famous oven in about four minutes. Seventeen paying members of the tour group from different parts of the country dove in with gusto. At the end of the feast, we were proclaiming it the best we had ever tasted.
"Wait till you get to L&B," said Tony, "And then say that."
After some more touring and enough time to recover, the air conditioned bus pulled into the Spumoni Gardens where we had our first taste of Sicilian pizza, a square pie with a double poofed dough and piled high with tomato sauce, mozzarella and finished with grated parmesan cheese.
Like he said, the choice was an obvious one. Both pizzas were the best we ever tasted.
On the way back, via Coney Island Avenue, he treated us to a visual pleasure. We watched as a continuous flow of Brooklyn born celebrities unraveled on the screen in the front. From Pricilla Presley to the Three Stooges, they were all there. Brooklyn truly is the birthplace of the stars.
So now, I have to lay down the gauntlet. If there is a better pizza out there then the mouth watering pies in Brooklyn you are going to have to prove it to me.
By the way, if any of you would like to do the tour or just read about it, their website is http://www.asliceofbrooklyn.com/ and tell Tony that Jamie and David sent you.
Better pizza somewhere else? FUHGETTABOUDIT!