Being a pizza aficionado, I know the name Grimaldi’s. Look for any top 10 New York City pizza list and you will find the name there. Grimaldi’s to me exemplifies what is good about a NYC pizza: extremely hot coal-burning oven, great tasting thin crust, simple sauce, buffalo-mozzarella, and wonderful toppings. I had heard that Grimaldi’s had expanded to the Arizona area (must be too cold to put up with NYC in the winter for making pizza), so while my family and I were on vacation in Tucson, I decided to locate the local Grimaldi’s and take us out to dinner. The restaurant is located on the corner of Campbell Avenue and E. 6th Street, close to the U of A campus, in what looks like more of an office-type building which is shared with some other establishments and businesses. We arrived around 5:30 PM on a Sunday, and the restaurant was almost completely full. We got the last booth, which is not hard to do since the seating here was more limited than I was expecting. Within in a minute after being seated and handed our menus, the hostess brought our 4-year old daughter a dusted ball of pizza dough to play with and a stainless steel pizza pan. How cool is that!!!
For dinner, we ordered a caprese salad to share and a “small” pizza with Italian sausage, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. When I say small, I am talking 8 slices of a 16-inch pie. That’s right, 16-inches is a small. A personal pizza is 12” and a large is 18”. So, you have been warned: bring your appetite.
As I said, this is classic NYC style pizza. This kind of pizza is a thing of beauty just to behold. The one thing that I was surprised about was the time it took for our pizza to arrive. Normally with these types of ovens, a pizza should not take more than 2-4 minutes, even with a 16-inch monstrosity like we had. But ours took at least 10-12 minutes. They were certainly busy that night, so I am guessing that was the reason for the delay. I asked our waiter how hot they maintain their ovens, and he told me they like to keep them at the 800-900 degree region. He did not seem to know much beyond that, so I decided to forego any further questions about the making of their pizza.
The caprese salad was great: nice thickly sliced buffalo mozzarella atop thickly sliced tomatoes, with balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side to apply as much or as little as we chose.
The pizza was fantastic! I will say that in my mind, NYC pizza can be divided into a cheaper, street-style which is also sort of cheap in quality (but still good), usually cooked in a gas oven, and a further, old-school variety that is more up-scale and hard to beat. In my opinion, Grimaldi’s falls into the latter category. The one hazard about this pizza is it is thin, of course, and loaded with the ingredients we chose, so although a true New Yorker will try to pick up one of the large slices and try to fold it, with our pizza, that technique would likely have brought large amounts of pizza into our laps. I did manage to pick up my slices for the most part, but even on my last slice, I had to use a fork for a couple of bites, or I would have been wearing my pizza. The crust was fantastic, the sauce was fairly simple and sparingly applied (but noticeable), the mozzarella was also sparingly added but excellent, and the toppings were very good, including the Italian sausage (which was of the mild variety). Although a behemoth to behold when they first brought it to our table, we managed to finish all of the pizza (I was definitely not leaving any of that good stuff behind).
A trip to Grimaldi’s and you will not only experience good service, but you will experience authentic, coal-oven NYC pizza that is to die for. Run, don’t walk, and get thyself there post haste!