Author Topic: Lombardi's  (Read 10336 times)

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Offline Pete-zza

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Lombardi's
« on: August 11, 2004, 10:13:42 PM »
What follows is my review of Lombardi's pizzeria in the Little Italy section of New York City.

By way of background, Lombardi's is one of the best known and most popular pizza establishments in New York City, if not the country.  The original pizzeria, believed to be the first in the United States, opened at 53 1/2 Spring Street in 1905, shortly after Gennaro Lombardi emigrated to the United States from Italy.  Much later, it closed down but was subsequently reopened at its present location at 32 Spring Street in 1994 when John Brescio, a friend of the Gennaro family, and his wife Joan joined with one of the Gennaro grandsons (now retired) to reestablish the pizzeria.  To the best of my knowledge, the Brescio family is still in control.  (John Brescio is the one you see in all the TV and cable programs featuring the restaurant).

When I visited Lombardi's (within the past year), I ordered a basic Margherita pizza--as I almost always do when I visit a new pizza establishment for the first time--because of the simplicity of the Margherita pizza.  Also as I always try to do, while I was waiting for my pizza I asked the waitperson if I could see the pizza making operations in person.  She was happy to oblige and led me to the kitchen area--and the famous, 1905  coal-fired oven--where the pizzas are made.  There I met the chief pizza maker, a fellow who said he was from Guatamala.  He clearly seemed flattered at the attention I was about to give him.  

From the chief pizza maker, I learned that the pizzas made at Lombardi's use a high-gluten flour that is mixed and kneaded with municipal New York City water (which may just be the best tasting municipal water of any major city in the country), a dry yeast, and salt.   And no olive oil or sugar or other sweetener.   The dough is kneaded for about 15 minutes in commercial mixers, divided into individual dough balls, placed into stackable plastic containers, and placed in the cooler overnight.   Once the dough balls have come to room temperature after being refrigerated (also affected by the closeness of the oven), they can be used to make pizzas.  

I felt one of the dough balls and found it very pliable and easy to shape by hand.  I asked the pizza maker to show me how to make a dough round.  He took one of the dough balls, flattened it, dusted it in a pile of bench flour, and then slammed it down on the work surface.   Using the palms of both hands, he pressed down hard on the dough while he repeatedly turned it on the work surface, forming a rim in the process.  He then slapped the dough between both hands several times and used his knuckles to stretch the dough.   I asked him about tossing the dough, and he obliged by tossing the dough high in the air several times, ending with spinning the dough around on one finger.  At this point, the dough took the form of a large, thin, diaphanous disk that floated like a cloud.  It was also a dead giveaway that the flour was a high-gluten flour.  You can't toss doughs made with low-gluten flour, such as 00 flour.  From what I saw, I concluded that the ingredients and techniques used at Lombardi's to make the pizza dough were pretty much standard for pizzas made with high-gluten flour.  

The Lombardi pizza I saw being prepared was dressed by putting a tomato sauce and cheese and one or more herbs (my recollection is that they were dry) and other standard toppings on the prepared pizza round.  The tomatoes used were San Marzano tomatoes, but it was unclear whether the tomatoes were the varietal or simply tomatoes grown in the San Marzano region (which would be cheaper).   I was told that the tomatoes were pureed and left in the refrigerator overnight to "marinate".   The sauce was not cooked and no herbs were added to the sauce itself.  As for the cheese, it was a freshly made cow's milk mozzarella cheese.   What surprised me was how firm the cheese was.   It was cut into thin rectangular slices much like American cheese slices.   I sampled some of the cheese and found it blander than I would have imagined (although some will argue that most mozzarella cheese is bland and should be so).  The crust of the baked pizza that was prepared for me (at over 900 degrees F in the coal-fired oven), had a characteristic charred rim and bottom.   Surprisingly, the charring did not produce a burnt flavor.   A grated cheese, which I identified as a Romano cheese (later confirmed as pecorino Romano), completed the pizza.  As an aside, a  Neapolitan pizzaolo would have found the use of pecorino Romano cheese blasphemous.  Parmiagiano-Reggiano or grana padano, yes.  Romano--Never!!  In any event, I thought too much tomato sauce and too much grated romano cheese were used on my pizza and overtook the other, more delicate flavors of the pizza.  I did enjoy the crust, however, and especially the charred flavor imparted by the high oven temperatures.

I think the Lombardi pizza could have been improved by using a better mozzarella cheese, either a softer cow's milk mozzarella cheese or the buffalo mozzarella cheese, less tomato sauce (or in chunk form) and less grated Romano cheese.   Yet, the pizza critics seem satisfied with the way things are.  Lombardi's is always is at or near the top of all surveys for the best pizza in New York City.

Peter

 



 
 


Offline canadave

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Re:Lombardi's
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2004, 10:50:03 AM »
Peter,

Great review!!  Kudos for your ability to infiltrate the kitchen ;)

I'm just wondering now--given that the preparation of dough and sauce is so devoid of, shall we say, "drama" (standard ingredients, no particularly special prep methods), I wonder how they turn out such a wonderful-tasting pizza?  Surely it can't *all* be chalked up to the 900-degree oven?  I mean, when I was there last, and had a pizza, I was sure I had died and gone to pizza heaven.

Dave

Offline snowdy

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2005, 03:45:35 AM »
awesome review!

I just went to NYC for the first time. We had Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, and John's of Bleeker Street.

I liked Lombardi's the best mostly cuz i am a crust person and Lombardi's has the biggest crust at the end of the slice.... the homemade meatballs on top kick ass too.

Offline canadave

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2005, 05:20:59 AM »
You've just made me homesick :)  I lived on Bleecker and 6th Avenue until I moved to Canada in 2000, just a couple of blocks away from John's.  I really enjoyed the Lombardi's!

Offline snowdy

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2005, 10:20:15 PM »
John's was awesome :)
my wife's favorite out of the 3.

out of all 3 i thought lombardi's had the best coal oven taste to the crust and the topping seemed the highest quality.

John's had the tangiest damn sauce ever, taste like there was some lemon  juice in t here, i gotta that recipe somehow!!

Offline Don

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LOMBARDIS Simply the best in the world!
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2005, 09:50:25 AM »
Simply the best in the world. Iím a business executive and have traveled abroad my entire life. Nothing comes close !!! The quality is superb.  Lombardiís  far exceeds my exceptions. Please open more locations!!
« Last Edit: May 23, 2005, 09:52:06 AM by Don »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2005, 12:46:10 PM »
Don,

Welcome to the forum.

I usually am disappointed when a successful, highly-regarded pizza establishment decides to expand. I realize that business is business and money is money and that pizza is a highly subjective matter, but some of the most discriminating NY pizza fans who are passionate about their pizzas have noted a deterioration in the quality of the pizzas made by the formerly single-pizza "elite" establishments like John's, Patsy's, Grimaldi's and Totonno's. Even Dom DeMarco at DiFara's has lent his name to a Manhattan location. But having met and spoken with the man I don't really think the expansion will have any effect on what he does personally. He will alway be Dom in my opinion and he will show up every morning to do what he has been doing over the last several decades. I suspect he may have lent his name to the new location to secure his family's future as much as anything else.

So, for the sake of true pizza fans everywhere, I am hoping that places like Lombardi's, Pepe's, Sally's, Una Pizza Napoletana, ilpizzaiolo, and Pizzeria Bianco--and others of the same ilk--don't ever succumb to the siren call of a fast buck. I agree that this is a selfish attitude, but I'd like to think that there is someone out there who is true to the craft of pizzamaking and can accept less in the way of monetary reward as a result.

Peter

Offline Tom Grim

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2005, 05:46:32 PM »
Not to worry, truely great food can't be franchised.  The tastes and flavors neeed to be 'dumbed down' so as to appeal to the masses.  The masses will not go for specialty products.  If one of the great pizza places decides to go big, there is someone out there to take his place.  Someone will open another very specal place who will put his heart and soul into his pizza.  It could easily be someone that contributes to this forum.

Tom


Offline freshflour

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2006, 10:56:43 PM »
From the chief pizza maker, I learned that the pizzas made at Lombardi's use a high-gluten flour that is mixed and kneaded with municipal New York City water (which may just be the best tasting municipal water of any major city in the country), a dry yeast, and salt.

I just saw a History Channel show in pizza that featured a small segment on Lombardi's.  I couldn't help but notice them dumping the 50lb bag of GM All Trumps 50111 into the mixer.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2006, 05:09:59 PM »
For some photos of Lombardi's and its pizzas, see http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Lombardi%27s+pizza&m=text.

Peter


Offline Essen1

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2010, 02:27:46 PM »
Peter,

I know this is an old, old post but do you recall, by any chance, the weight of the individual dough ball of your Lombardi's pizza, given the size of the pizza you ordered? I don't expect you to accurately know the weight but maybe you can take a wild guess?

Mike

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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2010, 03:31:38 PM »
Mike,

It was a long time ago. Since Lombardi's sells 14" and 18" pizzas, I must have gotten the 14" pizza since I was alone at the time of my visit to Lombardi's. For a 14" pizza, my best guess for a dough ball weight would be around 13 ounces. For the 18" size, I would guess around 21 ounces.

Peter

Offline Essen1

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2010, 04:11:51 PM »
Peter,

Thanks for trying to remember!

If they use 13 oz., which translates to roughly 370 grams, for a 14" pie than they use less than I do (375 - 380 gr.). I wonder how they get their outer crust so big and puffy with that amount of individual dough weight.

 ???

Mike

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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2010, 04:36:45 PM »
If they use 13 oz., which translates to roughly 370 grams, for a 14" pie than they use less than I do (375 - 380 gr.). I wonder how they get their outer crust so big and puffy with that amount of individual dough weight.

Mike,

There have been rumors floating around for some time that Lombardi's couldn't be doing the volume of business that they do with just one oven. This has led to suspicions that Lombardi's is par-baking its crusts. Evelyne Slomon commented on this possibility, along with her calculations on this point, at Reply 29 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3399.msg28955/topicseen.html#msg28955.

If you are up to the effort, you could take a look at photos of Lombardi pizzas going back several years and see if you can detect a material change in the looks of their pizzas from the standpoint of rim size. When I took a look at photos of Lombardi's pizzas, they did not all have large rims. In fact, some looked quite small or fairly normal. See, for example, http://s1.hubimg.com/u/494016_f520.jpg and http://blog.appiarius.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/pizza.jpg. Also, as you know from our own forum, there are members' pizzas whose rims are large while the rest of the crusts are thin. I believe that some of Glutenboy's pizzas fall into that category. Moreover, on any given night and depending on who is making the pizzas and the oven temperature at the time pizzas are made, there can be many variations in the outcomes of the pizzas.

Peter

Offline Essen1

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2010, 05:25:10 PM »
Mike,

There have been rumors floating around for some time that Lombardi's couldn't be doing the volume of business that they do with just one oven. This has led to suspicions that Lombardi's is par-baking its crusts. Evelyne Slomon commented on this possibility, along with her calculations on this point, at Reply 29 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3399.msg28955/topicseen.html#msg28955.

If you are up to the effort, you could take a look at photos of Lombardi pizzas going back several years and see if you can detect a material change in the looks of their pizzas from the standpoint of rim size. When I took a look at photos of Lombardi's pizzas, they did not all have large rims. In fact, some looked quite small or fairly normal. See, for example, http://s1.hubimg.com/u/494016_f520.jpg and http://blog.appiarius.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/pizza.jpg. Also, as you know from our own forum, there are members' pizzas whose rims are large while the rest of the crusts are thin. I believe that some of Glutenboy's pizzas fall into that category. Moreover, on any given night and depending on who is making the pizzas and the oven temperature at the time pizzas are made, there can be many variations in the outcomes of the pizzas.

Peter


Peter,

Wow. That's all I can pretty much say after reading Evelyne's reply. But if you do the math, she's got a point.

I'd be up for the effort but doing a quick Google search didn't reveal any pics from the earlier Lombardi pies, unfortunately. But I did take a look at your formula in the thread you referenced and I'm thinking maybe tweaking it so I can incorporate my sourdough starter just for kicks to see what the endproduct would be.
Mike

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Offline norma427

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Re: Lombardi's
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2010, 09:09:23 PM »
Mike,

I did a Google search under images for Lombardi's, NY.  These were some of the pictures of many that were found.  I don't know when some of these pictures were taken.

Norma
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