New York Pizza Wars and a Visit to Juliana’s

Thursday February 28, 2013

By Devorah Lev-Tov

Last night I finally had the chance to visit Juliana's, a new pizza restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. As a resident of Brooklyn, pizza restaurants can sometimes be a dime a dozen, but there are several that stand out as landmarks of excellent pizza, including my personal favorite, Di Fara Pizza.

Although Juliana's is new, it comes with a historic pedigree. It's owned by none other than Patsy Grimaldi, a pizza legend in New York and beyond.

Patsy Grimaldi learned to make pizza in 1941, from his uncle, Pasquale (Patsy) Lanceri, the original founder of the original Patsy's in East Harlem, one of the first pizzerias in New York and a pioneer of New York style pizza.

Grimaldi opened his own restaurant, also called Patsy's, in Brooklyn in 1990, but he changed the name to Grimaldi's when Lanceri's widow sold the business to longtime employees who then made a deal to license the name Patsy's and opened several more pizzerias in Manhattan.

Still following?

In 1998, Patsy Grimaldi decided to retire and sold Grimaldi's, along with the naming and branding rights, to longtime employee Frank Ciolli. Last year, Grimaldi's lease was not renewed following several disputes between Ciolli and the landlord, but it was lucky enough to move right next door. When Patsy Grimaldi learned that his beloved restaurant, along with its famous coal oven, was vacant, he grabbed the chance to re-enter the pizzeria world and opened Juliana's, named after his mother.

Now that you know all the history, don't you want to know how the pizza tasted?! It was delicious! I've never been a huge fan of Grimaldi's---I find their pies to be mediocre and without the love displayed by other New York institutions like Di Fara's and Tottono's. Juliana's marks a return to passionate pizza and it shows. The crust was near-perfect in terms of char, chewiness, and taste. The sauce-to-cheese ratio was spot on and everything was super fresh, making the Margherita pie a perfect example of New York style pizza. Plus, the updated space is comfortable and charming.

The highlight of the evening though, was getting to meet Patsy Grimaldi himself! He was observing the pizza-making and walking around to greet restaurant-goers, including myself. I had a nice chat with him and even got the chance to snap a picture!


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