Patsy Grimaldi's Fall From Grace

Patsy Grimaldi came out of retirement for this?Photo: Josh Ozersky

Such is our reverence for Patsy Grimaldi, the pizza patriarch behind Grimaldi’s, that when we heard word, via Slice, that he had come out of retirement to cook slices at the Aviator Sports Complex at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, we immediately began saving gas money to make the trip. The place is so remote — all the way down Flatbush Avenue, just before the Marine Parkway Bridge — that you practically need to be Hernando de Soto to find it. It’s a kid’s paradise, with two NHL-size ice rinks, indoor soccer, basketball courts, and the rest. But for the unathletic children, of course, the real draw is the food court, where you can find Schnäck burgers, cheesecake from Junior’s, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory desserts, and, yes, Patsy’s pizza. Are those slices worth the epic journey?

Not yet. Patsy’s immense gas-burning oven, rumored to be so super-hot as to approach the temperatures of his Dumbo restaurant’s coal ovens, is actually tepid in comparison. The pies cook quickly enough, but the bottom crust barely chars. And the young flunkies executing the master’s design are still getting the hang of how to actually make pizza; the amount of sauce, the placement of the cheese, and other subtleties all seemed haphazard. (They will gladly reheat slices, though, which we recommend.)

The main problem is with the cheese. We’ve never really believed that fresh fiore di latte, the kind used at Grimaldi’s, could get the job done without any help from the greasy "mozzarella" we all came to know in our youth. The fresh product never really mixes with the sauce, and only a volcanic heat can lock in the moisture. The low-power Aviator ovens dry the cheese out by the time the pizza is cooked; it just sits there like an old bath mat, barely registering on your consciousness. And by the time you order a slice, the crust has become soggy as well. This pizza wasn’t worth the trip from the parking lot, much less Manhattan or Park Slope. But we’ve heard it said that Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’ll go back soon and see if Patsy can still work his magic.