I finally made it out to Brooklyn to try Totonno’s in Coney Island and L&B Spumoni Gardens’ pizza in Bensonhurst. Pizza is a controversial topic, I realize. My grandmother talked about wood-fired pizza from Naples. My mother grew up on coal-fired pizza. As my family worked in the pizza business and owned a pizzeria, I’m pretty critical of pizza. Among aficionados, Totonno’s has a history and is known as some of the best pizza.
On our visit, we didn’t have to wait on line. There was one table available. There are no frills here. You sit; they bring you paper plates and plastic cups. You have your choice of canned or bottled soda and water. Service is rushed and not friendly. Because of the demand and lack of space, you may have to share a table with other patrons, as we did. We ordered the large plain cheese pie, which is a steep price at $19.50.
The three elements of pizza are crust, sauce and cheese. With a coal-fired oven, one would expect the blackened bottom and a certain flavor. Sally’s Apizza in New Haven has the perfect coal-fired crust. Totonno’s crust didn’t have that blackened bottom, and the dough was lackluster. The tomato sauce was bland–just a tomato taste. The cheese was also pretty flavorless. I had really wanted to love this place because of its history, but I felt it was lacking in taste. I really don’t think it’s worth a trip out to Coney Island just for this pizza.
L&B Spumoni Gardens is a subway stop and short walk away from Totonno’s. Here, the specialty of the house are Sicilian-style pies. For those who don’t know, Sicilian style pies are square pies that are more doughy. My mom says that when she was young, Sicilian pies came with tomato and onion, but that is not how they are served today. The pie at L&B is good, but where’s the cheese? I understand the sauce is on top of the cheese, but I don’t think there’s enough cheese. It’s unfortunate because the sauce is very good, slightly sweet and with oregano. With more cheese, this would be one hell of a Sicilian pie.