How much are you willing to wait for pizza? When I posted my review on Hometown Bar-B-Que last year (https://kenscale.com/2018/01/31/hometown-bar-b-que/), I noted how my wife Jun and I waited for over an hour and a half for barbecue dishes that were really good and ended up concluding that no BBQ restaurant is worth a wait time beyond one hour. Now, let’s apply that exercise to pizza. Lucali needs no introductions; it is one of the most iconic pizza places in the city (along with the likes of Di Fara, Joe and Pat’s and Roberta’s), and its fame has only grown through a recent appearance in David Chang’s Ugly Delicious show. I had heard of the horrendous wait times at this no-reservation pizzeria but had no precise idea what the wait time was going to be. The restaurant’s website only said “Show up before 5. Put your name on the list. Go have a drink. We’ll call you when your table is ready.” Based on that message, I assumed that we can just get there around 4, put our names down and chill somewhere. Well, I was very wrong. That message actually meant that people would actually need to line up until 5 when a hostess finally comes out to start taking the names! It was a hot Sunday afternoon when Jun and I arrived and saw the line already stretching nearly to the edge of the corner. Jun was immediately discouraged but managed to wait in line with me. It was around 5:10 when a hostess finally showed up. We were still on the side of the line closer to the restaurant (by 5, the line already stretched around the corner!), so we were hoping to get seated immediately when the pizzeria opens at 5:45. Wrong! The hostess, in her smug face showing no sympathy whatsoever, said our table should be ready around 7:30-45. Since we already waited an hour on the line, we had no choice but to accept our faith and find a wine bar nearby to get away from the summer heat. 7:30 finally came and we showed up at the restaurant but the table wouldn’t open up right away. It was only around 8 that we were finally able to order.
For all that trouble, was the pizza good? Jun said she swore she’s going to kick something if the pizza turns out to be bad. Fortunately, we both agreed that the pizza at Lucali was outstanding. The large pie we ordered, with pepperoni, onion, mushroom and hot pepper, came freshly baked, with just the right thickness and texture of dough. I had to be careful to slow down my eating pace because I would find myself just devouring a slice after slice. The addition of hot pepper turned out to be a very wise choice, as the spicy kick greatly enhanced the pizza’s flavor as well. Jun, already too exhausted from the long wait (it didn’t help that when I served a slice upon her plate, my clumsy hands failed me and the slice fell right upon her face and then onto her shirt she was wearing), wouldn’t say how good the pizza was at the time but the next day she did admit that it was a very fine pie. For Jun, the better dish of the night was the calzone. I’ve heard from restaurant reports and reviews before that a lot of people who have been to Lucali have been saying that you are missing out big time if you don’t order the calzone, and I was able to tell why. While it looks like a simple folded dough with cheese inside, the cheese that Lucali served as no ordinary one. You could quite tangibly feel in your palate how fresh the melted ricotta and mozzarella are. Add the red sauce on the side (both spicy and non-spicy version), and you have an absolute winner.
No more words need to be written about the notorious wait time at Lucali; see above on all the trouble Jun and I had to go through instead of ordering a nice thin crust from Joe and Pat’s (our favorite delivery pizza) while watching TV. The tiny dining space with the kitchen (and the pizza oven) right next to it, with dark lighting that emits an exclusive vibe, certainly doesn’t alleviate the wait time issue. Lucali takes cash only so make sure to bring some. It is also a BYOB establishment so get a nice red bottle or two to complement your meal depending on how large your party size is. If the Hometown Bar-B-Que experience was an adventure, our dining at Lucali was an epic trial. As we started to pass out as soon as we got home, I asked myself whether a pizzeria, or any restaurant for that matter, is worth four hours of wait. Before I got married and was still full of energy and stamina to withstand a long wait (after all, I did stand in line for five hours (coincidentally with Jun when we were still friends) to get inside MoMA’s Rain Room exhibition six years ago), it would’ve been worthwhile so long as the food was outstanding. Now married for two plus years, Jun and I do care about the comfort that accompanies the dining experience, and even though it usually doesn’t factor into my KenScale equation in this case it did lead me (and Jun) to rate Lucali to a score lower than what we would’ve probably awarded had we not waited four hours. I will unequivocally say this: unless we hire someone to stand in line for us or get the take-out option (there is no such option technically but we saw a lot of people who couldn’t bear to wait any longer choose this option instead), I don’t see Jun and I coming back to Lucali anytime soon. At some point, there is diminishing marginal utility for waiting an extra minute or hour compared to the delight from having potentially life-changing pizza and calzone.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 575 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Telephone: (718) 858-4086