Two and half years ago, I went to New York City for the first time. Everything was new and magical, and my favorite part was undoubtedly the food. My friends planned an itinerary that included a lot of the tourist staples – Burger Joint, Shake Shack and a little place in Brooklyn called Grimaldi’s.
The list of accolades the restaurant has racked up over the decades (the restaurant’s history dates back to 1941) is long. Aside from having walls plastered with photos of the restaurant’s famous customers (Frank Sinatra and Rudy Giuliani to name two), the restaurant has consistently been ranked the No. 1 pizza joint in NYC – a city already known for the quality of its pizza – by Zagat and was also named one of the five best pizzerias in the country by The Food Network. It’s no wonder there was a line outside the door. My friends and I waited for more than an hour to get inside. It was late, too, around 8 p.m. and dark outside, by time we got inside. But it was beyond worth it. The coal-fired crust was to-die-for, the mozzarella cheese so thick and delicious. So of course I’ve been wondering about the West Palm Beach location since its opening in late 2011. Last weekend I finally crossed it off my foodie bucket list and tried it!
Starting with bread and antipasto is an absolute must. The mozzarella and the bread are a perfect teaser of what’s to come with the pizza, and the oven-roasted sweet red peppers are uh-mazing. Cooked in olive oil and herbs, I totally understood why my waitress said this was her favorite thing on the menu. I sampled a couple of the salads, including the caprese salad (pictured above), but the pictured spinach salad was by far my favorite. Made with baby spinach, red onion, cherry tomatoes, bacon, crumbled gorgonzola cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing, it was such a great combination of flavors.
Here’s how it works: there are three base pizzas: a regular (with mozzarella and tomato sauce), a white pizza (made with garlic) and a pesto pizza (made without nuts, so if you have allergies rejoice!). Each of these formulas can be customized with your choice of 24 toppings, ranging in price from $2-$5 each. Side note, the prices of the pizza are so reasonable! A personal 12-inch starts at $9.
My favorite of the three was by far the pesto pizza, pictured last here. We kept it simple and topped ours with pepperoni. The pepperoni was about half the size of a traditional slice of pepperoni and was evenly dispersed perfectly across the pizza, so I got a taste of it crispy flavor in every bite. I also loved the white pizza, which we topped with ricotta and sun-dried tomatoes. Next time, I will probably skip the sun-dried tomatoes, which were good but a little too sweet for me when combined with the garlic and creamy ricotta. For the regular, we topped it with large roma tomatoes and bacon. All three pizzas were cooked to a golden perfection, with the most wonderfully bubbly mozzarella. I got a sneak peek at the kitchen and the massive coal-fired oven, which fits up to 36 pizzas.
The pizzas at the West Palm location are made in exactly the same style as the ones at the New York location, Jamie Culliton, regional chef for the Grimaldi’s chain (pictured), tells me. The water for the dough is purified by reverse osmosis, and the ingredients are imported from Italy.
I am a dessert girl. That being said, I wasn’t particularly excited to try the desserts at Grimaldi’s. The pizza was so good, I figured the dessert would just be an afterthought.
I was wrong. The restaurant specializes, of course, in New York-style desserts. House-made cheesecakes, cannolis, tiramisu. The seasonal cheesecakes were ridiculous. Right now the restaurant has a caramel green-apple slice and a chocolate slice made with Godiva chocolate. But even better was the oreo cheesecake. The texture of these cheesecakes was so wonderfully creamy, and not too rich, either. But my favorite dessert actually came in the smallest package – a tiny little cannoli. Everything about this was perfect – the cream, the shell, the little chocolate chips. Heaven.
The crescent-shaped restaurant is open and airy, with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and a great view of the West Palm Intracoastal. The vibe is rustic and casual, with black and white photos of Brooklyn on the walls and lots of subway signs. I was most obsessed, though, with the wine-bottle light fixtures. If I had more of a capacity for DIY, I would love to imitate that in my apartment. I actually like the ambience of the West Palm location more than Brooklyn’s, which is small and cramped. Plus, it’s nice to get seated right away instead of waiting for an hour in the New York heat, starving.
All in all, Grimaldi’s was a great experience. I was so impressed with the food, the service and the atmosphere. I’ll be back. And now you have a chance to try it – I’m giving one lucky reader a $25 gift card. Just comment on this post and tell me about either your favorite South Florida or New York restaurant, and I’ll pick one winner at random. The contest closes Sunday, Oct. 21. This contest is open to anyone across the country because the gift card is usable in any of the chain’s locations across the nation.