It’s been three long years since Eats Meats West was able to dine at Lucali. There have been too many failed attempts to recall, really. But we were dedicated. Finally! Finally, we were able to get a spot last week, and with two guests in tow no less. Within a few days we would end up going again.
Along the way there were several notable surprises, not the least of which was a run-in with Beyonce. Sort of.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First let’s talk about the pizza. Just kidding, let’s talk about the farce that is the waiting/reservation/cache’ system at Lucali.
Right around the time we moved to Cobble Hill, in the summer of 2007, we started to hear about an unassuming but fantastic pizza place that just happened to be a few blocks away. Intrigued, we joined two friends for a wonderfully memorable evening where little besides pizza and comfort were needed — and indeed, available. The interior was dimly lit with candles, and the walls were sparsely decorated with signs and various Itallianette charms you’d expect from a much older establishment. The coal oven fire kitchen was plainly open to the dining section. I loved how the chefs monotonously chop, mix, shape, and arrange the ingredients — particularly the owner, who always seems to be spinning dough whilst gazing aimlessly into the distance — right in front of you. Is he looking into our souls? The pizza itself was of course simple and delicious. A few sprigs of basil, just the right amount of cheese and sauce, and that thin almost-burned crust make these pies magical. Throw in the simplicity of BYO, and Lucali is, on paper, the apex of charming.
But of course the story doesn’t end there. “Our” favorite little spot began to enjoy accolades and numerous mentions in the press, and soon enough tables were hard to come by. During the following year we’d continue to go, but due to the wait usually only with out-of-town guests or anyone who particularly wanted to try this amazing pizza. Pretty soon, it became impossible to get in. I vividly recall one Sunday night, during a torrential downpour, while we waiting amongst other, presumably more famous Brooklynites. “Oh he’s just happy about the Daily Show bump in book sales,” I’m pretty sure the one with the floppy hair said, right before he argued with the waitress to turn two 4-person tables (one, ours) into an 8-person table for his party. We tried takeout eventually, but it just wasn’t the same. Sure, the pizza was still tasty, but the charm was absent. Plus, there was that lingering feeling that we weren’t *gasp* cool enough to effortlessly gain entrance.
Fast-forward past a few failed attempts (i.e., “Sorry, we’re closed. One of the owners’ mom died.”) and a couple stabbings, and we’ve arrived again at last week.
Having called ahead — and I believe this remains our sole success with this strategy — we were able to arrive for our dinner (on the first night) exactly at 7pm, whence a 4-person table magically opened up. As we walked in I noticed an oddly ostentation black town car parked outside. We were so stunned by the quick entry that we weren’t prepared for the blaze waitress’ customary, “So you’ve been here before?” We hadn’t yet explained to our newcomer guests that Lucali lacks menus, sides (such as salad or bread), drinks (other than soda and espresso), and credit/debit transactions. It’s bare bones.
We had warned them, though, to not expect meat of any kind. Our only experience with a meat-topped Lucali pie was years early when an industrious friend brought his own sausage to be added to the pizza. That is how hardcore some people can be. So we were more than a little enthused when the waitress announced pepperoni was available. As you can see, we didn’t avoid it. Sadly on our second trip a few days later, the pepperoni well had run dry. No matter, because there’s certainly nothing to complain about the cheese and basil pizzas, or the cheese and artichoke pizza, or the ____ and ____ pizza. What I’m saying is these pizzas be delicious. So delicious, in fact, that a certain very famous couple can often be found at Lucali’s, no doubt skipping its infamous line.
It was serendipitous, then, that as we finished our third pizza (on the first visit…numbers are hard) I noticed a tall man in a black suit walk in. The waitresses seemed to know him. I didn’t recognize him, but I did catch that he had an earpiece in — the kind with the coiled wire you’d associate with the Secret Service. Naturally, we slowed our eating pace in the hopes someone famous would stop in. We waited. And waited. Eventually another similarly dressed man came in and sat with the first, at a 4-person table. I found this more than a little odd, since Lucali doesn’t seat guests until all members of the party are present. Even stranger, the two moved to a 6-person table and were met by a third bodyguard.
“Wait, maybe that guy’s famous.”
“The second one? I don’t think he is.”
“But why are they eating pizza without the famous person? There’s going to be a famous person, right?”
“Hmm, maybe it’s the third guy, and he’s just like a local congressman or something. We probably wouldn’t recognize him.”
“Yah, you’re probably right.”
Next to my pizza notes I jotted down: “secret service…just for some guy”
Finally, it was time to leave, and no sooner had we walked outside that I remembered the black car from earlier. “Hey, doesn’t that hood ornament look…fancy,” I asked? “Is it an…Aston Martin…or maybe a Bentely?” (I clearly know nothing of cars.) “It’s a Maybach,” our friend pointed out, “these things have seats that recline all the way back, like a first class airplane seat. It has like a 600 horsepower engine. These things are $300,000…half a million dollars!”
By this time I had already taken a picture of the hood ornament and had moved to the rear to get a closer look at the name of the carmaker, which I hadn’t quite understood from the friend’s explanation. “Oh, yes, a May-BOck. That’s like, a cool…car,” I stammered. Then it hit us all at once. This was Beyonce’s car. Beyonce was here.
Wait, no. Beyonce wasn’t here. What was her car doing here then, and why were there so many pointless bodyguards? Where they saving her a seat? Seems like she wouldn’t need that service. Plus, they ate their own pizza, without her. I doubt Beyonce rolls up and is like, “hey fellas/employees, thanks for saving me a slice!”
Annoyed that the rain had obscured my photo of the “Maybach” logo on the back of the car, I got in for a closer shot. “This is such a weird way to end the night,” I naively thought to myself.
“HEY BUDDY STOP IT!!!”
We were all startled. I whipped around to see a huge black SUV with a similarly huge man standing up from the driver’s side, yelling at me. “NO PICTURES,” he blared! You can call it silly, or foolish, or even dangerous, but my immediate New Yorker response was, “THIS IS PUBLIC PROPERTY, SO I CAN TAKE PICTURES IF I WANT!” My dining guests were nonplussed or perhaps frozen in shock, because they offered no verbal support when I quickly glanced over at them. What was I to do?
You better fucking believe I turned back around and got the second, clearer photo (seen at right). “HEY PAL,” the oaf shouted back! “I’m just trying to get a clear picture of the name,” I returned, slightly calmer. Until that moment, I honestly didn’t realize he thought I was trying to photograph the license plate number. This was obvious to everyone else. I had no clue. Hypothetically, though, even if I were doing that, there is nothing illegal happening (other than, I suppose, someone trying to limit my free speech) here. What would I have done with the number exactly? Looked it up on my hacked police database, 90’s movie style? What about all those times people look at the license plate number and, I dunno, write it down? Or just remember it?
Still, I got what I came for, so I moved on, smugly satisfied. Can I have my Webby now?