Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Slice of New York in El Segundo

2121 Rosecrans Ave. Ste. 1399
El Segundo, CA 90266

I have to admit I was skeptical walking in here. I had a pretty great pizza when I was at the Grimaldi's underneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York a few years ago. Whether it's the water, the weather, or the crazy toppings that we put on our pizzas, the West Coast has always been treated as a stepchild when it comes to great pizza in the US. Chicago has their fantastic deep dish, New York is celebrated for their thin crust, and we have pineapple on pizza, which is blasphemous to other areas of the country. Yes, Southern California is not known for their pizza's, but I was hoping that Grimaldi's opening here would bring us some pizza cred.

The reason I was skeptical was that I was worried this was not going to be as good as the pizza we had in New York. Grimaldi's has been around for over a hundred years. They cook their pizzas in a coal fired brick oven, which they feel gives their pizzas a crispness and flavor that you just can't get from other pizza ovens. Along with the oven lore, they also have a secret dough and pizza sauce recipe, and they have tried to replicate the New York water over the years, and feel they have a pretty good handle on it now. The pizza oven is 25 tons and burns at 1200 degrees. We were excited to see if this pizza could live up to what we experienced in Brooklyn.

Our reason for being up in this neck of the woods was that of course we were taking Chuck and Stephanie to LAX, for their red eye flight back to North Carolina. We arrived at Grimaldi's at just after eight on a Saturday night. There was plenty of parking in the structure in the back of this location. When leaving the structure, make your way towards Rosecrans, which Grimaldi's is situated alongside. The Brooklyn location is notorious for their long lines all throughout the day, but that was not the case in El Segundo. We were seated right away.

This is a much more spacious space than the East Coast location. Tables are spread out a lot more. There's a sleek kind of vibe here, with lots of dark woods, exposed brick, and their signature red and white table cloths. The menu here is pretty straight forward. Starters include six different kinds of salads, and the rest of the menu is left for pizzas and calzones. No pasta dishes or other entrees are offered at Grimaldi's. This is strictly a pizza place, so if you're not in the mood for pizza, you should move along. Luckily, we were all geared up for pizza, so we ordered and eagerly awaited our food to arrive.

I'm always partial to Caesar Salads ($11), so I roped our party of four into giving the one at Grimaldi's a try. This is the large size version of this salad, which fed the four of us barely. This Caesar had all the usual suspects included; shaved Parmesan, romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, and croutons. The freshness of the romaine was definitely evident in these pictures. The vibrant green was very pleasing, and there was plenty of Parmesan and croutons included in this. Where this salad failed was in the minimal use of dressing. It was barely noticeable throughout the salad. Yes we could have asked for more, but I like the food to come out as the kitchen envisions it. The lack of dressing on this made this salad pretty average, which was disappointing.

Katie's pizza made it's way to the table first. She had a personal size pizza. There are no specialty pizzas here, you choose the size you want, what kind of sauce you desire, and then pick your toppings, which range in price from $2 to $5. She went with a Personal White with Garlic pizza , and added Spicy Chicken Sausage and Artichoke Hearts ($19). Katie was pretty blown away with this pizza, which she said was on par with the one we had in Brooklyn. This personal pizza was the perfect size for her, and she was even generous enough to share two slices with the three of us, while we were waiting for our pizza to come out. I liked the spicy sausage which added a kick, and the garlic was front and center on this pizza. Big time flavors.

There was a long time that passed between when Katie's pizza came out, and when ours hit the table. It was close to twenty minutes, but the manager was right on top of things. He apologized for the wait, explaining that our pizza was burnt on accident, and he would take it off of the bill. I thought this was very generous of him, and I liked that he admitted their snafu. This Large Pizza ($23 with toppings) was worth the wait though. We selected jalapenos, pepperoni, and sausage to top our pie. This is usually my go to order when trying a new pizza place. The toppings were evenly spread across the pizza. This was not an overly cheesy pizza, but you could still tell it was there. The crust stayed crisp, and the edges of the crust were not overly bready, which I liked. My one complaint would be that there was just too little of sauce used on this, but that's just my personal preference. I also noticed a lack of grease on the pizza pan when we were done. I attribute this to the high quality toppings and cheese that they use here. This is not an overly heavy pizza, which made Stephanie and Chuck happy, since they were going to be sitting on a plane for the next four hours.

Since our pizza was being taken off the bill, we decided to splurge on dessert. At Grimaldi's they have three desserts to choose from, or you could get the Dessert Trio ($10) and sample all three. This trio was made up of tiramisu, your choice of one of their house made cheesecakes, and their signature cannoli. I liked the cheesecake the best, which is odd because I'm not usually a cheesecake fan. This one was not too chalky though, and was more on the creamy side. There was also no shortage of Oreo crumbs on this. The cannoli was good, but a little too hard to split between four people to get a good bite. A good crunch to it, and the filling inside was pretty solid. The tiramisu was decent, but a little too bland in my opinion. I liked that they did offer this option so you could try all of their desserts, because sometimes it's too hard to pick just one.

Okay first and foremost, I know what a lot of you are thinking about Grimaldi's, it's too expensive. I mean, $19 for a personal size pizza is a little too much, and I agree with that. In this case though, you do get what you pay for. If you are a true pizza fan, you will want to experience what Grimaldi's has offered for over a hundred years, no matter what the price. The pizzas here are worth it every once in a while, especially when you consider that a large pizza at Round Table or Lamppost costs over the $20 mark, and although they are good, they can not compete with what is offered at Grimaldi's. This was definitely a lot more comfortable setting than the cramped Brooklyn location we visited. Besides the unfortunate burning of our pizza, service was definitely not an issue on this night. Our waitress was over to our table every so often to maintain drink levels and make sure all of our needs were met. Even when Chuck and Stephanie came back into town, they remarked how much they enjoyed this pizza. Maybe having Grimaldi's in Southern California will actually gain us some pizza cred, until someone orders pineapple on their pizza.

Out of five Barbie dolls, (because the city of El Segundo is the corporate home to Mattel, makers of the famous blond doll), five being best to zero being worst, Grimaldi's gets 3.5 Barbie dolls.

For more information on Grimaldi's, go to their website here:

Grimaldi's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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