Saturday, March 21, 2009

Grimaldi's is For Real

I found myself in somewhat of a moral dilemna with the whole Grimaldi's thing. Having been to the Mother-Ship/Flagship Grimaldi's in Brooklyn - and having absolutely LOVED the coal-fired pie (and vowing to return) ... I could not bring myself to drive to Sugar Land to try the Grimaldi's there. I told myself I was giving them time to work out the kinks, but they'd been open since the end of January ... what the heck was wrong with me? Was it fear and if so, fear of what? I think I was afraid it wouldn't be as good ("how could it be - especially if it was in Sugar Land?" said the inner-loop snob). Was I just bitter about having to go to Sugar Land to try it? Was I afraid to endorse the franchising of such a pure entity ... was I somehow "selling out"?

Then a couple of days ago, another food-lover (shocked by the fact that I had not yet been) told me the real secret was to go just after they had "stoked the fire" around 5:00 p.m. in the day. Apparently they literally shut down pizza production for a time so they can accomplish this. I was intrigued by the tip and felt like it was a sign that I needed to take the plunge. Today the seriously-pizza-loving boyfriend and I set out for the land o' sugar to take it all in.

I have to admit, I wasn't feeling the love as we headed into the suburban traffic on Highway 6 heading toward the First Colony Mall entrance. The "First Colony Courtyard" is off to the side, beside the mall so you drive into the mall parking lot - in heavy traffic - and park there so you can walk over to the Courtyard and all its glory, including The Cheesecake Factory located just across the "waterway" from Grimaldi's. The atmosphere was somewhere between The Venetian in Vegas and ... a suburban mall (both places that are simply not my cup o' tea) as we drove around for awhile looking for a place to park ... I just couldn't see it turning out well.

Arriving at exactly 5:00 as they took down the "no pizza right now because we're stoking the fire" sign from the host stand, we took our seats at a comfy high table with barstools, looking towards the large bar which opened up to the patio and waterfalls outside, I had to admit, the atmosphere was quite nice, especially on such a gorgeous, sunny spring day. Perhaps I needed an attitude adjustment and maybe, just maybe the pizza would be good.

We started with the cesar salad which was pedestrian - no harm, no foul but nothing special. The pizza menu offers three different sizes (12", 16", and 18") and three different styles - the traditional red sauce style, "white with garlic" and "pesto". We had to go traditional our first time out and so we settled on pepperoni with sausage and opted for the 12" even though it is called "personal" size.

I walked over to watch the guys making the pizza on the other side of the glass and made note of the fresh mozzarella on the bottom of the pie, topped with the pepperoni (smaller than usual) and the sausage, which was torn from a large piece of fresh and placed raw alongside the pepperoni on top of the cheese. Then the thinner-than-I-expected sauce was spooned sporadically on top along with a sprinkling of grated parmesan and I think a bit of oregano. Definitely not over-sauced or over-topped in any way whatsoever ... I began to feel hopeful. I watched them slide the pie into the coal-fired oven and began to count the moments until the real test.

The pizza was placed on the pizza stand hot and bubbly. It was all we could do to keep from burning our tongue to take the first bite, feeling pretty good about things at that point because it looked AWESOME. And then I learned one of life's lessons about facing fear head-on ... it was as good as the pie we'd enjoyed in Brooklyn. Maybe even better (blasphemy!). I decided it was over the top because we waited for the new-fire, right?!
The crust was so perfectly crisp yet tender at the same time. The sausage was spiked with fennel and had a great bite, caramelized just right as was the smallish and slightly thicker than normal pepperoni. The cheese was creamy but not too oozy (and the perfect amount). The sauce was just the right compliment to it all - not too sweet nor too tangy - just a part of the mix that was so damn good, I knew I would be making this trip - to the mall in Sugar Land on a regular basis. Easier than a flight to NYC and a subway ride to Brooklyn, I suppose. And now I have a reason to be jealous of the lucky folks who live in Sugar Land and can enjoy it on a daily basis.


Anonymous said...

("how could it be - especially if it was in Sugar Land?" said the inner-loop snob).

ummm....aren't you from Pasadena??

Jodie Eisenhardt said...

Ha - just saw this - too funny. Anonymous, are you "east-side", too? I actually didn't leave in Pasadena but rather Deer Park (Urban Cowboy was filmed in my neighborhood, hell yeah!). But I've been a city-girl for more than a couple of decades now so I stand behind my snobby status - ha!