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Grimaldi’s in California

December 5, 2014

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you may have seen me mention a time or two that in early 2010 when my husband and I traveled to New York City for my birthday, we discovered what we both think to be the greatest pizza place ever, the original Grimaldi’s underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.  The cold January day when we stood outside the small eatery waiting for a table only to be shuffled inside, stuffed into a tiny two-top amidst a throng (or as big of a throng as there could be in this tiny place) of other customers and ordered a large margherita pizza to share, was one of the highlights of our trip to New York.  Biting into that first slice was like biting into a slice of heaven.  The hot-out-of-the-coal-brick-oven pizza was magical.  The perfectly cooked and crispy “special recipe” crust with the homemade mozzarella, the amazing red sauce and the fresh ingredients literally rocked our pizza world.  For months and months after that trip to New York, my husband and I were still talking about our pizza experience at Grimaldi’s.  We were definitely in love, with the pizza, that is.  So, months later when we traveled to Las Vegas and discovered that they had a Grimaldi’s there, we couldn’t resist and we had to give it a try.  Again, pizza just the way we remembered it to be.  During the Christmas of 2012, my husband and traveled to the Arizona desert and discovered that there was a Grimaldi’s in Tucson, not too far from the University of Arizona campus, and of course, we just had to try it.  Do you see a pattern here?  We’re devoted Grimaldi’s fans.

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At the time of our first foray to the Grimaldi’s in Las Vegas, we had heard rumors that Grimaldi’s would be opening up a location in Southern California, in Los Angeles specifically, and my husband and I were so excited at the prospect of being able to eat at Grimaldi’s so close to home.  Of course, I Googled the information as soon as I got home and discovered that the site of the proposed Southern California location was El Segundo, not too far from the airport.  Ok, that was close enough to where we live that we could get to it.  For months and months I kept going to Google to see what the status was on the opening of Grimaldi’s and discovered that there always seemed to be problems plaguing this potential new location.  Eventually, I just gave up on it because I figured it just wouldn’t happen.  Then, out of the blue this year, my husband was somehow reminded of Grimaldi’s and looked them up again only to discover that they did in fact finally open up.  You know we just had to go and check it out.  After all, we’ve loved their pizza since Brooklyn to Las Vegas to Tucson, how could we not go when it was now in our own backyard?

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Unlike the tiny Grimaldi’s location located under the Brooklyn Bridge where the small dining room crammed with tables opened to an open kitchen at the back of the restaurant and the huge coal brick oven where all the pizzas were cooked, this location in El Segundo was so much larger and more spacious with wonderfully comfortable tables and booths inside as well as a large outdoor patio area with a firepit.  The kitchen was half glass at the back of the restaurant so that you could still see the preparation of the pizzas and there were 2 large coal brick ovens built along the far back wall.

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To start our meal, my husband and I decided to split a small Caesar salad.  Even a small salad is relatively large, definitely larger than one person could finish on their own.  Made with leafy green Romaine lettuce and topped with tons of shaved parmigiano reggiano and homemade croutons and topped with fresh cracked black pepper, the salad was a great start.  Not too heavy with thick Caesar dressing, the salad was light enough to serve as a great starter without being too heavy to handle the pizza that was to come.

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True to form, since my husband and I don’t seem to always agree on the same food we both decided to order our own pizza.  I chose a small pesto pizza topped with grilled chicken.  I absolutely love Grimaldi’s pesto sauce.  We never tried the pesto when we were in Brooklyn, but when we dined in Las Vegas I couldn’t resist it.  And the pesto here in El Segundo was just as good as I remembered it being.  Made with just the right touch of basil and oil and cheese and pine nuts, it had a great earthy and nutty flavor.  The grilled chicken was a great compliment to the nutty pesto sauce and the homemade mozzarella cheese.  And of course, for me the key ingredient on any Grimaldi’s pizza is the crispy, bubbly, slightly burnt crust that you get from the coal brick oven.  It’s so unique and definitely very tasty.

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My husband, creature of habit that he is ordered a large pizza with pepperoni.  The first time we went to Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, we ordered a classic margherita pizza, which was fantastic.  However, at some point along the way, we discovered that the margherita got kind of messy with the tomatoes on the pizza which tended to slide right off the thin-crust pizza and right into your lap.  So, we switched to pepperoni, and while it may seem boring, we really like the pepperoni that Grimaldi’s uses.  It’s the small, thick pepperoni that crisps up on the edges as it bakes in the pizza oven.  The pepperoni is full of flavor and compliments their tangy red sauce perfectly.  The pairing of the red sauce, the pepperoni and the homemade mozzarella pizza is a hard one to beat and probably one of my favorite pizzas now.

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Even after ordering 2 pizzas, we couldn’t seem to convince ourselves to leave the restaurant without ordering dessert, something we never got at the original Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn.  For dessert, my husband and I settled on the dessert trio which gives you the option of ordering a sampler size of any three of the restaurant’s desserts.  Since we’re not good at sharing, we decided to order 2 cannolis and a tiramisu.  This way, we would each get a small cannoli and we could share the square of tiramisu.  It’s hard to pass up a yummy chocolate chip cannoli, which is probably my husband’s favorite Italian dessert.  The perfectly fried cannoli shell filled with the creamy ricotta and chocolate chip filling is hard to resist.  And of course, the classic Italian dessert of tiramisu, which is probably my favorite Italian dessert.  Most times, my husband could probably do without tiramisu, especially since you never know what you’re going to get with tiramisu, something overly laden with rum or Marsala, or if it’s going to be more traditional and coffee/espresso flavored.  The latter we both enjoy, the former, not so much.  Here at Grimaldi’s their tiramisu is definitely more on the traditional side without a hint of alcohol in their recipe.  The tiramisu has a nice coffee flavor and a hint of sweetness from the cocoa powder making the dessert rich, slightly sweet and slightly bitter, which is terrific.

Now that Grimaldi’s has opened up so close to home, you can bet that this will become our new go to pizza joint in Southern California.  My husband and I just love the fresh ingredients and the coal brick oven and how it does amazing things to the pizza crust.  Hey, since we don’t have the opportunity to head over to Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge, why not take advantage of the fact that Grimaldi’s is now open in California?  Same amazing pizza, just a different location.

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