L & B Spumoni Gardens
... Or, 'You Eat the Nicest Pizza on a Honda'*
Not to be upstaged by Frank Bruni's adventures in pizza, the intrepid editor and publisher of this pizza website participated in his own pizza exploits yesterday. While Mr. Bruni's quest was by sea, however, mine was decidedly by land, as yesterday marked the maiden run of "The Slicecycle."
After several summer weeks filled with rider-safety courses, DMV visits, and eBay parts searches, my recently purchased 1974 Honda CB360 was ready to be pressed into the service of seeking out superb slices. More pressing, however, was that the thing needed to pass inspection in order to comply with New York state law. The nearest inspection station? The one that's a short five blocks from home? Out of inspection stickers, of course. Forced to go to the next closest, all the way out in Bensonhurst, I thought, "HmmWhy not kill two birds and hit up L&B Spumoni Gardens after inspection?" It was, as they say, a "no-brainer."
As expected, the bike passed inspection. I paid my six bucks, got the sticker, and my days as an outlaw biker came to an end. Free to ride my machine without being hassled by the man, I wanted to get loaded on pizza. And so I was on a run to L&B, just a few blocks down 86th Street.
L&B is less a single restaurant than a complex of eateries. On the western end is the pizzeria, which turns out amazing square slices. Crisp on the bottom, airy yet toothy in the middle, and topped with a blanket of whole-cream mozzarella and then a tangy sauce, they are superior to the dense, tough Sicilian slices you get in most pizzerias, where the squares are often an afterthought, on the menu as a matter of course. At those places, you order a square when you're hard up and want to fill your stomach with the smallest amount of scratch. At L&B, even though the Sicilians are still thick, they don't bomb your belly like a lead brick. Here, like nowhere else, it's hip to be square.
I ordered two slices and a Pepsi at the pass-through window and sat at a table near the street, the better keep an eye on my ride. Chewing crust and contemplating L&B, I was struck by how much it reminded me of a suburban mini-golf-and-batting-cage park, with its dated architecture and brightly painted red-and-white battery of picnic tables. That is to say, it's a cheery place. A fun place. A throwback to the good old days of childhood. It was either Jim Leff or Steven Shaw who wrote that L&B is the kind of place families take their kids to after Little League games. That description is right on the money, and the only reason I probably didn't see any postgame hi-jinks was that it was 1 p.m. on a Friday.
Slices devoured, it was on to dessert. Just to the right of the pizzeria portion of the compound is the spumoni stand. Slice is not a dessert-review site, and I am not a huge dessert fan, so I won't get too detailed with this. Had a pistachio spumoni. Served in one of those little Italian-ice paper cups. It was good. Save room. Though with icy desserts, that's usually not a problem. There's always room for ice cream because it just melts around whatever's already in your stomach.
L&B's third part, the sit-down Italian restaurant, I can't vouch for. Slice isn't in it for pastas, etc., so we'll let other sources cover that.
L&B SPUMONI GARDENS
Location: 2725 86th Street; Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Getting there: N train to 86th Street Station