I can't help it. After five years of living in New York City, the first two of those in Bay Ridge, I can't help but mentally utter "THE FRESHMAYKAH" after hearing, or thinking of, the name Lento's.
Lento's (THE FRESHMAYKAH!) is a Bay Ridge institution, having stood on the corner of Third Avenue and 70th Street since 1933. When I called the Ridge home, Lento's was my go-to spot for whole pies, despite the 20-block round-trip walk. (It's eat in or carry out; no delivery.)
In a city known for thin-crust pizza, Lento's, a combination bar and restaurant, goes to the extreme. This stuff is cracker thin and has an almost pastrylike flakiness to it. For pizza lovers who hold the ideal crust to be that hard-to-achieve dichotomy of crispness and chewiness, Lento's may fall short. There's no way you can do the "fold hold" on a slice here without it breaking crunchily down the center. Not of consequence to me, having grown up eating many a homemad pie in this vein as my dad experimented with crusts and sauces before opening a short-lived pizzeria in the inhospitable-to-pizza town of Olathe, Kansas. In a way, Lento's was a slice of home to this transplanted hick.
Long story short, I hadn't been to the place in ages, not since moving to Park Slope a couple years ago. But I was bitten by the Lento's bug a couple months ago, during talk of a Bay Ridge pizza contest. I wanted to visit, this time with a more critical palate, to see if it was all that I remembered.
The crust was as light and crisp and crackery as ever, and since I'm a crust guy, it rated high. But I was dismayed to find that a thick blanket of cheese contributed to most of the flavor, masking an adequate but not-all-that-special tomato sauce. It was good, just nowhere near as great as I remembered it.
But why not? I doubt that Lento's quality has nosedived since my time in Bay Ridge. I'd guess that, after moving away and starting Slice, learning more about pizza as I've posted entries over the last year and a half, my taste in pizza has changed. And, sadly, a pizza that used to give me so much comfort and joy, when put under the Slice-roscope came up wanting. I still stand by Lento's, though, and my one hope is that, maybe if I order it with half the cheese they normally use, I could get something a little more balanced.
It'll be worth another trip back to the old stamping grounds to experiment.
Update: As of January 2006, Lento's is closed. R.I.P.
Address: 7003 Third Ave., Brooklyn, NY (Bay Ridge)
The Skinny: Ultrathin-crust pizza gets cold fast; best eaten in-house. Flaky, crackerlike crust. Could stand to have less cheese.