A Hamburger Today
The following cluster of photos will no doubt be bewildering. But bear with me. Today's theme is "lights." And lots of them. It's a theme that strings together the over-the-top Christmas decorations of Dyker Heights and the below-the-ankle action of Saturday Night Fever.
That, and the fact that both spectacles take place in roughly the same area of Brooklyn. After that, the association kinda falls apart.
Anyway, back to the story: A sudden and unexpected opening appeared in my schedule last Thursday evening, and I decided to head down to Dyker Heights to see the neighborhood's famous lights. Despite a two-year stint living in Bay Ridge, I'd never been, and I wanted to get this in before the then-looming transit strike at midnight. Always scheming to bring pizza into everything I do, I brainstormed feverishly for a Slice angle. "What's near there?" I thought. "Hmm... Eighty-Sixth StreetLenny's!"
Yes, Lenny's Pizza, the shooting location of the pizza scene at the beginning of Saturday Night Fever. I had hit upon it. Lighted houses, lighted dance floor. Close enough.
I went to Dyker Heights prepared for a sensory onslaught. With the exception of a a couple extravagantly decked-out houses on 84th Street (above), the lights in the area didn't quite live up to the hype I'd heard over the years. I was under the impression that all the homes in a so-many-square-block area were lit like Vegas. (Maybe I just didn't walk down the right streets?) Still, it was a fun experience, and I had my picture taken with Elmo (above).
With the rainy sleet starting to turn the sidewalks to ice, I figured I better stop searching for more bright lights and start hoofin' it to Lenny's. I'd already walked eight avenue blocks, so what was another seven I thought. But those blocks on 86th Street are long, let me tell you. After a good 25-minute walk, I found myself at the beginning of the stretch of elevated train tracks familiar to viewers of Welcome Back Kotter. Another three minutes later, I was at Lenny's.
It's a good, solid Brooklyn pizzeria, with slices to match. There's a full array of stromboli, garlic knots, rice balls, and all the nonpizza goodies you'd expect. When I entered around 10 p.m., a bit worse for the wear, I was surprised to find a crowd of people ordering and waiting for slice reheats. Grandma slices seemed to be flying out of the oven and onto paper plates, but I wanted to eat two plain slices Tony Manerostyle.
Tony Manero is, of course, John Travolta's character in Saturday Night Fever. At the beginning of the flick, he grabs a couple slices from Lenny's, double-decks them (as in photo at right), and eats them while walking down the street.
I had to try it.
"So this place was in Saturday Night Fever, right?" I asked.
"Yeah," says the guy behind the counter, smirking.
"Can you show me how Travolta ate those two slices?"
"Sure, why not?"
The guy must have thought I was nuts by this point, but he good naturedly stacked my slices, laughing about it, and handed me my change.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is an unbelieveably wrong way to eat a couple of slices. I could only stand about two bites of it this way. The method throws the balance off and makes the "slice" too thick, especially if it's full of gooey, melty HOT cheese, as was this Frankenslice. Luckily, I was able to separate the slices with only minor damage to either one.
On their own terms, Lenny's plain slice is good, but not great. It's like I said above, a good, solid Brooklyn slice. A little too heavy on the cheese, but with enough sauce to match, and a thinner than usual crust that's crisp and nicely browned from the reheat. Two slices were enough for me to get my fill of it, but I was curious about the grandma pizza there, which, as I also mentioned above, seemed to be the thing.
It was. Thin, airy, crisp crust, good cheese. Nice garlicky zest, good sauce. I'd sooner get the grandma slice at Lenny's than the regular if I lived in the neighborhood, but if you're going for the SNF aspect and a double-decker slice, you'd be advised to save room for the pizza di nonna.
As I exited, the guy who stacked my slices asked how I liked it.
"I don't know what he was thinkin'," I said. "That's the dumbest way to eat pizza. Ever." In fact, the technique is as big a flop as Battlefield Earth.
I asked a second Lenny's guy why he thought Tony Manero ate his pizza that way.
"Dunno. Maybe he was trine ta be a wise ass. ... Naw. I think he wasinna hurry. He could eat 'em both at once."
I'm sure that's the case. But even so, ugh. I've now seen the lights and the light, at least regarding slice stacking. The Bee Gees were right: "We're livin' in a world of fools."