Slice

L&B Spumoni Gardens vs. The Square

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L&B Spumoni Garden is best experienced on a warm summer night. The Square is primarily a take-out and delivery pizzeria. [Photos: Adam Kuban]

If you don't hear from me after this post, I'm either dead or in witness protection. If so, it's been nice knowin' ya, Slice'rs.

You may have read about the beef between legendary Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, pizzeria L&B Spumoni Gardens and The Square, a joint on Staten Island that allegedly* borrowed the L&B recipe and started serving what The Square at one time referred to as "L&B–style" Sicilian slices. (If that sign ever existed, as the New York Daily News reported, it has since been removed.)

Here are some pics for comparison. In all the photos that follow, L&B is on the left, while The Square is on the right.

* You're going to see a lot of allegedly's in this post. I'm treading lightly here.

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An L&B square slice is $2.25. The Square's is $2. If these slices look a little tired, it's that I got them as take-out and shot them side-by-side at home. Do you blame me? Do you think I really wanted to whip out a competitor's pizza in either of these joints?

If you didn't see the news about the "gangland sauce summit," what allegedly happened, in a nutshell, was that The Square is said to have taken L&B's recipe and then set up shop on Staten Island. OK, yeah, you say, happens a lot in the food industry. What makes this prime fodder for the NYC tabloids, though, is that the Colombo and Bonnano crime families were involved. Some bad blood led to a sit-down (at Panera Bread Company—you couldn't make this up!) where some money allegedly changed hands and all was smoothed out.

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News of the sauce summit came out in the trial of Francis Guerra, an alleged Colombo member whose in-laws own L&B and who stands accused of extortion in connection with the L&B–Square dispute.

From the Daily News:

Assistant Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Nicole Argentieri probed further as to what makes L&B so special.

"They put the sauce on top of the cheese," [ex-Colombo capo Anthony] Russo said.

As you can see in these photos, The Square does, too. But, as Mr. Russo related, Bonanno member Anthony Calabrese, who helped broker the resolution, had a rather zenlike outlook on the dust-up:

"He (Calabrese) said, 'Are we gonna go after every pizzeria that puts sauce on their slice?' " Russo said. "I said, 'You got a point there.' "

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In the side-by-sides here, you should discount the square-inch difference in slice sizes. Sometimes you get a slightly smaller slice, sometimes you get a big one. Luck of the draw. That's life.

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But even dimensionality aside, you can see some differences in the slices. The L&B slice has a thicker crispness zone on the bottom of the crust. It is noticeably crunchy. I've eaten at The Square twice now (both times from an oven-fresh pie), and it has not been as crisp.

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The crust at The Square is noticeably sweet, whereas L&B's is not. The Square is not off-the-charts sweet, but you can pick it out even among the flavors of the sauce and cheese. If you've had Portuguese sweet bread or Hawaiian bread, it's similar to that. The Square's sauce balances out the sweetness of the crust in a way, though, it is a bit more acidic than L&B's. L&B's sauce has a more-pronounced dried-herb flavor.

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L&B seems to use more sauce as well. At The Square, there's a nice balance among crust, sauce, and cheese. Everything is in harmony. But if you like a saucier slice, L&B might do it for you. With a thicker crust, that extra sauce is sometimes a welcome addition.

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If I do say so myself, this is a great shot. It's fast become one of my favorite photos of a pizzeria I've ever taken.

It's now time for me to point you to Nick Solares's 2010 review of L&B, where he calls the joint "a rite of passage in the form of pizza." He really captures the spirit of the place.

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The Square is primarily a delivery and take-out place. There are a few tables inside to sit at, but most of the business I've observed in the times I've gone has been in-and-out. This being Staten Island, where folks tend to own cars, it makes sense.

OK, so there you have the photographic comparison. Hope to see you next week, folks! Hasta la pizza.

L&B Spumoni Gardens

2725 86th Street Brooklyn, NY 11223 (b/n West 10th/11th; map); 718-449-1230; spumonigardens.com

The Square

1910 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island NY 10305 (at Seaver Ave.; map)
718-979-4700

About the author: Adam Kuban is the founder of Slice, where he has been blogging about pizza for more than eight years. You should follow him on Twitter: @akuban.

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