A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Jul. 23.

Lunch -

L&B Spumoni Gardens - 2725 86th St., Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Two squares, one square with mushrooms, a Sierra Mist, a large cone of rainbow spumoni, a watermelon ice

At Denino’s, at the end of Pizza World Tour (see May 22), a man at another table had heard about Vince’s and my pizza-eating odyssey. He came over and started asking us about some of his favorites, comparing his top places to ours. It was a fun dialogue that found a lot of common territory, but I took special notice when he mentioned L&B Spumoni Gardens. L&B is one spot that frequently comes up in the eternal pizza debates, and it also happens to be one I’ve never visited. When I asked him more about it, he spoke highly of their squares. “Trust me on this one,” he said. “I’m fat. I know food.”

So trust him I did, deciding to devote a Saturday afternoon to a jaunt back out to Benhonhurst. Being that it was a pleasant summer day, I was also looking forward to the tri-color treat of spumoni. It took a long time to arrive, but when Vince and I got out of the car, I felt like we’d traveled back in time. L&B looks like it hasn’t changed much since the 50’s, an admirable relic when the neighborhood was still second-generation Italian. There was a pick-up window, picnic tables and a large outdoor tent, but we opted to eat inside, with the statues of cherubs adding to the ambiance of an old-school Italian restaurant.

The menu was filled with pastas and usual suspect antipasti, but I was here for the pizza. Taking the tip from the man at Denino’s, I started out with two squares. They were definitely tasty, with the bread being more noteworthy than the sauce or the minimal cheese. Medium-dark and crispy, the thick bread went beyond what you’d find at a neighborhood pizzeria. But overall, the squares still didn’t warrant the trip. They weren’t in the same exemplary league as a DiFara square (see May 22), which my friend Dario still brings up more than two months later. This difference was only underscored when I ordered another square with mushrooms. There was no mistaking it: these L&B funghi had just come out of a can.

But all was not lost. After the pizza, Vince and I ordered spumoni and sat outside. It was some of the best I’d had, and really made for an excellent summer dessert. All three flavors, pistachio, chocolate and vanilla, were worth getting. Sated but still eager to try more, I also opted for a watermelon ice, which was equally excellent. While I still prefer Ralph’s Ices in Port Richmond, L&B gracefully redeemed itself with both of its desserts. And while the tip from the man at Denino’s didn’t totally pan out, I’m glad we checked it out. Next time, we might have to pay a long overdue visit to Totonno’s, another spot he highly recommended. 7/10

* Slice NY visits L&B Spumoni Gardens in September 2004

* The Daily News gives L&B Spumoni Gardens two and a half stars in its massive five-borough pizza taste-off (DiFara and Franny's win with four stars)

Dinner -

Itzocan Bistro - 1575 Lexington Ave., Spanish Harlem
Pumpkin and Shrimp Soup with Chipotle Crema Fresca, half of the Wild Mushroom Huitlacoche Crepes with Brie and Poblano Crema Fresca, Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Red Snapper with Zucchini, Ibarra Chocolate Pear Tarte with Goat’s Milk Caramel Sauce; two glasses of sangria


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