L&B Spumoni Gardens - Brooklyn, NY

L&B Spumoni Gardens is Beloved by Many, but I Didn't Quite Connect With Their Pizza

A slice of L&B Spumoni Gardens Sicilian Pizza.

Bustling New York Pizzeria Efficiently Serves the Masses

L&B is One of the Busiest Pizzerias I Have Encountered So Far in NYC, and was among the most recommended pizzerias time and time again when I asked my readers where I should try when planning two recent trips to the Big Apple.  It's nationally recognized and reviewed countless times by food critics more tenured and seasoned than myself.  The reviews I read are generally positive, and most point to their famous spumoni for desert.

New York Style Slice from L&B Spumoni Gardens.

While in Coney Island with the family, we decided to take a quick jaunt north to give this fabled Sicilian pizza a shot.  Just a couple of blocks away from the D train, it was really easy to get to and with the massive crowd was impossible to miss!  My first thought was, "I don't have enough time to wait in line for this."  But I saw they had their operation neatly divided into distinct sections for slices only, full pies, ice cream only, and other things like dinners.  To further speed up the operation, it appeared that they did not offer toppings on the pizza, which is how I planned to order it anyway.  It was an impressive operation, and thoughtfully put together to handle the huge volume of the mob of folks hungrily enjoying their food and desert at one of the many red picnic tables.

I got to the window and didn't hear the first call from behind the glass, and after I recognized it was my turn, I could tell the 5 seconds or so that I didn't respond had killed the rhythm at the pizza counter, so when I heard "What do you want?" a second time I felt like I was in Philadelphia pondering "Wiz Wit or Wiz Witout?" at Geno's cheesesteak window for the first time ever.  I typically pride myself on being efficient and ordering with authority as I was prepared to do so, but I was just your average clueless tourist in that moment and I was not so subtly alerted to that, which I appreciated BTW.  I love that these guys are so busy that they don't need to worry about exchanging pleasantries and babying customers - because they are working their tails off!

This interaction, however, did remind me that that I had very high expectations for this pizza.  From all that I've been told, read about, seen in photos, and by this massive crowd, and the confidence the point of sale all pointed to something that just had to be great, legendary, and worthy of such excitement by so many.  I paid, and a nearby picnic table opened up.  I ended up ordering 3 slices of Sicilian and 3 slices of NY style round pizza.  I opened up the small box which logically could not accommodate 6 slices of pizza, and I was a little miffed that they were sloppily thrown on top of each other inside a box meant for 2 slices max.

The tight crumb of the crust of the Sicilian Pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn.

I observed that all slice pies they were serving were taken directly from the oven and cut immediately for boxing, so I was dealing with a fresh pie.  One thing I thought was pretty cool was how they cut the pizza with a knife and fork.  It was sort of like the knife and fork a hibachi chef would use in a Japanese steakhouse and added to the charm of the place.  I took the slices out of the box carefully and rearranged them onto plates to get a better look.

The Sicilian slice wasn't like most of the light, puffy, airy Sicilians that I've eaten and made personally over the years.  It was more of a thick Grandma pizza to me, without a full rise and parbake prior to sauce, cheese, and final bake.  It featured a dense, doughy, tight crumb that was not what I was expecting.  It was piping hot and appeared to be cooked exactly like all of the photos I'd seen online, but it fell a bit flat for me.  I did enjoy the "upside-down" Sicilian concept with the cheese underneath the sauce that helps to keep the crust from getting soggy.  The sauce was smooth, slightly sweet, mostly neutral, lightly seasoned with a bit of an aftertaste that followed.  It was a good slice, but unremarkably average and ordinary for me.  It seemed to have been prepared with the same care in which it was shoved in the tiny box with 5 other slices.  



The New York slice was my favorite of the two as it offered everything you'd look for in a classic NY style pizza.  It wasn't all that crispy and had some flop, but having considerably more cheese on this pizza, a more balanced flavor profile made this much more satisfying to me.  It was the type of slice that you fold in half and just chow down on.  Overall, I have to say I did expect much more from both slices, particularly the Sicilian, but hey maybe I just didn't understand the pizza or maybe it was just not the best representation of the L&B product.  If I do return, it will definitely be for the spumoni, that I have heard so much about, and witnessed the smiles on people's faces after eating it!

So if you're reading this article and have tried L&B Spumoni Gardens, have you had a similar experience or is my experience not representative of what is normally served there?  

UPDATE: Following my writing of this review, seeking greater context for my own review, I searched to see if one of my pizza colleagues, Pizza Quixote had reviewed this pizza and found that he had multiple times, and had many of the same impressions as I did, including the ordering experience similar to Geno's and Pats!  Check it out his review.

The Ratings

Restaurant: L&B Spumoni Gardens
Location: 2725 86th St, Brooklyn, NY 11223
Date: July 2021
Eat In/Take Out: Eat In

Pizza Ordered: Sicilian Slice
Price: $$$
Crust: 6.9
Sauce: 6.8
Cheese: 7.3
Overall Taste: 7.1
Crispy/Cooked Properly: 7.3
Overall Value: 6.8
OVERALL RATING: 7.0

Pizza Ordered: New York Style Slice
Price: $$$
Crust: 7.4
Sauce: 7.2
Cheese: 7.5
Overall Taste: 7.4
Crispy/Cooked Properly: 7.2
Overall Value: 7.1
OVERALL RATING: 7.3

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