Grimaldi’s pizzeria at The Village at Meridian plays its New York City theme well.
The red-and-white checkered tablecloths will have diners humming Billy Joel’s song, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” And yes, you can get “A bottle of white, a bottle of red, perhaps a bottle of rose instead,” because the wine list boasts plenty of Chianti, Pinot Grigio and Rosato.
It’s also hard not to notice the wine-bottle lights dangling from the ceiling.
The exposed brick walls are adorned with old photos of the Big Apple and subway signs emblazoned with borough stops along the main line.
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Adding to the New York City feel, old Sinatra tunes mingle with the noise of clinking wine glasses and clamor of the dining room.
Grimaldi’s originated in New York City. It all started about a half century ago when Patsy Grimaldi opened his first pizzeria. He originally wanted his coal-fired brick oven pizzeria to be in Manhattan, but New York City’s most famous borough had banned new pizzerias from burning coal. So he settled on Brooklyn because there was no such regulation.
The Grimaldi family sold the branding rights to the restaurants in 1998, and the new owners took the concept nationwide in the new millennium by opening Grimaldi’s pizzerias across the U.S.
I always wonder if using this wood or that wood — or coal, for that matter — really makes a difference when you’re baking pizza pies in a brick oven. Can you really taste the nuances? Smoke is smoke, right?
Well, I brought a friend of mine who owns a mobile, wood-fired pizza business with me to find out. Two palates are better than one.
First off, we noticed a cook in the open kitchen area, within arm’s reach of the brick pizza oven, hand-stretching and tossing dough in the air — a really good sign.
Grimaldi’s specializes in thin-crusted pies that aren’t too convoluted with toppings. Instead, people can choose from a long list of Italian-inspired ingredients to build their own pizzas, which are sold in three sizes. The offerings include artichoke hearts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, oven-roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella, meatballs, Italian sausage and much more.
Diners not interested in making those kinds of decisions can go for a signature specialty pizza from a short list showcased at the bottom of the menu.
The aptly named Brooklyn Bridge ($24/large) boasts an aromatic red sauce (good and garlicky) topped with chunks of fennel seed-perfumed sausage, melty dabs of ricotta, roasted red bell peppers and fresh mozzarella for good measure.
My dining partner and I agreed that the coal offers a distinctive, earthy flavor that’s unlike the sweetness of fruit wood. (Thankfully there’s no ban on burning coal in Meridian.)
The crust — made with fine-ground Italian flour — is light and airy, with just the right amount of chewy resistance and crispiness on the bottom side.
A pepperoni pizza is a true barometer for a New York-style pizza joint. If the pepperoni pizza sucks? Brooklyn, we have a problem. I’m happy to report that Grimaldi’s makes an excellent pepperoni pie ($12/personal size), blistered and exhibiting big, doughy bubbles popping up through the red sauce, gooey mozzarella and thick-cut rounds of spicy pepperoni.
Another good choice is the pesto pizza ($16/small), especially topped with sliced Roma tomatoes (add $2). This simple pie will have you thinking Caprese, thanks to the combination of garlicky basil pesto, fresh mozzarella and juicy tomato slices.
The Quattro Formaggi ($22/large), which actually has five cheeses and not four cheeses as the name suggests, is a specialty pie with garlic-infused olive oil and a molten amalgam of Asiago, mozzarella, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano and tangy Gorgonzola.
Grimaldi’s also is known for its big calzones, also offered in three sizes. We went for a 12-inch calzone ($10) that quickly became expensive once we added some spicy chicken sausage ($4) and baby spinach ($2). But it’s a damn good pizza turnover, crusty and oozing melted mozzarella, sided with chunky red sauce.
The restaurant doesn’t serve many starters, yet diners can score an antipasto plate ($9/small) that’s arranged with slices of fresh mozzarella, marbled Genoa salami, olives and a tangle of roasted red bell pepper. The antipasto came with rather lackluster sliced Italian bread and balsamic vinegar and olive oil for drizzling over everything.
In terms of roughage, expect to find a few Mediterranean-influenced salads. The Caesar salad ($7/small) is a typical toss of chopped romaine, shaved Pecorino Romano and crunchy house-baked croutons, lightly dressed with a boring Caesar dressing—not enough anchovy and lemon for my liking.
Instead, I recommend ordering the house salad ($6/small), a hodgepodge of romaine, cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion, roasted red peppers, green olives and mushrooms tossed in zippy red wine vinaigrette.
All in all, Grimaldi’s seems to do pizza and calzones better than anything else.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: email@example.com.
Address: 3573 Longwing Lane, The Village at Meridian
Phone: (208) 884-2031
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Menu price range: starters and salads $6-$13; pizzas and calzones $9-$25
Libation situation: Expect to find a wine list with predominately Italian and California labels, around a dozen draft brews (even Peroni from Italy and some local brews), and bottled beers.
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes