Chew On This: Pizza

It’s tough for a pizzeria to make it in this town. Or maybe it isn’t so tough, seeing as we already have hundreds of pizzerias. A few of them are right there in the glamour and lights of the bar scene, a la Fat Bob’s or Gourmet. Others are slightly hidden, tucked away in their respective quarters, like Rino’s or La Bella.

Over the last week I visited the two newest pizza joints in New Paltz: Grimaldi’s Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria and Picnic Pizza.

They are two completely different restaurants, with totally different styles of pizza. My job is to alert you to what these places are like. What they are about. Their ambiance. Their décor. Most importantly, though, is how good their pizza tastes.

While each restaurant approaches pizza-making differently, there was a clear winner when my stomach was bloated and full.

Grimaldi’s appearance brings you right to Italy. The tables are nice, the lights are low and the atmosphere is romantic. I went inside to pick up my plain, brick oven pizza the appropriate 15 minutes after I had placed the order. The total for one large, plain pie was $15.27 with tax.

I asked the waitress if Grimaldi’s had any menus I could take home, for future orders. I was handed a plain sheet of paper and felt like I was being given a homework assignment sheet in junior high. In fact, I folded it up into fours and shoved it in my cargo pockets, just like I used to do with my homework.

The waitress then brought out my pie. It wasn’t in a box, but what I guess you would call a white, flimsy bag, shaped like a pizza.

The walk home was nerve wracking, but I made the three minute trip without catastrophe. I tore right in to the dinner. However, the pizza was cold. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a nice, cold slice of pizza at midnight now and then, but I had prepared myself for a piping hot slice, right out of the oven.

I’m not saying that Grimaldi’s is terrible. In fact, the pizza did taste delicious. What I am saying is that, at least for my visit, they seemed to put too much effort into their appearance, and not enough into the actual quality, from their menus to their bags, all the way down to their icy pie.

Picnic Pizza also sets their mood to Italy, but not on overdrive. There are some nice pictures on the wall, some scenes of Italy, some photos of their past locations. The inside setup is very basic, it is not a place to take someone on a date. While Grimaldi’s sets the scene for a nice, romantic evening with a significant other, Picnic seems to be more of a lunch destination, or maybe takeout.

Their pizza is more doughy. They have a variety toppings and serve many other dishes besides pizza, whereas Grimaldi’s has only a few select choices on the menu.

What really whet my appetite, besides the fact that it was lunchtime and I was hungry, was their deals. I got two slices, one plain and one, “taco,” and a 16-ounce drink for just $4. The pizza quality was in-between drunken stupor delicious and New York City delicious.

They have other deals as well, and have coupons for two-for-one pizzas and subs. As a college student, you can’t beat two slices and a drink for that price.

Before I left I asked for a menu, for future orders. I was handed a brightly colored, multiple paged booklet, with a picture of a pizza-maker twirling dough in his hand. It’s so beautiful that I  considered putting it up on my wall (I didn’t).

Ultimately, Picnic Pizza and Grimaldi’s are two separate types of restaurants, despite having the same main dish. Grimaldi’s is nice for a date, and I can’t pretend to think that they always serve cold pizza. Picnic is a great place to grab lunch, and seems to be perfect for a college town like New Paltz.

Ben Horney

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