HEADS UP! Lombardi’s is closed today and tomorrow for their (almost) annual oven maintenance. The approximately 12’x14’ coal-burning oven was built around 1898 at 32 Spring Street, the currently location of the restaurant. The oven at Lombardi’s original location (53 Spring Street) has been removed due to deterioration caused by the 6 train. That oven was built around the same time with only slightly smaller dimensions. Lombardi’s relocated to 32 Spring Street in 1994 because of an unused coal oven on site that had been out of commission for 21 years. 

These ovens were built originally as bread ovens and were not intended to be heated as intensely as they are when used for pizza. Every year or so, Lombardi’s shuts town for a few days to cool off the oven and replace broken bricks. Masons literally crawl into the oven. That photo above was taken when I went into the oven in 2010. 

Want to visit another coal-burning pizzeria while Lombardi’s is out of commission? Here are a few options:

John’s Pizzeria (278 Bleecker St, Greenwich Village)
Arturo’s (106 West Houston St, Greenwich Village)
Luzzo’s (211 1st Ave, East Village)
Patsy’s (2287 1st Ave, East Harlem)
Juliana’s (19 Old Fulton St, DUMBO)
Angelo’s (117 West 57th St, Midtown)
Grimaldi’s (1 Front St, DUMBO)
Totonno’s is closed Mon-Tues but you should still go there this week

PIZZA HISTORY ALERT: 118 Years of Gennaro Lombardi

Gennaro Lombardi and Anthony Pero (Totonno) stand in front of 53 Spring Street in 1905.

Today is the 118th anniversary of Gennaro Lombardi’s arrival in America. Just 20 years old at the time, Lombardi arrived at Ellis Island aboard a ship called Kronprinz Friedrich Wilhelm after departing from the port of Naples, Italy. He ended up on Spring Street, where most of his family worked as tailors. Lombardi took a job at a grocery/bakery on Spring Street, of which he took ownership in 1905 and converted into the nation’s first pizzeria. 

At the time, pizza was only being sold in bakeries as a side item but Lombardi’s was the first to make it the focus of a restaurant. Several of New York’s most storied pizzerias were founded by former employees of Lombardi’s, such as the recently reopened Totonno’s on Coney Island (1924) and John’s on Bleecker Street (1929).

Slice Out Hunger: Recap!

Thursday, June 9 was our annual Slice Out Hunger fundraiser in which we collect donations from NYC’s best pizzerias and sell slices for $1 each. All the money goes to feed the city’s homeless and hungry, with this year’s proceeds going to City Harvest. The event started in 2008 as a simple launch party for Scott’s Pizza Tours and has since blossomed into an animal all its own. This year we raised $5,000 for New York’s homeless with the help of 20 amazing pizzerias, a dozen amazing raffle prize donors, 25+ volunteers, and about 700 hungry pizza lovers.

Pizza started to arrive around 5:30, as I didn’t want to risk running low on slices mid-event. Last year we blew through 40 pies in 20 minutes and people had to wait in the rain before 25 backup pies arrived. This year’s pie count was at 182 the afternoon of the event, so my only fear was that we wouldn’t have enough people to eat all the pizza. I was totally wrong.


Excited pizza lovers waiting in line. (Photo by Liz Migliore)

Doors were scheduled to open at 6:30PM but the line started by 5:15 and the sky was threatening to burst open, so we started selling slice tickets to people waiting outside by 6:10 in an effort to assist the flow once doors opened. All pies were in position, plate distributors were at the ready, pizza servers were armed with spatulas — so we opened the doors at 6:20.

Amity Hall was completely mobbed within minutes. We quickly reached capacity for the building so the bouncer had to stop letting folks in until people left. Then the sky opened up and things got crazier. Our volunteer crew had the pizza under control so I ran outside to let everyone in line know why they weren’t moving. While we weren’t able to get anybody else inside, we did bring some pizza to the line so people could at least get a slice in their bellies.

 
Happy dude inside; me in freakout mode outside. (photos by Rosemary Zuppardo).

Enough people eventually left and the bar and we were able to get more pizza lovers inside. The scene was pretty crazy but everyone was certainly having a blast. We started calling names for raffle prizes and have away TONS of cool pizza stuff. There were pizza making classes, pizza t-shirts, bags of flour, travel vouchers from GAP Adventures, pizza tours in NYC and Chicago, pizza books, etc. It was incredible. We even raffled off some great photographs of our featured pizzerias, courtesy of the NY Pizza Project.

Our pizza donations were incredible this year and we are eternally grateful to all 20 pizzerias for being part of the event:Lombardi’s, NY Pizza Suprema, Luzzo’s, Pizza Box, Keste, John’s of Bleecker St, Artichoke, Slice, Joe’s Pizza, Famous Original Ray’s, 900 Degrees, Two Boots, Famous Ben’s, Difara, Tosca, Pizza Roma, Grimaldi’s, Arturo’s, Rizzo’s and Bleecker Street Pizza. By the end of the night, we had eaten over 1,500 slices and raffled off 30 prizes. The resulting $5,000 will help City Harvest rescue 21,121 pounds of food around NYC.

As much pizza as we had, it all disappeared into the bellies of hungry pizza lovers within one hour. Plans are already in motion to make next year’s event even bigger and better. To volunteer, please contact me at sliceouthunger[at]gmail[dot]com.

THANKS TO ALL WHO ATTENDED AND WE HOPE TO SEE YOU AGAIN NEXT YEAR!

Here’s a smattering of photos from Slice Out Hunger 2011…

   
 
 
 
 
Until the dough runs out… (photo by Adam Kuban)


Slice Out Hunger - $1 Slices to Benefit City Harvest

Mark your calendars for the biggest, most awesome pizza party you’ve ever been to in your life. We’re collecting pizza from all the city’s top spots and selling it off for $1 per slice at a bar in Greenwich Village. All the money goes to City Harvest, NYC’s only food collection organization, so you’re helping others while feeding yourself.

DETAILS:
Thursday, June 9
Amity Hall
80 W 3rd Street (at Thompson)
6:30 - 10pm

Enjoy pizza from: Lombardi’s, DiFara, Grimaldi’s, Joe’s, John’s of Bleecker, Pizza Roma, Famous Ben’s, Slice, 900 Degrees, Two Boots, Luzzo’s, Artichoke, NY Pizza Suprema, Tosca, Pizza Box and MORE!!!

Raffle prizes from Serious Eats, Pizza a Casa, Coluccio & Sons, Chicago Pizza Tours, GAP Adventures, Trader Joe’s, NY Pizza Project, Busted Tees, Scott’s Pizza Tours, Real Pizza of NYC App plus your chance to win a pizza party for you and seven friends catered by Slice founder Adam Kuban!

Learn more at www.sliceouthunger.org or read about last year’s event at I Dream of Pizza.

Lombardi’s Restores Oven Interior

Most coal-fired pizza ovens require daily maintenance to keep their fuel burning evenly and the pizzas baking evenly. This doesn’t require much, merely a few fresh shovels of coal and a quick dusting of the oven floor. But Lombardi’s in Soho steps it up a notch with an annual multi-day shutdown, complete with brickwork and insulation fixes. Over the past few years, the oven has had interior issues due to its old age (the oven dates back to the late 1800’s) so a more thorough job was necessary this time around. The ceiling had become warped and misshapen, leading to an uneven heat across the hearth. The renovation restored what is likely the original arched oven ceiling shape. This curve allows for even heating and more efficient fuel consumption. Lombardi’s fired her up today and pies were coming out quite nicely for an oven that had been cold for days.

 

The picture on the left shows the interior of the oven as it was being repaired last year. Yes, that is me inside. Yes, the floor temperature was over 300 degrees F. Yes, I had a piece of plywood preventing me from touching the actual oven floor. No, I didn’t have a ton of room to move around. The picture on the right shows the newly redesigned arched ceiling, which allows for more even baking and plenty of room to crawl about!