What do pizza and candy have in common? For many, including myself, they are guilty pleasures - the necessary treats in life that make a morning at the gym or opting for the stairs well worth your while. But, for one Carroll Gardens native, they represent a juvenile fantasy becoming a reality. A few years ago, Mark Iacono opened Lucali in an attempt to save an old, neighborhood candy store and his childhood memories from completely disappearing. While sugar treats are no longer the main attraction, the warmth and comfort felt from any trip to Louie's Candy Shop still remain intact. The addition of one large, handmade wood-fired oven might be the only excusable replacement for the soda fountain stools of the past. Mark Iacono has set up shop - and one for all ages to enjoy these days.
Lucali is as basic as it gets - serving pizza and calzones - nothing more, nothing less. Each night, the waitress runs through the fresh toppings of the day for both options. While the many different ingredients are tempting, I warn you to keep it basic - for two reasons. First of all, the cost can actually add up as no real prices are listed on the blackboard menu. Don't worry - you are not going to spend a ridiculous amount of money here. After all, this is pizza we are talking about. But, you will definitely spend much more than expected if you go overboard with the additions. Secondly, my favorite pizza was actually one of the simplest - a regular pie (tomato sauce and mozzarella) with basil and garlic. With such simplicity, the fresh ingredients were really able to stand out.
While the pizza was extremely well-made, I think the calzones are actually the highlight here. And, I am not normally a fan of calzones. In fact, I almost didn't want to order one - especially when learning they were stuffed with feta cheese. How could Greek cheese work for an Italian specialty? But, after braving a decent wait on a cold night and working up quite an appetite, we figured the additional item definitely couldn't hurt. The calzone was stuffed with feta and roasted artichokes - to be dipped in fresh tomato sauce. I loved the thin and crispy dough surrounding the fresh ingredients - all perfectly baked in the wood-fired oven. And, the feta was actually delicious!
Lucali is a great, casual spot for a group outing. It is one of the few BYO restaurants still in existence - a major plus for recessionary times. But, I swear they are really just determined to stick to the candy store basics - avoiding menus at all costs! Given the great setting and solid, affordable food, there will most likely be a wait any night of the week. Not to worry! In true neighborhood fashion, they are more than happy taking your number as you head across the street for a drink at the local sushi bar. Don't let the raw fish and bright lights tempt you! You will soon be in the cozy confines marking the resurrection of Louie's Candy Shop. The smell alone of the wood-fired creations permeating the restaurant will bring a smile to your face. Thank goodness for guilty pleasures.
575 Henry St (at Carroll)
Brooklyn, NY 11231
FOOD RATING (out of 5):