My New York Obsession

A Calzone So Good It Will Make You Forget All About Pizza

One brave New Yorker's quest for a better cheese-and-carb delivery system led her to Lucali in Brooklyn. Her life then changed forever.

Photo by Matt C/Yelp

When I first watched Parks and Recreation, I would find myself wondering which character I’m most like. (Perhaps you’ve done this, as well?) My willingness to treat myself sometimes makes me think I’m a Tom Haverford, but then my love for Joe Biden might mean I’m more of a Leslie Knope. BuzzFeed, which brings deep expertise in such matters, even had the audacity to once tell me that I am a Jerry Gergich (which is just plain offensive). Never in my wildest dreams, though, did I think that I was actually a Ben Wyatt. That is, until I first tried the heavenly creation that is Lucali’s calzone.

Lucali
If Ben Wyatt were a real person and lived in NYC, he might live here. / Photo by Sayaka Ueno

Everyone in New York has strong opinions—probably too strong—about where the best pizza can be found. Sure, the slice at Joe’s is hard to beat, and the white pizza at Juliana’s makes you question why you would ever want to eat pizza with red sauce again, but there’s too much variety for anyone to agree on which place is actually the best. Besides, nearly all pizza is good pizza, which is why I almost hate to say this, but to quote the wise Ben Wyatt, “Pizza is old news.”

You know what’s not old news? Calzones. Before you close the browser or throw your phone out the window, please hear me out.

You know what’s not old news? Calzones. Before you close the browser or throw your phone out the window, please hear me out: When these pillowy, delicious nonpizza treats are good, they blow all other carb-and-cheese delivery systems out of the water. Even in pizza town. Especially in pizza town! Although everyone thinks that pizza is the ultimate New York dish, the truth is that calzones fit the bill much better. Where pizza is one-dimensional and shows everything on its surface, a calzone’s goodness is deeper, revealed only to those who can get in. Like everything amazing in this town, you’ve gotta be an insider to experience the very best.

Lucali
Calzones: like pizza…but better? / Photo by Shawn H/Yelp

The good news is that I know where to find the VIP room of calzones, and that is at Lucali in Carroll Gardens. While its pizzas are justly celebrated far and wide by folks like Chrissy Teigen, the calzone is the true showstopper. Available in two sizes (small, which is the size of a deflated football and enough to make you and a friend leave with significant food babies, or large, which barely fits on the table and should honestly qualify for a Man v. Food challenge), it’s stuffed with the freshest ricotta and mozzarella you’ve ever had the pleasure of wiping off your chin. You can add any topping on the menu to the calzone, but why mess with perfection?

And the sauce? Oh, the sauce! I’m no Antoni, but I didn’t realize that something as simple as marinara could be plated with such elegance. With extra grated mozzarella around the rim of the plate and basil as garnish, the ample supply of flavorful sauce is enough to drown your calzone. Which you are definitely going to want to do, because the pairing of the two is absolutely superb.

I’m lucky that I work a 9-to-5, because if I didn’t, I would be in line to eat at Lucali every day. I have honestly looked at StreetEasy while in line to see if I can afford to move across the street from this gem. (Spoiler: I cannot.) It’s ultimately a good thing that I have to go out of my way to eat there, because it has saved both my bank account and body from an early demise. That being said, I take every excuse to go there, and walk out the door already strategizing about when I can go back.

Lucali
The author in her happy, supercheesy place. / Photo by Sayaka Ueno

You’ll have to arrive early in the evening and wait in a pretty significant line in order to eat at the intimately sized restaurant, but as any New Yorker will attest, all good things come with a line. And don’t worry: You can always download two or three episodes of Parks and Rec to watch while you wait.

Ali Hinchcliffe is a pop culture connoisseur who works in book publishing and lives in Brooklyn. She is a graduate of St. Olaf College and the Columbia Publishing Course. Find her on Instagram.