We must cultivate our spumoni garden

My pickiness about pistachio ice cream is a family legend. For as long as I can remember, I loved the artificially green Baskin-Robbins version of the flavor. One fatal day, an imposter came to call. Here’s your pistachio ice cream, my parents said. NO, I yelled, refusing to even taste the all-natural Ben & Jerry’s pale imitation of my glorious green.

The spumoni at L&B Spumoni Gardens would’ve delighted my four-year-old self. Though it does contain real nuts, the pistachio spumoni has a nice vibrant green color, intermixed with the more humdrum vanilla and chocolate. But I’ve grown up just a little in the intervening years, and that green, green ice cream is not what makes Spumoni Gardens so great.

Nope. It’s the pizza. Now, I should admit that I’ve been known to offend friends and enemies with the assertion that there are no truly bad pizzas, and no truly great ones either. I mean, I don’t dream of pizza from Domino’s, but I wouldn’t turn it down. And on the other hand, I’ve sometimes disparaged illustrious pies, as I will perhaps detail here one day. (Sorry, Di Fara, Franny’s: I really appreciate you guys now, I swear.) But I do have to concede that some pizza is much better than others. And Spumoni Gardens’s Sicilian slice falls squarely (yep, that’s right) into the “better” category.

If you find yourself leaving work pretty early on a crisp fall day, hop on the N train and ride to 86th Street, almost all the way down at the end of the line. Enjoy the scenic pre-renovation open-cut train tracks then walk back the few blocks to Spumoni Gardens. Make your way through the screaming kids getting in their last licks of summer, and gaze upon the beauty of a square pie just out of the oven. Get an edge slice with some crust, head over to a picnic table, and pause just long enough to take a half-assed insufferable foodie iPhone photo before you dig in. While the pizza lacks the complexity (and price tag) of a Di Fara slice, its bready, saucy, cheesy goodness is just the thing as the weather shifts toward fall. It’s the best of all possible worlds.

L&B Spumoni Gardens, 2725 86th Street, Bensonhurst

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