1/09/2013 03:55:00 PM

First Bites: The Original Grimaldi Returns With Juliana’s

Patsy Grimaldi opened the first Grimaldi’s in 1990, at 19 Old Fulton St. in DUMBO, Brooklyn; what followed was eight years of fans coming to sample his pizza until he sold the business, and his family name to Frank Ciolli in 1998. Ciolli took Grimaldi’s to new heights, making it the tourist-filled, line-out-the-door-even-when-it’s-freezing, famous pie shop.

After a dispute with the landlord, Ciolli moved Grimaldi’s from the original spot to one a few doors down. So now, Patsy Grimaldi is back in the pizza business and has returned to 19 Old Fulton St. with Juliana’s, named after his mother. But, while the 81-year-old Grimaldi remains old-school as ever, his storied 65-seat space has gotten a modern makeover.

The new digs are large and bright. While it's not quite an intimate date spot, the venue is perfect for families or dining with a gaggle of friends. The night we made our way to Juliana’s, the tables appeared full of tourists, much like the neighboring location with the famous name. But, we couldn't tell if they decided to hit Juliana’s on purpose, or just stumbled in because the line at Grimaldi's was too long.

Hard to say, but either way, the pizza Juliana’s is making pies using the joint's original coal-burning oven, which was installed when Grimaldi's first opened. The shop’s pies were plenty tasty, pliable, doughy and slightly sweet even after cooling down. As for toppings, you can add standards like olives, mushrooms, garlic, sausage or pepperoni.

Over a bottle of Nebbiolo on a recent visit, we weighed down our small, six-piece margarita pie with ricotta and fresh, tiny meatballs. Still it did not bend, save for when we folded it for easier eating. The white pizza, which comes with broccoli rabe, Italians sausage and mozzarella, was so firm that one dining companion opted to use a knife and fork. Ummmm.....

We kid! However you choose to do it, no one is judging you here. The vibe remains relaxed,despite the hectic buzz of the crowd and pop hits playing off the jukebox. Even though the place stayed packed while we were there, the manager had no problem asking tables to shift just a little so he could fit in a new six-top or squeeze a chair into a small table to make it for three. Give the efforts made to accommodate all comers, there was almost no wait or seating, which is quite a change from Grimaldi’s next door.

Of course, the line is part of the fun for some folks flocking over to the Brooklyn joint. But, at Juliana’s, you can sit down immediately and order an original pizza, made by a real Grimaldi, in the same place that it all started.

The Details: 19 Old Fulton St., DUMBO, Brooklyn; 718-596-6700; julianaspizza.com


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