11 June 2008

Who Was Leonardo Anyway?

I never went to Leonardo's Pizzeria on Court Street and First Street when it was there. I often passed by it and thought, "Probably a nice joint," but only went in once, for an espresso, because I recognized the coffee "bar" as similar to the kind I'd seen many times in Italy. Now I regret not going, because apparently, around Carroll Gardens, the owner is regarded as some sort of retired pizza master.

When Lucali, the praised pizza place on Henry Street, opened a year or so ago, it was widely reported that the owner, a pizza-making novice, tapped Leonardo for advice and equipment (including the place's espresso machine). Now, Jim McGown—the owner of the hotly anticipated South Brooklyn Pizza, on lower Court Street, and another pizza virgi—tells New York magazine that he also consulted with Leonardo about the art of pie.

Who is this Leonardo? For the proprietor of a pizzeria that barely lasted 20 years and almost never made the annual lists of the top pizza havens in NYC, he certainly made an impression on the pizzaiolo community. I can't even find out his last name. He supposedly still lives in the neighborhood. Couldn't even locate a photo of the place; the above shot is a picture of a Leonardo's pie, courtesy of Slice.

Trolling the internet, I've found a number of former patrons who thought Leonardo's was among the best brick oven pizza they had ever had. Almost everyone remembers the outside garden fondly; it's still there, as part of the Dunkin' Donuts that replaced Leonardo's.

Can anyone shed light on the Man, the Myth, the Master, Leonardo?


Anonymous said...

Court Street's pretty damn good for pizza, but if you want the best of old-school Brooklyn pizza, it's Pizza Wagon in Bay Ridge. Nothing fancy, and *never* pies sitting on display, which is the kiss of death. Also filled with old Italian ladies dressed in black with bright red lipstick, who look resentfully at anyone who lingers--they're waiting for your booth! Sorry I couldn't shed any light on the mystery; it's just that as an old Brooklyn pizza hand (let out after Catholic school, the pizzeria down the block offered an after-school special of a slice and a soft drink for twenty-five cents), I had to ring in.

Anonymous said...

Don't they still own the building? I thought I heard (on some blog comments) that when DD came in, people said that it wasn't a case of being kicked out. Someone mentioned that the DD is owned by a relative of the Leonardo people. So if you ask around you should be able to find him.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I believe you are right, Carol. He does still own the building. He wasn't forced out of business. It was his choice.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in the Heights for the last 42 years and had a good friend who lived on 2nd place, whenever I suggested trying that place she balked because it was supposed to be like a "social club" hangout for criminal types. "No one from the neighborhood goes there" so we would end up at Mola's or Vinny's...

Lisanne said...

I can't believe, you, Lost CIty of all people never went to Leonardo's. Nice Family, great thin crust pizza, relaxed garden and one of the big draws for a friend and I who went there almost on a weekly basis was TWO DOLLAR GLASSES OF CHILLED RED WINE! Also they had great calzones, sauce on the side.

Eggplant parmasan with a side of I think string beans but it might of been brocolli rabe was only $7.00.

I used eat there and thank the heavens that it wasn't hip enough for TImeOut to review and destroy. Does anybody read TimeOut anymore btw?

My friends and I were devistated when it suddenly shut down. It was a shock!

I have not step foot in Dunkin Donuts but I do love that garden (yes the family owns the building as the Saint is still in the garden and also the grape vines above). I guess we can b thankful that wasn't ripped out.

As you could tell I think I loved this place a little bit too much!