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Call it coaled confidence.
The owners of Grimaldi’s pizzeria reopened in a new location next door to their longtime, line-enwrapped haunt under the Brooklyn Bridge — and proudly showed off the coal-fired oven that the city approved late last week after an initial denial.
“It feels good to be back,” said Gina Peluso, daughter of owner Frank Ciolli, whose rent dispute with his landlord led to the eviction, relocation — and brief fight with the city over being allowed to install a real coal oven. “We have the same lines, the same oven and the same menu.”
Same same, only different: After waiting in long lines, customers waited more than an hour to get their pizzas as abrupt and hectic workers got used to the new space at 1 Front St.
“It will take some time to break in the new oven, but people have been raving about the pizza all day,” Peluso added. “I think the pizza will be all right.”
It’ll have to be better than merely all right. In March, original Grimaldi’s owner, pizza legend Patsy Grimaldi, will take over the space vacated by Peluso and Ciolli — including the original coal-fired oven from which Grimaldi churned out the pizza equivalent of arias.
On Saturday, though, Peluso didn’t want to talk about her old rival.
“I don’t think about Patsy Grimaldi,” she said. “He’s not competition at all. I’ve got more important things to think about.”
Ciolli’s new business partner, Christopher Paulsen, added that “the papers” are always trying to make more of the coming “war” between the maestro Grimaldi and Ciolli, the man to whom he sold the business in 2000.
“The papers make it seem worse, but there’s no animosity there at all,” Paulsen said. “The competition is good. But it’s a shame that someone [Grimaldi] has to come back and work in their 80s.”
Grimaldi could not be reached on Saturday, but has also downplayed the competition, saying only that he regretted selling the pizzeria, long considered one of the city’s best, and was itching to get back in the game when Ciolli was evicted in a long-running landlord-tenant dispute.
The new Grimaldi’s has the same tables and the same checkered tablecloths, but the walls are not covered with photos and tributes to Frank Sinatra. It is unclear if the Rat Pack has been tossed into the dustbin of history or whether Frank, Sammy and Dean-O will return when the place is fully remodeled.
One thing that will be new is a large outdoor yard. For the first time, Grimaldi’s will be able to seat 125 people under the stars come summer.
“Grimaldi’s is just going to get better and better,” Paulsen said.
Customers hope he’s right. Many were underwhelmed.
“I could have gone to any pizzeria, paid a quarter of the amount and a quarter of the time,” said Ben Simpson of Bedford-Stuyvesant. “Their job is really just to rip off tourists. I hope Patsy Grimaldi does a better job with service and quality.”Reach Kate Briquelet at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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