Dispute Over Grimaldi’s Coal-Fired Pizza Oven Heats Up

11/28/2011 9:47 AM |

The new Grimaldis (right) and the green awning of the future Julianas (at left).

  • The new Grimaldi’s (right) and the green awning of the future Juliana’s (at left).

Last week we learned that Grimaldi’s pizzeria, one of DUMBO’s foremost tourist attractions, would be moving to the next building over after a dispute with its landlord, though the fate of its prized coal-fired brick pizza oven remained uncertain. Turns out the new pizza restaurant moving into 19 Old Fulton Street will be run by the original Grimaldi, Patsy, who sold his eponymous business to current pizza master Frank Ciolli back in 1998. While Patsy, 80, comes out of retirement to helm his old coal-fired oven, Ciolli is taking some heat for installing a similar model in the new Grimaldi’s space at 1 Front Street without a permit.

The city’s Department of Buildings issued a stop work order for renovations on the new Grimaldi’s space at the corner of Front and Old Fulton streets because the pizzeria did not have the necessary (and very rare) permit required to install a coal-fired oven. The culprit, Ciolli tells the Post, is none other than notorious permit-fudging architect Robert Scarano, whose firm was hired for the renovations.

Due to environmental concerns permits are rarely granted for new coal-fired ovens, so the few that exist (like at 19 Old Fulton Street) are usually grandfathered in, and consequently inestimably valuable. So while Patsy Grimaldi’s new place, Juliana’s (named for his late mother), will have the old Grimaldi’s oven when it reopens in March, the new Grimaldi’s may end up with a lesser oven. As the Post notes:

City officials said they have recommended Ciolli install a gas-powered oven that uses coal for flavor enhancement. However, pizza aficionados say the taste of pizzas made that way pales in comparison to those made with true coal-fired brick ovens.

For those worried about a potential pizza war, fear not, there’s no animosity between former colleagues and soon-to-be competitors Grimaldi and Ciolli. Says the latter: “I have no animosity towards Patsy and his family. He gave me a wonderful opportunity selling me the place in 1998, and I wish him the best.”

Grimaldi’s serves up its final pizza at 19 Old Fulton Street tonight.

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