Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grimaldi's, Mt. Pleasant, SC

Chucky Cheese Meets Hard Rock Cafe, but the pizza's good.

Wait Pager, cute or what?
I have to admit that I have a warm spot in my heart for a great pizzeria.  A great pizzeria is where I started my love affair with the restaurant industry.  It was Bocce Club Pizza in Western New York.

There was nothing really magical about the place except for the incredible people. Dino Pacciotti owned and operated the place and I was lucky enough to know a gal that worked there. It was the only way that I was to get a job there since there was rarely any turnover.

Dino taught me many lessons at a very young age.  His first lesson was to introduce me to “quality products”.  Almost all of his ingredients were either imported from Italy , where his family originated, or a “private label”.  The flour that he used was literally marked - Bocce XXX.

He also treated everyone that worked there like family.  Okay, so many were family, but regardless.  In a time where minimum wage would easily be accepted he started me at $.25 an hour more. At the time it seemed like a fortune!  Each shift after the initial rush he made it a point that we kept an eye on the orders but we all ate a meal together. He made it a point to say thank you for our hard work and made sure we took a break. Who does that nowadays??

Inside Grimaldi's
During one of my first days on the job Dino walked me through the restaurant and made a pit stop in the walk in cooler to show me a can of anchovies.  He explained that this small can cost $24.00, (which was a significant amount of money), and that it should be treated with respect.  Little did he know that this was the first time I’d ever seen an anchovy…

He further explained that I would come to love and appreciate quality products if I loved what I did, and he was right.  After living in many states throughout the country Bocce’s remains my favorite pizzeria to this day. After reading about the history of Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, a recent addition to Mt. Pleasant’s Town Center, I thought it would give Bocce’s a run for its money.

Originating in Brooklyn, Grimaldi’s prides itself on the unique water formulation of the Brooklyn area.  The water is the “magic” in their pizza dough.  When they started to expand to different areas they hired chemists to understand and be able to replicate the components of the water.  This in turn kept their product consistent wherever they went.

We visited Grimaldi’s on a Friday evening at about 7:00 p.m.  The place was packed!!! No surprise that they were on a wait and when told it would be “30-40 minutes” we decided to enjoy the lovely evening and wait outside.

Patrons attempting to be seated after us were told that the wait was “an hour” and many, understandably walked away.  I couldn’t tell if they had produced an inflated waiting period to manage the business or if the hostess was too new to understand the process.  But after we were seated within 15 minutes I wondered how many other customers were lost along the way.

Kids at the bar.... oops
There are a few things you might want to know about Grimaldi’s.  First, it’s kid friendly.  Kids were everywhere – running around the restaurant, seated at the bar (is this legal?), simply everywhere.  Second, the restaurant is very loud.  Think “Hard Rock CafĂ©” loud.  I sat directly next to my husband at our table and I could barely hear him.  So if you’re wanting a subdued place for a quick bite, this isn’t it.

The layout of the restaurant is also a bit odd. It is 180 degrees from “New York seating”, where the tables are just about on top of one another.  The tables are very far from one another.  I can’t imagine why they are wasting so much real estate as many additional tables easily could have fit comfortably in the restaurant.  And with their booming business the tables easily could have been filled.

Our service was adequate at best.  We found our server just to be and order taker, spending very little time with us to answer our questions.  This was made even more apparent when I overheard an server at a table next to us explaining some of the unique aspects of the menu. 

One thing that I wish I had known was the portion size of their salads.  The Caesar ($7.00 plus $2.00 for anchovies),  and the Mediterranean ($8.00) were huge!!  After we had received them we heard the other server say that the salads “easily served 2-3 people”.  We both ordered a salad, which was a waste of food and money.  Not to mention that they were just okay.  My husband actually questioned whether or not the feta cheese was in fact feta.  It was.
Mediterranean Salad

Caesar Salad

As we waited for our pizza we glanced around the restaurant.  The restaurant is adorned with black and white photos from the “Rat Pack” era. With its red and white checked linen table cloths and the 10 man group of line cooks tossing pizza tough in the air, the atmosphere really works. Top that with the Dean Martin, Brenda Lee and Frank Sinatra music that played, you’re transported back in time a bit.

Small 'roni and sausage

Within minutes our pizza arrived.  We had ordered a pepperoni and sausage “small” ($14.00 plus $4.00 for toppings) and it was hardly small.  It was served piping hot, just out of the oven and pretty tasty.  We found that Grimaldi’s version of “sauce” is pretty interesting. Although our server proved to be of no help when we inquired about it, a passing manager stopped by and was able to explain their process. The pies are topped with mozzarella cheese and then the toppings.  No skimping here, this is one full pie.  After the pizza is baked it is then topped with dollops of crushed, seasoned Roma tomatoes. The pizza is then topped with a sprinkle of olive oil.  So if you’re looking for sauce under the cheese - ‘not happenin’.
Slice 'o 'roni & sausage

The manager also explained that the sauce is added just before the pizza is delivered to keep the crust crisp, but we found that although flavorful, it made the pizza seem a bit watery.  Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but watery and a bit soggy on the crust.

Overall a good pie and possibly one of the best in the area.  The atmosphere though was a turn off. Between the kids hootin’ and hollerin’ and the loud Rat Pack music it was over the top.  We’ll take our pizza to go next time.

p.s.  When I asked the manager, “How’s business?”  he commented that sales had surpassed their projection by 50%. Good for them!  Welcome to the neighborhood.

We gave Grimaldi's 3 out of a possible 5 plates.

Grimaldi's on Urbanspoon


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