L&B Spumoni Gardens
There are certain food-related rites of passage that come with living in New York City, and making the journey to Gravesend for L&B Spumoni Gardens is one of them.
Maybe you grew up eating here, the feeling of having your thighs stuck to a too-hot outdoor bench while spumoni drips down your forearm synonymous with the early days of summer. Others come to it as adults, learning the ways of the square slice later in life, but never too late.
This south Brooklyn staple, which has been around since 1935, is known for its pizza and frozen desserts—and their square slice is unlike any other in the city. It consists of a layer of molten cheese welded to a focaccia-like crust, with tangy-sweet sauce baked on top. If it’s your first time (and even if it’s not), we recommend coming here with a group so you can get pizza and spumoni but also try some of the other very good stuff on the menu.
The most popular is way to eat here is to order at the to-go windows and sit outside. There’s a system to this, depending on what you want. First, you should send someone in your party to scope out a table, because, especially when the weather is nice, they can be hard to come by. If you’re just here for pizza, head directly to the window all the way to the left. If you’re planning on getting other stuff, like parmigiana sandwiches, you have to order from a separate to-go window inside, near the dining room. Finally, head to the middle window for dessert. You want spumoni, and you probably want a large. If you can’t resist the siren song of the creamsicle soft serve, we’ll allow it.
Many people consider L&B to be just a casual pizza spot, but you must have the full experience indoors, at least once. The dining room is a rococo fever dream, and the food is as good as any red sauce joint in Brooklyn. They do a few things especially well, like rice ball parmigiana, eggplant rollatini, and any pasta with vodka sauce. Don’t worry—they serve square pies and spumoni inside, too.
L&B is more than just a place to eat pizza that has no equal in any of the five boroughs. It’s a part of Brooklyn’s history. Here, you can forget that you live in the same New York City where smartphones have replaced metro cards and the median rent is $5,000 a month. You’ll picture yourself using a token to get back on the train at Avenue U before walking into a rent-controlled apartment that costs under a thousand bucks a month. The city will probably never be like that again, but at L&B, you can eat unrivaled pizza as you consider the possibility.
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photo credit: Emily Schindler
This is the reason you’ve come to L&B. Here, the defining feature of the square slice is the fact that the cheese is layered underneath the sauce, allowing for an almost mochi-like chew where the thick crust and cheese meet. The sauce is, dare we say, to die for. You should probably just get a whole pie, especially since it reheats beautifully. This is our favorite square slice in all of New York City.
L&B's spumoni is somewhere between an Italian ice and an ice cream in mouthfeel, with swirls of pistachio, almond, and chocolate hazelnut. You can get spumoni at a few other spots around Brooklyn, but this is the real deal. Accept no substitutions.
Rice Ball Parmigiana
One of our favorite non-pizza dishes, three perfect little arancini are smothered in red sauce and topped with a blanket of melted mozz. You'll wonder why arancini are ever served any other way.
Meatball, chicken, eggplant—you really can’t go wrong with anything given the parm treatment and slapped inside a loaf of Italian bread. Once, we ordered every single parm sandwich here and found ourselves unable to rank them, because we loved them all equally. Except for the chicken parm with vodka sauce. That one is the best.
If you’re eating inside, definitely order this. It’s a classic Italian-American dish (rollatine is, fun fact, not an actual Italian word) of thinly-sliced eggplant that's stuffed near to bursting with ricotta (in Brooklyn, call ri-GAHT or get out) and then, you guessed it, parmigianed.
You need to eat a vegetable after all the carbs, sauce, and cheese. This is the one to get. It tastes green and garlicky, which is what we want out of any cooked vegetable.
Pasta with Vodka Sauce
You can get any pasta with vodka sauce. There are no wrong answers, unless you choose spaghetti. The sauce is creamy and tangy and pungent, and there are peas in it.
The correct way to start an indoor meal here, along with an order of arancini. It comes with a pile of marinated vegetables, lots of cured meats, and some cheeses to prepare you for the cheeses to come.
Creamsicle Soft Serve
The other dessert. If you love the combination of orange and vanilla in a frozen treat, then you’ll love this.