Lombardi’s bills itself as the nation’s first pizzeria. And that’s sort of correct. As a proud New Yorker, I’m willing to overlook some twists and turns in the joint’s history if it means putting NYC on the map as home to the oldest pizzeria in the U.S.
Truth be told, though, the current pizzeria’s namesake, Gennaro Lombardi, opened his grocery store down the street from the extant location in the very late 1800s. In 1905, he applied for—and was granted—the first pizzeria license in NYC and the nation. Legend is that Lombardi had been baking leftover bread dough in the grocery’s coal-burning oven, topping it with tomato sauce and cheese in the style of his native Naples, and selling it as an inexpensive dish to fellow Italian immigrants. After a while, his pies became the go-to thing at his grocery and he converted the place to pizza only.
The original Lombardi’s, at 53 1/2 Spring Street, closed in 1984. A decade later, in 1994, John Brescio and Gennaro Lombardi III, grandson of the original Gennaro Lombardi, opened the current pizzeria at 32 Spring Street (also with a coal oven). If you take this hiatus into account, Papa’s Tomato Pies in Trenton is the oldest continuously operating pizzeria in the U.S.
I delve deeper into Lombardi history in this post on Slice: NYC Quintessentials—Lombardi’s »
32 Spring Street, New York NY 10012 (at Mott)
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