A New York slice is famous for being foldable—a triangular slice of thin hand-tossed pizza that comes in one size (pretty big). Bonello’s in Grand Terrace is one of the finer examples of New York-style pizza in the area, with dough that’s “stretched on the peel” and pies as big around as unicycle tires. It’s as unassuming as your typical Manhattan slicery such as Arturo’s or the Original Ray’s (the original, not the knockoffs), tucked away next to a Thai joint and a genuine pay phone. One look at the Parmesan and red pepper shakers, checked tablecloths and glass counter and you might wonder if you’re on Spring Street in Little Italy, or right there in bumfug SoCal on Barton Road.*
What I wondered is if in Manhattan there’s a single restaurant that boasts “Grand Terrace-style” anything? And would it be appropriate to say “Grand Terrace-style New York-style pizza” in New York, if Grand Terrace were to add a variation to the mix? Hunger does turn me philosophical.
I went to Bonello’s on the advice of a friend who lives in the area. According to “Jim,” as we’ll call him—as well as some of the people who work at nearby TapOut— you want to make sure and order pizza and a sandwich, but he was quick to throw asterisks on everything. “Make it a half a sandwich,” he warned, “they are freaking huge.” Jim’s mouth isn’t as clean as I’m representing, but that paraphrases the point—portions are big. And he wasn’t jussa whistling Dixie. Though we tried to take his advice, Bonello’s serves hot sandwiches at full-length only. These submarines are closer to the USS Greeneville than they are to Quiznos, stretching the tape measure to about a foot and a half long and split up the middle. In our case, it was the chicken Parmesan ($9.95) sandwich, which was all flour-powdered crusty bread and simmering sauces over mozzarella cheese and breaded chicken, giving the interior the right kind of sog.
While eating this it occurred to me that Bonello’s is actually sort of like a college pizza joint, too. Tone-setting glitz like posters of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, the Rat Pack some hanging boxing gloves, the whole nine yards. Rounders was on the television, and the Worm was getting himself in hot water in front of God and patron. There are a dozen beers on tap, including the very Italian Peroni (another nice touch). The prices are college-kid-friendly, though not many colleges in the immediate area.
Then the “small” pizza came out. We ordered something daringly called the “Bonello’s 8 Topping Special,” which was crowded with pepperonis, sausage, Canadian bacon, green peppers, onions and yet still entirely foldable. Bonello’s pies have great durability and endurance. I ate at my sloping piece with five splayed fingers, and the damage I did to it was markedly slow (impossibly slow). As the best pizzerias in New York, Bonello’s ingredients are all fresh, the crust was chewy and absorbent, the meat selections thick and hearty. There was something of an East Coast voice in my head after the first slice that said, “don’t keep noshing, you dumb bastard, you dumb putz.” And I ate another slice, and then another, like true scuvat of the times.
Needless to say there wasn’t room for cheesecake, though it is also made in the New York style.
Bonello’s New York Pizza, 22413 Barton Road, Grand Terrace, (909) 825-9852, www.bonellospizza.com. Open daily, Mon.–Thurs. 11AM–9PM; Fri.–Sat. 11AM–10PM; Sun. noon–8PM. AE, MC, V
*Answer: Depends on how much you’ve had to drink.