That altar to pizza at Lucali’s

This moment is sacred, every time: Mark Iacono making pizza behind a marble-topped table at the back of his restaurant, Lucali, in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he has lived his whole life. I watch him work from my seat in the dining room in silence, in reverence, as if sitting in church. Some nights, when my heart is tight, I take the subway from work to stand on the sidewalk outside, to look through the restaurant’s plate-glass window at the same scene to feel the same way: in the presence of a kind of sacrament.

Iacono’s movements are slow, deliberative. I’ve said they resemble a jungle cat’s, grooming. They also resemble a parish priest’s, preparing the Eucharist: rolling his dough with a wine bottle as if ironing linens, stacking the rounds to rest, then pulling them off the pile to stretch. Candles flicker on the table in front of him and on the wall behind him, framing him in immaculate white. Occasionally he looks up, out into the middle distance over the customers sitting before him, not bored but content, perfectly at ease. There is nowhere else he needs to be. This is his pizzeria, his vision, his practice. He stretches the dough, hand to hand, as if meditating, as if performing a rite.

Once the dough is stretched and Iacono has placed it on a peel, things begin to move a little more quickly. The actions are no less meditative and interesting. Iacono’s sauce technique is painterly. He lays a perfect line, of a perfect blood-red and uses the back of his ladle to radiate it out into a perfect circle, infinitely symmetric.

Iacono uses a combination of cheeses on his pies: first a low-moisture mozzarella, and then some dabs of imported buffalo mozzarella on top. This matters to pizza fanatics, who can debate the choices on their merits. It matters to Lucali fanatics as much…

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