By Robin Garr
Let’s welcome Goodfellas Pizzeria to Louisville! The first local outlet of a small but quickly growing Lexington-based chain, this corner spot in the Baxter Apartments at Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue joins sibling eateries in Indianapolis and the Cincinnati area.
The pizza is good, the meatballs impressive, and the scene looks like a spot in New York City’s Little Italy. Well, a little bit, anyway.
Titled after the 1990 Martin Scorcese gangster flick of the same name, Goodfellas’ tongue-in-cheek mob theme extends from specialty pizzas like The Don and The Vinny to its Wiseguy lounge with soft leather sofas; silhouetted mobster figures in fedoras, and Italian-American crooners of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
As I walked south on Baxter toward the restaurant, which is tucked into the southern corner of the large, four-story apartment complex, I was impressed with its style. The structure is designed to resemble multiple smaller units, incorporating remnants of older buildings left over from the demolition of the storied Phoenix Hill Tavern on the site. ??The street level houses small retail shops – Carali’s Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken is already in the building – built in a storefront style that fits in neatly with the adjacent stretch of Baxter. Good work!
The interior gets that old-school Little Italy look from lots of exposed brick and arches, subway tiles and wood-look tables, an impressive bar, and attractive white hexagonal-tile flooring with black accents. Oh, yeah, and a long, glass-fronted case to keep oversize pizza slices warm and ready, just like at your NYC street-corner slice shop.
Speaking of which, you can sample a slice for a very attractive price if you take advantage of Goodfellas’ lunch special: A slice, a side, and a soft drink for $8, or the Al Pacino meatball sub and drink for $9. It’s an offer you can’t refuse, available seven days a week from 11 a,m.-3 p.m.
If you prefer a whole pie – “hand-tossed, fresh-made, baked on the stone” – they come in 12-inch, 16-inch, and 22-inch sizes for $11, $16, or $22 respectively, plus $2, $3, or $4 for each of nearly 30 topping choices. Another deal worth noting: “Subject to some restrictions,” 12-inch pizzas are half-price on Mondays.
About a dozen specialty pies, most bearing faux-o mafioso names, come in three eizes and vary in price depending on the ingredients: The Fuhgetaboutit, adorned with every available topping, tops the charts at $20, $30, or $42. You can also choose a calzone for $9 plus topping surcharges.
The Pacino sub, when you’re not getting it as a lunch special, goes for $9. A half-dozen sides, many of them suitable as light meals, range in price from $3 (for an extra large breadstick) to $12 (for buffalo chicken cheese bread). Three salads are available for $3 each.
We took advantage of the lunch special and grabbed both a slice and a meatball sub. A slice adorned with strips of green pepper and purple onion caught my eye, and I didn’t have any complaints about its flavor either. In proper New York City style, these slices are long and flexible, making it easy to fold your slice and walk away, nibbling from the point back.
Also in proper NYC style, the guy behind the counter took my slice and popped it back in the oven to warm up briefly before handing it over. The crust was thin and nicely browned from the hot oven, and the edge, lightly pocked with heat marks, was exceptionally chewy.
The pie bore a slightly spicy and gently sweet layer of thick tomato sauce topped with abundant melted cheese and fresh, crisp-tender veggies. Not bad, although I can’t say it really reminded me of grabbing a slice for lunch in TriBeCa.
I chose a caprese salad as my free side and got an uninspiring looking little black plastic box with a clear lid. Happily, looks were deceiving: It was very good. Neatly stacked in six parts were whole fresh basil leaves, hefty slices of bright-red roma tomato, and thick half-moons of fior di latte mozzarella. It was all dusted with an Italian-style herb mix and drizzled with olive oil.
The meatball sub special was an impressive value for $9. Its hoagie-type roll, billed as a Tribeca baguette, boasted a good crunchy crust. It was stuffed with six large meatballs, slathered with sweet, thick marinara sauce and mozzarella, then broiled. The walnut-size meatballs were light, easy to bite, made with a beef and pork blend that added complexity of flavor and texture. It was a splendid meatball, good as you’re likely to find in Gotham.
A filling lunch came to a thrifty $18.02, plus a $4.50 tip.
Noise Level: With the place filling up but not at capacity at midday, we had to raise our voices to carry on a conversation. Decibel levels averaged 73dB (typical for a home audio system cranked up a bit) with peaks to 79dB (the sound of your garbage disposal at work).
Accessibility: The modern building appears fully accessible, although the heavy front door requires a strong pull.