We pulled up in front of Goodfellas Pizzeria because of a tip. A respected Niagara Falls source and accomplished eater had informed us that when it was pizza night, Goodfellas was on the speed-dial. So we felt duty-bound to experience the offerings of their favorite Niagara Falls pizza joint and try to figure out why it won respect.
When we opened up the front door and ventured inside, we were immediately struck by the fear that the place might inexplicably be closed. It was dark inside, a bit musty, and nearly empty, except for a woman answering the phone for pizza orders. Two customers left as we arrived, bearing white plastic takeout boxes. Then it was just us. The posters of Mafia movie characters lining the walls did not help us feel any less alone.
The brood filed into a booth and set about making enough noise to fill the room. Before they actually sat down, they started to complain about being hungry, as though their parents could somehow conjure food from the air, the miracle of fishes and loaves re-enacted right here alongside Niagara Falls' City Market.
We ordered enough food for a plague of locusts: a large pizza with bacon ($10.70), 12 honey-garlic wings ($7.25), a large antipasto ($6.95) and a sausage and cappacolla submarine sandwich ($7).
The woman who was serving us was nice, but we couldn't help but think that we had wandered into a place that doesn't get a whole lot of sit-down customers. The takeout business seemed to be hopping, with a steady flow of deliveries leaving the kitchen, but little dining room action. In fact, for the 45 minutes that we were in Goodfellas, no one else came in to sit down and eat.
As soon as the bacon pizza arrived, the mystery was solved. No wonder Niagara Falls families keep Goodfellas on their pizza shortlists.
It's a relatively thin-crust pizza, with a bit of cornmeal underneath a crunchy exterior. The sauce is a bit more assertive than normal, with noticeable oregano among other herbal elements. The cheese, while plentiful, isn't laid down as thick as Astroturf, like so many Buffalo pizzas.
The combination of elements creates a lovely pizza, the sort of savory sensation that can lead to pitched internal debates about whether to pile into another slice or save it for the next day. You know, so you could enjoy it twice.
We laid out slices on the plates that Goodfellas provides its sit-down customers -- disposable plastic plates -- and hacked them up for the kids. As usual, Big Gal dug in like a trooper, hoovering her slice with unwavering concentration. Little Red picked at the pizza -- and the bacon topping that she had personally requested -- before choosing to complain about the food.
The antipasto was a bit disappointing. Now, having ordered antipastos across Niagara Falls for several years, you might call us antipasto aficionados. You might even call us spoiled, expecting things like caponata, provolone, pepperoncini and such.
Still, the antipasto was basically uncooked pizza toppings -- shredded mozzarella, pepperoni, salami, ham, green and black olives -- with a few tomato wedges and cucumber slices. It was certainly fresh, and we gobbled it up, with the requested ranch dressing on the side, but we missed the provolone and such.
The sausage and cappacolla sub was substantial, with the cappacolla fried up a bit and melded to the sausage slab with cheese. It didn't rise to glorious porky excess, which considering how much else there was on our plates, was probably for the best.
What we frankly could not stomach was the whining of Little Red, the number two kid and picky eater world champion, a veritable Lance Armstrong of food frustration. Supermom took the matter in hand, leading Little Red to her sentence: spending the rest of the meal with her outside, in our minivan.
Which was a shame, because Supermom would have dug the honey-garlic wings even more if she'd gotten at them while they were piping hot. We agreed that you could barely detect any hint of garlic, which seemed odd in a pizzeria in Little Italy, but whatever. They were tremendously crunchy, and the oozy honey coating made them practically addictive.
Out in the parking lot, as Supermom crunched on the leftover wings in a takeout box, we agreed on the verdict: Come to Goodfellas for the wings and pizza. Then eat it someplace else.
745 W. Market St., Niagara Falls (285-8448)
Review: 2 stars (Out of four)
Favorite dish: Honey garlic wings
Needs work: Large antipasto
Healthy choice: Salads
Price range: Large pizzas from $9, large subs from $6
Noise level: Quiet
Wheelchair access: Yes
Kid appeal: Limited
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to midnight Sunday.