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Who would have thought there could possibly be an Australian connection to a pizza tour of Brooklyn?

Paula of the Pizza

Paula of the Pizza

But sure enough there eventually turns out to be one so strong that we are singing in our seats.

Things start to look familiar as our bus glides down a street in the heart of what Paula, our entertaining guide,  calls “the real New York”.

The falsetto singing from the Bee Gees comes blasting over the sound system inside the bus:

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive..

This is the street with an elevated railway made famous in the classic 1970s movie Saturday Night Fever where a future “ambassador” for Qantas, John Travolta, showed his steps as music from Barry, Robin and Maurice set the beat.

And over there is Lenny’s, the very pizzeria where Travolta’s character Tony Manero  put two pieces of pizza  together and then scoffed the double-decker.

“A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour” had begun in Manhattan. Soon we were over the East River and in a park by the water not far from Brooklyn Bridge. We looked back at the skyscrapers – – the shot the movie-makers love.

The true Italian flag. (Photo: A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tours).

The true Italian flag.
(Photo: A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tours).

But pizza was our first priority and we soon arrived at the most famous  place for it  in Brooklyn, Grimaldi’s.

On to the checkered tablecloth comes a delicious Margherita pizza made from tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

Its green, white and red and  colours  are said to make it the “true Italian flag”. We are told it was named after a visitor to Naples, Queen Margherita of Savoy.

Back on the bus  and we are soon hearing about an entertainment royal,  Elvis Presley, “the king” . His connection? As a GI, like many thousands of others, Elvis shipped out overseas from the massive Brooklyn army terminal we are passing.

The link with Elvis is  just the start of what becomes a dizzying roll call of the great singers, actors, comedians and other show business and sporting figures who, unlike the King, actually originated from Brooklyn.

We see places associated with famous movies (Moonstruck,  Scent of a Woman, French Connection) and then stroll along the waterfront of Coney Island, where a wooden roller coaster, Cyclone,  first began jolting the pizza out of people nearly 90 years ago.

Cyclone, the old wooden roller coast.

Cyclone, the old wooden roller coaster.

At L & B Spumoni Gardens we enjoy another type of pizza, a thick, square Sicilian  slice which, despite its size, is somehow as light as it is  delicious. As we order a  spumoni ice cream (“where the cream becomes ice cream’) , we notice that the locals look like extras in a movie.  But, no, this is real life.

Sicilian slice at Spumoni Gardens  (Photo: A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tours).

Sicilian slice at Spumoni Gardens
(Photo: A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tours).

As depart along Ocean Parkway, a list starts unfurling on the screen inside the bus and it has names of the famous people who came from Brooklyn.

For  seemingly all  seven  kilometres of the boulevard, the names keep coming—Jerry Seinfeld , Jay-Z, Al Capone, Michael Jordan, Eddie Murphy, Mae West,  Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond, Larry David, Pat Benatar, Joan Rivers, Rita Hayworth, Mike Tyson, Mos Der, Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

You can bet the one thing they had in common was that they had feasted on the local pizza.


Select by choosing from geographical settings of travel stories by Michael Day, a travel writer based in Brisbane, Australia.

This is a sample of travel stories I have written on assignment as a travel writer, or when covering Asia for my newspaper, or as a freelancer. They have been published in newspapers, magazines and Web-based newspapers. (Yes, that is a real Oscar in my hands. Made out of genuine plastic.)