If you’ve made it this far into RehobothFoodie.com (and I thank you for that!), you’ve probably figured out that I love pizza. There are all kinds of styles and tastes, all different enough that one can have several favorites. And that brings us to Lombardi’s Trattoria in Ocean City, Maryland.
Years ago, my family had a place in OC at 91st. St., across the highway from Lombardi’s. My parents used to scamper across Coastal Highway for pizza carryout (they’d probably be run over by a speeding Wrangler piloted by a texting teenager nowadays). Still the same owners, some of the same waitresses and the same food. Is this fine dining? No. It’s noisy, brightly lit with beer neons, with the same knotty pine booths that have been there forever. This is a beachy joint with consistent food, service and frenetic activity. Starting around mid-November, much of that activity is on Tuesday nights, in honor of “half-price pizza night.” Get there early! Hurricanes, nor’easters and whatever else the Atlantic coast can come up with cannot stop the locals (and brave part-timers) who know that Lombardi’s pizza is worth it. (I am not making that up. We went down there in the Xterra during a screaming snowstorm in February 2014 and the place was on a 45 minute wait!) Waiting at Lombardi’s can be fun: The bar is huge, and a couple of cold beers can make the time fly by. You’re at the beach! Slow down and enjoy the rabble. Even if it’s snowing outside.
Stay with the basics at Lombardi’s. And one of the basics is their pizza. I’ve rambled on in other reviews about New York pizza, comparing it to other local pizza places. If I had to commit myself, I would say that Lombardi’s pizza is most like the ubiquitous “Ray’s” Pizza in New York City, except crispier because it hasn’t been sitting under the heat lamps since the Truman administration. A yeasty, substantial crust with a particularly elastic “pull” to it, and flavorful cheese that sets to a firm mouth feel as it cools (I swear there’s a little cheddar in there, sorry Big Cip!) and generous toppings from pepperoni to onions, from black olives, to Virginia Ham (!), Italian sausage and everything in between. (I love the huge, beat-up aluminum pizza pans. The more mileage, the better.) My favorite is pepperoni and sausage, and sometimes black olives and mushrooms. But I know how you are, and you like it how you like it, and they’re all good. Even the anchovies.
The pasta dishes are huge and individually prepared. The red sauce is not too sweet, and has a depth of flavor that belies the “pizza ‘n’ beer” ambiance. My dentist friend from Bethany Beach and her seagoing husband love the spaghetti and meatballs (big flavorful meatballs, infused with sauce, and happy to yield to light pressure from the side of a fork). The lasagna is firm and tasty with an almost bolognese-style meat sauce. The Parmesan dishes (veal, eggplant, chicken, shrimp…you get the idea) are all consistently good. I like to get the sauce on the side and dole it out as necessary, secretly dipping my buttered Italian bread when nobody’s looking. All the usual suspects are represented on the menu, including manicotti, ravioli, etc. The Parmesan entrees are also available in sub form in the event you like your dinner portable.
The wine choices are understandably limited, but they are drinkable, established labels that go well with Italian. You’ll be safe with the house Chianti. Of course, they have a ton of domestic bottled beer and the usual imports, including Peroni.
Are you’re looking for a little out-of-the-way Italian cucina, where a rotund chef smiles lovingly as he prepares each masterpiece from scratch as the server dotes on your every whim while flickering candlelight dances playfully across the weathered canvasses of original oil paintings? Well, THIS AIN’T IT. But if you’re at the beach and you want to be right in the middle of it all, with the music playing and down-to-earth food and service — and you happen to be in Ocean City, Md. — Lombardi’s is the place to be. They’ve been there for almost 50 years — they must be doing something right.
Lombardi’s is in the 94th Street Shopping Center, on the west side of the highway, sharing the same strip center with Liquid Assets. You can’t miss it. Check out their hours off-season during the week (410-524-1961). And tell Paolo that “Doc” said hi. Click here for Lombardi’s menu. (L., D., Bar) Price Range: Inexpensive.