While there are several wonderful newcomers to the expansive list of New York City's best pizza places, the city remains full of legendary pizza joints like Totonno's, Lombardi's, John's, DeNino's, DiFara, Grimaldi's, Joe & Pat's, L&B Spumoni Gardens, Patsy's, and Joe's. Until September 2021, I had tried them all except Joe's - perhaps due to a bias toward a "sit down and order a whole pie" approach. A reheated slice was not at the top of my list.
However, I've read plenty of experts extolling the virtues of a "New York slice" and Joe's (established in 1975) is always on the list of best slices in New York. A recent visit to Manhattan provided the opportunity to close my knowledge gap on the simple beauty of a reheated slice of pizza, eaten streetside.
Joe Pozzuoli Sr. immigrated from Naples Italy and got into the pizza business in Boston in 1959. He later moved to NYC and opened the original Joe's Carmine Street location in 1975. Joe had just one store as recently as 2012, but now there are several other locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and even Ann Arbor Michigan. At age 84, Joe Sr. remains the owner/operator for this Village location.
|The "Little Island" - a recent Manhattan addition|
His son Joe Jr. leads the expansion team and recently announced plans for a Miami location. If you want to know *lots* more about Joe and his pizza heritage (including his Boston connection), read this blog post: https://blog.slicelife.com/joes-pizza-pinos-boston-new-york/.
As tourists, we had spent the day roaming from midtown to Greenwich Village, catching some new attractions (The Vessel, The Highline, and Little Island) along the way.
We arrived at Joe's hungry, but due to the massive size of the slices we ordered just one slice each. Joe's is the "classic" New York slice - definitely *not* Neapolitan style. The offerings included a square slice, a fresh mozz slice, and conventional plain and pepperoni slices; we chose the pepperoni slices at $3.75 each.
We experienced the customary "gruff but efficient" counter service that is so normal in the east coast but rarely happens elsewhere. Anyhow, we nabbed a small standup table outside to consume our slices.
These big slices overflowed the paper plate, and were pretty messy to handle due to the volume of grease released by the large thin circles of pepperoni. I resist the regrettable New York habit of folding pizza (because it distorts the fundamental pizza sensory experience by transforming a slice into a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich), but there was no other way to handle this floppy and greasy slice.
Even with that misgiving, the first sloppy bite was delicious, a fine melding of tastes and textures of chewy crust, sauce, molten cheese, salt, and grease. It was not too different than any other re-heated slice you might find at any storefront pizza joint, but all the elements were in harmony.
A few bites in, however, and the magic of this pizza began to reveal itself. I suspect that the sauce and cheese are good quality, even as the pepperoni was a bit generic. But the real difference maker was the crust. It was the perfect marriage of pliant/chewy *and* a crispy bottom. And that feature alone made these greasy slices reach the pinnacle for a New York slice.
|Beautiful browned & crisped undercarriage|
It was quick, it was relatively cheap, and it truly hit the spot. I'll never be one of those who puts this street food above the legendary pies mentioned in the first paragraph here, but there is much to be said for this iconic rendering of a well-defined style. It may be only 5 or 10% better than other good street slices in NYC, but that's the difference maker.