New Yorkers don’t have to be told where to get a good slice of pizza. Most people have their nearby favorites, and pretty much everyone knows that when you’re in the Village, Joe’s is the place to go; it’s no secret discovery. This tip is for visitors.
Pizza by the slice is ubiquitous in New York. Decades ago, it was possible to walk into just about any storefront pizza shop and get a good, satisfying slice. Today, that’s just not so. Too many pizza shops turn out thick, cloddish, over-sauced and over-cheesed pies topped with less-than-mediocre ingredients. You have to be selective, and that unfortunately runs counter to the whole point of slice pizza: this should be a snack that you can grab wherever you are. Nobody travels to obtain “the best” slice, as you would most certainly do to find the finest whole pies.
So if you find yourself in the Village, and you have a hankering for a slice of old-style New York pie (“slice” and “pie” are the operative words in the NY area), head to Joe’s. It’s a small, rough-and-tumble shop, with some chest-high counter space at which you can eat your slices standing up or, if you’re lucky, you might find an empty stool. Ignore the toppings. There are three things to get: a plain slice, a plain slice with fresh mutz, or best of all, a plain Sicilian slice.
These are not “gourmet” or “artisan” pizzas. They’re just regular old pizzas cooked in a standard gas oven, with one important difference: they taste good. The crust is thin, and good eating right to the edge (but no charred crust here). The sauce is light and tomatoey, not thick and sweet. The cheese is dairy-sweet and toasty. The Sicilian, especially if you’re lucky enough to get a slice cut from a fresh-out-of-the-oven pie, is a large rectangle with a light, airy, crunchy crust. Feel free to sprinkle on the garlic powder or crushed red pepper from the canisters scattered around the place, if that’s the way you like it; it’s that kind of pie.
A true slice of New York.
Famous Joe’s Pizza in the Village has gained considerable popularity in New York, even recently being named the fifth best pizzeria in the city by Time Out magazine. How Joe’s has received good press is beyond me. It is a typical New York slice joint; nothing special.
Walk into this cramped pizzeria on Carmine Street and you will notice three to four pies behind the glass of the front counter. On the day that I visited, pies with commercial aged mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, and pepperoni were all waiting to be reheated and served. I ordered one slice of each, common aged mozzarella and fresh mozzarella, to compare the differences between the two. Other standard toppings are also offered for made-to-order pies including anchovies, broccoli, meatballs, mushrooms, olives, onions, peppers, sausage, and spinach.
On the positive side, Joe’s does produce a slice with a very crispy, thin, and (considering it is baked in a gas oven) nicely charred crust. Also, the tomato sauce is supposedly made fresh daily. It was nice to find a slice place that serves a fresh mozzarella slice, and also distributes the cheese evenly in good quantity on top of the pizza.
However, the pizza lacked any special flavor and overall, Joe’s is not much of an improvement over a run-of-the-mill New York slice place. The sauce was too watery and lacked good flavor and the crust, while maintaining a good texture, also lacked much taste. While the fresh mozzarella was a pleasant surprise, the aged mozzarella was not creamy, and was ordinary in flavor. All-in-all, Famous Joe’s is overrated.