Joe's 14th Street: The Neighborhood Pizzeria Fights Back
The blobs of fresh white cheese on Joe's "Fresh Mozzarella" slice look like fluffy cartoon clouds against an angry red sky.
No doubt that the neighborhood pizzeria, once a leading dining institution in all five boroughs, has been undergoing a decline lately at the hands of fast-food franchises, dollar slice joints, and the tendency to think of pizza as a gourmet item. But its death has been prematurely announced; the old warhorse still has lots of life left in it. And the new branch of Joe's Pizza, just opened near the corner of Third Avenue and East 14th Street, is evidence of that.
The very thick, rectangular, Sicilian slice. In Staten Island and Brooklyn, the entire pie is known as a "sheet."
The new premises looks pretty much the same as the original on Carmine Street in what used to be Greenwich Village's Little Italy (a few other vestiges, like Faicco's, remain). And that sameness extends to the menu, which is just as spare as its sire: three kinds of slices, plus a handful of optional toppings. No plates of watery spaghetti; no garlic knots; not even a calzone. (Even John's serves calzones.)
The slice is the prototypical neighborhood slice: thin-crusted and cheesy, with a plainish tomato sauce. And priced, as several have noted, about the same as the price of a
token ride on your Metrocard. The regular slice here -- it's probably the pizza in town most often named by aficionados as their "favorite slice" -- is distinctive in that the sauce (a smooth but unsweet tomato puree) and the cheese (not bad for a slice of this type), by dint of baking time and temp, meld together into a single entity. Also, there's no river of grease to be decanted via the New York Fold, a technique whereby the city's slice eaters fold the slice along the axis of a point midway along the top edge to the point on the bottom.
The Sicilian slice is thicker than most, and more opulently furnished with cheese. The sauce is ladled on thicker, too, in a one-slice-makes-a-meal gambit.
Best of all, though, is the so-called fresh mozzarella slice, which is known as the nonna ("grandma") in parts of Brooklyn. The cheese is exceptional fresh mozzarella, sliced very thin so the moisture in the cheese doesn't swamp the slice. The other aspects of the slice are the same as the regular slice.
Really, this is the best example we have of a neighborhood pizzeria that is thriving, by being obviously better than the dollar-slice places or Domino's. Bless Joe's slice and long may it wave!
A regular slice, charred a little more than usual. Hey, the two guys at the new branch were seriously in the weeds with the late-lunch crowd, and could have used two extra employees.
Turn page for more photos.
A side view shows just how thin-crusted the regular slice is.
The new premises on 14th Street, the second branch of a venerable Greenwich Village pizzeria founded in 1957.
Three slices side-by-side, for purposes of comparison.
Look at other Early Words on FiTR.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.