Rocket Joe and the Sesame Slice


The circumferential crust of the pie is heavily embedded with sesame seeds, and seeds are scattered across the width of the pie, too, though in less profusion.

Rocket Joe sat in the window of his Delancey Street pizzeria reading the Post. If you saw him through the window, you might mistake him for Kurt Vonnegut. His frizzy hair and mustache were heavily sprinkled with flour, making him look almost blond. He sat in front of a half-eaten portion of stuffed shells in a foil carryout container.

The Rocket Joe’s sign shines until 2 a.m. on weekdays, and till 4 a.m. on weekends.

“Why are the crusts of your pizzas coated with sesame seeds,” the reporter asked, holding a half-eaten plain slice, which was exceedingly good, with decent cheese and slightly sweet sauce, as is preferred East Village places like Stromboli’s.

Joe looked up in acknowledgement of the question, and the reporter continued. “Is it Sicilian? You know Sicily is only 90 miles from North Africa.”

Joe pushed his glasses up on his nose and cleared his throat.

“Is it a Middle Eastern thing?” The reporter continued, desperately looking for meaning in the pizza universe.

Rocket Joe batted away the question as if he were swatting a lob into left field. “I invented it. Seven years ago. I was the first one to put sesame seeds on the crust. People don’t mind it.”

The reporter assured him no one would mind it. In fact, he himself rather liked it.


A pizzeria can be a lonely place late at night.

“You know, less than 1 percent of people are allergic to sesame,” said Rocket Joe, as if to defuse a bomb the reporter was about to drop on his toe. “No, most of my customers don’t mind it at all,” he repeated.

“The only other place I heard of it happening was a pizza parlor at the corner of Union and Grand in Williamsburg,” the reporter observed. “But I don’t think it’s there anymore.”

“Did they use it on every slice?” Joe asked suspiciously.

“I don’t think so,” the reporter replied, “I think it was an option with the plain slice only.”

“You see,” Rocket Joe said, turning back to his paper, “I’m the only one who puts it on every slice.”

Some of the other sesame-encrusted pies at Rocket Joe’s