Friday, February 19, 2010

Say It Ain't So, Joe

One of my favorite places in "the city" for a slice has always been Joe's, on Carmine Street, right where it runs into 6th Avenue, or Avenue of the Americas for those from another planet. We're talking SLICE here, and the dearth of good slice places is pretty much common knowledge, certainly on the island of Manhattan. Oh sure, you can schlep up to Patsy's and hope that the slice you get is good...though it's never as revelatory as a whole pie fresh from their oven. Or you can luck into a decent slice from any number of the million pizza joints that dot the island, but odds are against it. You can get a great slice in the Bronx and Queens, and you can get a great slice in Brooklyn and maybe even on Staten Island, but that takes planning and time. Now if you're from outta town, you probably think I'm nuts, but that's only because your baseline for slice judgment is probably a bit off...and I say that with no disrespect.

So Joe's is a place I've recommended on eGullet and to any number of friends and strangers who ask where they can get a good slice of pizza, because I have always liked their 'za. And it's a classic joint, too. No seats, just some high tables and a bit of a counter along a wall and along the front it is, and you can see the table out front. It's just like the ones inside!

Just the other day I happened to be wandering around the "village," (yes, Greenwich Village, you aliens, you) when the urge for a slice (or two) struck, so I fought my way up to the front and ordered two slices; a fresh mozzarella slice ($3.50) and a "regular" ($2.50). I even was able to nudge my way into a space at the ledge by the front window, a prime spot if ever there was one. My fresh slice looked like this...

Right off the bat, I knew something was amiss with the fresh slice. It basically cracked into 3 or 4 pieces when I tried to fold it into the classic eating a slice of pizza while standing up style. I like a bit of char on the crust (it's very traditional) but this puppy was black and burnt, as can be seen on the rear edge. That was the color of the whole bottom. It was cracker like and that's not good. Part of me wanted to bring it right back to the counter, but the place was packed and I wasn't in the mood. So I moved on to the regular...

And it really wasn't much better, crust-wise. Once again, overcooked and cracker-like, no fluffy tenderness at the edge or cornicione, and nothing like any other slice I've ever had at Joe's. I mean, on both slices, the toppings were good; but pizza is as much or more about the crust, isn't it? "What the hell is going on here?," I asked myself.

Now, they were busy (they always are) so that's no excuse. And maybe there were some new guys manning the ovens, but that's no excuse. Or making the pies, but that's no excuse. What I'm hoping is that I just ran into a bad day at Joe's. And when you have a bad slice or two at Joe's, you can always walk to the corner of Bleecker and Carmine, into a shop that actually used to be Joe's, and comfort yourself with this...

GROM will help make all your pizza troubles disappear...that's half cioccolato all'aranciata and half espresso...and at least that was damn good.


  1. The photo of that slice glistening with oil is too much for an X-NYer, now Californian to take. You're mean.

  2. Ah, you should have skipped GROM, an Italian chain that doesn't make the ice cream fresh (but uses processed ingredients shipped from Italy) and headed up Bleecker Street to CONES! The two Argentine brothers who have owned and operated CONES since 1988 still serve up the richest, creamiest ice cream and sorbet around - and it's all handmade with fresh ingredients right in the back of the store. CONES is the only place I know for dark chocolate ice cream that actually has a rich, chocolate flavour. And CONES, unlike GROM, didn't displace two long-standing neighbourhood stores when it moved in - the original Joe's Pizza (as featured in the movie, Spiderman - perhaps that's why its slices have fallen from grace a bit), which was on the corner of 6th and Carmine Streets, and the Village Garden next door on Bleecker Street, a small Portuguese bodega that was a wonderful spot to pick up fresh juice and Portuguese rolls as well as all sorts of vegetables. The family that owned the store even supplied recipes for things like Caldo Verde (Portuguese Green Soup).

  3. Whoops, I meant to say that the original Joe's Pizza was on the corner of Bleecker and Carmine Streets! It's been about 5 years now since it's moved.

  4. Every time I walk into Cones I see the blinding chromaticism of their artificial colors and turn tail back onto the street. Just can't do it. It might taste good, but it offends my sensibilities ... my loss. But why must it be so f'ing fluorescent? We aren't children. We know that fresh mint and pistachios cannot make those day-glo martian hues.

    Grom is indeed made with imported, pre-mixed ingredients. But damn, it's good quality. It's a lower fat, lighter alternative to my general favorite at Il laboroatoria de Gelato down in the lower east side.

  5. @ anonymous: I think the original Joe's Pizza on that corner was first taken over by another pizza place (maybe a "ray's?" But that sure didn't last. Then GROM came in and took the newer pizza place over...

    @underbelly - agree about GROM and also agree that IL LAB is my fave!