You could view it as a strange sort of testament to Joe's Pizza in Greenwich Village that we've never formally reviewed it or Daily Sliced it on this site. After all, who doesn't know what Joe's is like?
Tourists, that's who — as I was reminded by a framed magazine blurb on the wall written by Alan Richman. And since I often send tourists to Joe's when they email for pizza-itinerary suggestions, I figured I should post something to point them to.
But is Joe's good enough to send them there?
The answer is yes. Allow me to quote Richman's blurb from the wall here. It manages to encapsulate Joe's in not too long a stretch:
Once, this slice defined New York City. That was before pizza slices were supersized, became entire meals laden with wacky toppings and extra cheese. Joe's crust, thin and flexible but not too soft, is perfect for street pizza. Atop it is not much cheese and not much sauce, merely enough, in ideal symmetry. You can ask for a topping, but then everybody in the tiny, cramped shop will know you're from out of town...
...The crust has a few lovely burned spots, but the New York slice isn't about the search for the perfect crust or the perfect sauce. It's the perfect New York experience. A friend who came with me said, sadly, "In my youth, stores like this ruled the earth. Now they're almost extinct." You do know how to fold a slice like this, don't you? No? I guess you are from out of town.
Joe's is not the greatest slice you've ever had or ever will have in New York City, but it's still pretty damn good — especially in light of some recent clunkers — and remains my favorite slice joint in this area. The crust is thinner than most (see above) and, as Richman says, takes on some lovely burned spots (see below).
It's a great light slice, too. As owner Pino "Joe" Pozzuoli says on his website, "People don't always want stuff that's too rich or heavy. I've been making and watching people eat pizza for over 50 years, I know what they want."
There's a near-perfect balance among crust, sauce, and cheese — and yes, not that much of any, so you'll definitely want two slices at least if you're looking to fill up. But for a "street slice" to tide you over on the run, one would do. The sauce, too, is worth noting for its bright, fresh flavor. It's very lightly seasoned, if at all, and tastes more along the lines of the sauces at the coal-oven pizzerias, which don't get cooked down before going on the pies.
As Richman says above there's not really much point to topping your slice at Joe's. Besides a sad-looking pepperoni pizza, I didn't see any other topped pies in the slice-pie case. Save that for a whole pie — but who gets whole pie's at Joe's?
As one of the quintessential New York slice joints, Joe's holds up. I'm happy to say I'd feel confident in sending folks there looking for "classic New York pizza."