I mostly try to avoid venturing into the cultural wasteland along Jefferson Road in Henrietta, but once in a while it can’t be helped. Fortunately, there is one oasis in that culinary desert, and that’s Joe’s Brooklyn Pizza.
I’ve written about Joe’s before, but I recently found myself in the area, so I took the opportunity to stop by Joe’s and try something different from my usual cheese slice. Instead, I got of Joe’s Sicilian slices, and one “Grandma’s” slice.
The Sicilian slice seemed like the same basic setup as a typical sheet pizza, but unlike most sheet pizza I’ve had, it wasn’t greasy. Compared with Joe’s thin, New York style slices, it was more chewy than crisp, but the crust had a pleasant bready texture and aroma. And while the typical sheet pizza has a hard edge with a “fried” crunch, the lip here likewise was more like a fresh breadstick. The sauce was thick and flecked with herbs, and the cheese was just a bit browned. All in all, it was like an improved version of sheet pizza.
The real standout for me, though, was the Grandma’s slice. This is made with the same thin crust as Joe’s more familiar New York style pizza, but is topped with tomato sauce, extra-virgin olive oil, diced garlic, basil, and romano cheese. It’s difficult, and would be pointless, to describe each of these components separately, because what made this so good was the way that the ingredients blended together. It shared what seemed to be the same thick, herbal sauce with the Sicilian slice, but rather than simply forming a layer between crust and cheese, the sauce took center stage, but blended with the other toppings so remarkably well that, to use a cliché, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
And then of course there’s that crust. Crisp yet chewy, not at all greasy, with a charred, toasty underside and gluteny, bready interior, it formed a perfect, complementary base for the sauce and other toppings. It really showed how great a pizza can be with relatively few, simple toppings. To resort to another cliché, it demontrated that with pizza, sometimes less is truly more.
Getting back to the Sicilian, I liked it well enough, though it didn't exactly make me a convert. I can appreciate the style, and though I'm no connoisseur I imagine this was a well made example, but for me, NY style remains the way to go. It may have something to do with the fact that Sicilian is baked in a pan, which doesn't yield the same crisp crust as a pizza baked directly on the oven floor.
The Grandma's, though, immediately jumped into the short list of my favorite pizzas. All those flavors - tomatoes, herbs, chunky garlic, that sharp romano tang, with the olive oil to bring it all together, and the crisp, bready crust underneath - damn, that was good.
As I mentioned in my previous Joe's review, Joe's is very similar to Pizza Stop, but the sauce at Joe's seems to have more of an herbal flavor profile than Pizza Stop's, which has a tomatoey brightness with a bit of natural acidity. For a regular NY style cheese slice (which to me is still my all-time favorite style of pizza, the one I fell in love with the first time I had the real thing in the City), I think I prefer Pizza Stop's. To me, a simple, straight-ahead tomato sauce is a better fit on a "plain" cheese slice, where it's essential to keep the three components - crust, sauce and cheese - in balance. But Joe's sauce worked beautifully on the Grandma's pizza, which I guarantee you I will be eating again. For that pizza in particular, but also for continuing to serve consistently good pizza in general, I'm bumping Joe's up to an A.
Joe's Brooklyn Pizza, 1100 Jefferson Rd # 23B. 424-5637
Mon. - Tue. 11 AM - 9 PM, Wed. - Sat. 11 AM - 10 PM, Sundays 12 AM - 8 PM