It's back to Buffalo today, for a quick sample of Joe's, which has gotten high marks on the web for its take on New York style pizza. They also do deep-dish (they're clearly taking a broad approach), but it was the NY style that I was after.
I got a couple of cheese slices, which is the best way, generally, to sample this style - both because the lack of other toppings means you can concentrate on the essentials - crust, sauce, and cheese - and because we're talking here not just about New York style, but New York slice-joint style. Most places that strive to emulate NY style pizza are not after the fancy-schmancy "artisanal" (which too often means overhyped and overpriced) pizza that people in NYC wait two hours in line for the privilege of eating. We're talking the kind of pizza that you can get, for a reasonable price, at countless small pizzerias throughout the five boroughs: thin yet bready, crisp, typically reheated for a minute or two, with a good balance of sauce (which shouldn't be overly seasoned with herbs, sugar or anything else) and well-melted, low-moisture, whole-milk mozzarella cheese.
Joe's slices were appropriately thin, with an underside that was more brown than charred, but nice and crisp, with some light surface crackling. The crust was also foldable, meaning that it could be folded down the middle without cracking in two, but not so floppy as to have the tip drop downward.
The slices were topped by a thin layer of sauce, which had a straightforward, tomatoey flavor, and an even blanket of mozzarella. The three components were well balanced.
Lots of places claim to make New York style pizza, when all they do is make thin-crust pizza. Sorry, but it ain't the same thing. This, though, was a pretty good example of the style. I can't say that it was a truly outstanding example, primarily because the crust didn't quite have that slight charring that I would expect.
Not to digress, but I guess I should explain - what I'm looking for, specifically, with NY style pizza is a crust that's mostly fairly light in color, but with significant blackened, but not burned, areas. If it's uniformly browned, that's not quite right, for the style. The former gives you a crisp but chewy crust, with toasty overtones, while the latter gives you, well, a browned crust, kind of like the outside of a loaf of bread. Still good, perhaps, but without the subtle contrasts of flavor, aroma and texture that you'll find in a great NY style slice.
Having said all that, the bottom line is how much I like the pizza, not whether it conforms to some preconceived notions of mine. As for these, well, if I had gotten them in a slice joint in the City, I'd be happy with them, but I would only consider them average.
But even average pizza in New York City is pretty good, as far as I'm concerned. And true New York style pizza is not always easy to find in Western New York. Not that I would ever want New York style pizza to supplant our native regional styles (and Buffalo has its own style, which I think is subtly different from Rochester's pizza), but it's still nice to find good New York style pizza in these parts. This pizza was among the better, if not the best, examples that I've tried around here.
I haven't been rating the Buffalo pizzerias that I report on, because I know most readers, if they're searching for a place on this site, are looking for something in the Rochester area, and because I know that I'll never come close to covering the full Buffalo pizza scene, so it's tough for me to rate them, since my ratings are based in part on how pizzerias stack up against their area competitors. So I won't assign a grade to this pizza either. But I will say that I liked it, and that if you're looking for New York style pizza in Buffalo, this would be a good place to go.
Joe's NY Style Pizza,
345 Amherst St.,
Tel. (716) 447-0165
Hours: Mon. - Thu. 10 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. - Sat. 10 a.m. - midnight, Sun. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.