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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Joe's Brooklyn Pizza - Beyond the Cheese Slice

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When I go to a New York City-style slice joint, I tend to stick to plain cheese slices. Yes, I like other varieties, but in its simplicity, a well-made cheese slice really captures the essence of great New York pizza.
But I also know that man does not live on cheese pizza alone. In fact, if you really want to get down to basics, pizza doesn't have to have cheese at all to be good. What it needs is a good crust and tasty toppings.
You'll find that - in various permutations - at Joe's Brooklyn Pizza in Henrietta. I've been a fan of Joe's since my first visit back in early 2009, not long after it opened (its roots go back well before that, but I won't get into all that here).
Since then, I've tried several varieties of Joe's pizza, and I've yet to run across one I didn't like. So it was with great expectations that I ventured deeper into Joe's menu on my most recent visit, and my optimism was again proved justified.
I've done a few posts about old-fashioned tomato or "sauce" pies, which around here typically are topped with tomato sauce and a generous sprinkling of Romano cheese. Joe's Grandma's pizza fits roughly within that description, but Joe's now offers, in addition, a tomato pie that omits the cheese altogether.
With a blend of tomato sauce, shredded basil, and garlic, all atop Joe's signature, crisp, thin crust, I hardly missed the cheese at all on this one. If given a choice, I'd probably still opt for the Grandma's, most of the time, but it wouldn't be a slam dunk. This was a very tasty pizza - and a great option for vegans, too. Speaking of which, this reminded me in a way of a good vegetarian meal - it might not make you ready to give up meat altogether, but it makes you realize how good a meal can be, even without animal products.
Next up was a Buffalo chicken slice. This is a relatively recent, but to me very interesting style of pizza, as it's subject to so many interpretations.
Joe's version consists of a thin crust, topped with a generous helping of diced chicken, in a tangy, spicy, medium-hot sauce, along with a moderate layer of mozzarella cheese. This was a simple, straightforward approach to a Buffalo chicken pizza, with no blue cheese, celery, or other accompaniments - just chicken, hot sauce, and pizza cheese.
Next to the Buffalo chicken slice in the photo, you'll see a thick-crust, Sicilian version of the Grandma's pie. This had the same blend of tomatoes, herbs, garlic and cheese that's made me such a fan of the thin-crust version, on Joe's thicker, crunchy, pan-baked Sicilian crust. As much as I love thin-crust pizza, the toppings on this one in some ways seemed to go even better with a thicker, breadier crust - kind of like sopping up the sauce from a plate of pasta with a good thick slice of Italian bread.
Speaking of which, Joe's has recently added pasta to its menu, and I tried that as well, compliments of Joe. This consisted of a bowl of fettucine, cooked al dente, which was mixed - not drenched -  with homemade tomato sauce and topped by a sprinkling of grated cheese. The quickly cooked sauce of fresh tomatoes, herbs and olive oil had a bright, vibrant flavor that set it apart from its canned or all-day-on-the-stove cousins, and the only thing I was lacking was the aforementioned slice of bread to soak up what little of the sauce was left in my container.
While that's plenty of food for one visit - or one blog post - I've saved, if not the best, at least the most unusual, for last. If you're feeling just a bit adventurous, or want something a little out of the ordinary, you must try Joe's hot dog pizza. According to Joe (seen proudly showing off a freshly made hot dog pie in the photo), this is something of a cult favorite downstate, and since Noo Yawkas know their hot dogs as well as their pizza, it's a good bet that they're on to something here.
I guess you could call this a white pizza, inasmuch as there was no tomato sauce, though the copious amount of wiener slices and caramelized onions gave it an overall reddish-brown hue. I don't think this would ever be an everyday, go-to kind of pizza for me, but topped with some spicy brown mustard, my hot dog slice was really rather good, and more than just a novelty item. The vinegary mustard (which I added myself) provided a nice counterpoint to the salty, meaty franks and the sweet onions. Next time, I'd love to try one with a bit of warm sauerkraut on top as well.
One of the many great things about pizza is its versatility, as evidenced by the offerings at just this one pizzeria. When all is said and done, I'll still end up going back to my basic cheese slice, but once in a while it's good to mix things up a little, and Joe's offers pleny of opportunities to do that.
I'm not going to give individual ratings to these pizzas. I haven't been rating Buffalo chicken pizza at all, and how can I rate a hot dog pie? My ratings are intended to be guidelines to how a given pizza compares with others like it in this area, and there's nothing around here, that I've tried at least, to compare with this pie.
But I've made clear before that as far as I'm concerned, Joe's Brooklyn Pizza consistently serves up grade-A pizza, and nothing I tried on this visit changed that opinion. If you haven't been there yet, it's high time you did so. When it comes time to pick from among Joe's array of options, though, you're on your own.
Joe's Brooklyn Pizza, 1100 Jefferson Rd # 23B, 14623. 424-JOES (5637)
Mon. - Tue. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Wed. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 8 p.m.


  1. Joe's is by far the best pizza in Rochester. I wish he'd open a place in Webster!

  2. I have deleted several posts because they had nothing to do with Joe's Brooklyn Pizza. I like to be pretty liberal about allowing people to express their opinions but this was turning into a debate about a different pizzeria and that has no place here. Sorry to all who posted but that's what I think is best.

  3. I just moved here from Queens about 6 months ago and live in Webster, and was depressed about what they call pizza here in Rochester. I started looking online to see if there was any place that makes a real NY pizza. I found the pizza blog and read about Joe's and The Pizza Stop downtown being real NY pizza, there was a mention of a place here in Webster but after trying it I was not impressed. I tried Joe's and loved it, then went the Pizza Stop downtown and was in heaven, it brought me back home. Joe's or The Pizza Stop would be a welcome sight here in Webster and I agree with the first post because what they call NY pizza here in Webster is a joke.

  4. I had to try Joe's after seeing your A rating. The first time didn't thrill me. I tried pepperoni and it was pretty average. The Grandma's was much better, but really wasn't all that great either. I wanted to try a regular slice of cheese- as it is my standard for rating a place. Kind of like lo mein and general chows chicken at chinese places. I took my slices next door to 5 guys and ordered some fries to eat with the pie. I was blown away by the fries and didn't finish the pizza. Sorry. I think you are a bit off on this place. I do enjoy the casual atmosphere, but won't go back for a slice.

  5. I don't know if I caught these guys on an off day or not but the slices were comparable to Bay Goodman and nothing close to anything that can reasonably claim "NY style" implying downstate, this was a crunchy bottomed Rochester style crust. Decent pizza, but typical for Rochester. The seating area is very uncomfortable. They have these tiny little barstools, I'm an average sized guy 5'10 200 lbs. so I will fit on any average sized seat and I nearly fell off of this thing several times. It was so hot in here also, they had the front door propped open and no AC on an 80+ degree afternoon.

  6. And by the way I spent at least 3/4 of my life downstate (Long Island) and I never heard of a "hot dog" pizza, this guy sounds like a bit of a charlatan, trying to pass off this place as something it's not.

  7. As a transplanted NYer, I was happy to find Joe's last year. However, since this summer, they have changed their pizza. It is now like Pontillo's, not like a New York pizza anymore. The last 2 pies we got were sooooo disappointing. I even called them after our first disappointment. We no longer go there. I miss the pizza they USED to make!

  8. Tried the Grandmas Pizza Last night....Way to much to much GARLIC....I couldnt finish a single slice...I did like the crust but couldnt get past that GARLIC.... If You want to keep Vampires away...Eat this Pie

  9. I do love garlic so it probably wouldn't have occurred to me to warn those who don't. I'll try to be more aware of that from now on.
    But it does seem like a small price to pay to ward off vampires.