With Pizza Quest now starting to run out of locations (I believe I have three or four spots left on my list), I trekked down to Joe’s Pizza in the West End between Alabama and Wyoming Ave. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe these guys recently moved here from their older shop in the Waldbaum’s shopping center. Pizza impressions follow.
The rules of Pizza Quest can be found here.
The Regular Slice
During this entire process, I’ve found myself going from pizzeria to pizzeria and have been splitting hairs between amazing slices of pizza. It’s always been between good, great, and greater. Joe’s thankfully made my life very easy. From the initial look before being tossed in the oven, I knew this was going to be hell. The slice looked tired, dry, and plastic. Out of the oven, that appearance persisted.
The first bite was terrible. I received the resounding impression of rubber and sogginess. The bite was followed by several other equally disappointing nibbles. From the first touch, nothing on this slice seemed crisp or fresh. The overall slice was floppy and handled like a wet piece of bread. The cheese tasted worse than something found in a high school cafeteria. The sauce: like some kind of sour bargain brand at Waldbaums. The only redeeming quality was that the end bit of crust was crisp and flavorful. The slice was mercifully insubstantial, extraordinarily thin with little sauce and cheese on its wafer-flat crust, so I was able to get through it quick.
The Wildcard (Grandma’s)
I’ve never had a greater challenge selecting the wildcard slice. Most pizzeria’s pride themselves on their fun speciality slices – mixing weird toppings and often whatever they have handy in the kitchen. I still dream about Davinici’s Pizzeria Vodka Slice or Gino’s Buffalo slice. At Joe’s I was trying to find the lesser evil. Every slice I saw in the case looked old and stale. The Grandma’s slice at least looked small, so I figured I could work my way through it fast.
At first, I thought I might have gotten lucky because the crust was much crisper and actually looked pretty good. After the first bite though, that optimism was crushed. The dollops of sauce were actually so tangy it was like biting into an entire oregano plant, and finished with the tartness of bitter – cold – tomato sauce. The “cheesy bread” that basically made up the slice was greasy with a hard-skin cheese crust.
I want to be entirely clear that, yes, I went in the middle of the day and perhaps that explains why everything looked old. Perhaps the turnover wasn’t quite as fast as it normally is at dinner time. Well, I call shenanigans on that. Every other location I’ve visited on Pizza Quest was during the middle of the day and I’ve never seen such seemingly stale pizza for sale. If I was behind the counter, I would have a hard time allowing a customer to select some of what I saw on display.
I could make better pizza with a bag of cheese, jar of sauce, and English muffin in my toaster. In a town with so many pizzerias – good and great pizzerias – Joe’s must step up its game and start taking lessons from their neighbors. Bottom line, Joe’s Pizza gets placed below the bottom of this list, a position I don’t see them relinquishing.
Long Beach Pizza Quest Standings
Because a number means nothing, I think it is all about how each slice compares to the others. Because of that, I’m using a relative rating system. As I head out to more establishments, it will become more clear who stands out.
(Higher on the list is better)