It’s very exciting to have a secret over everybody else. Whenever I bring a date or an out of town friend to a little bar in the back of a hot dog stand or a garage or a cemetery or wherever, I feel like the coolest, most “in the know” guy in the world. For the record, I don’t think the garage or the cemetery speakeasies exist, but if they do, please let me know so I can add more points to my cred.
And this speakeasy phenomenon can be found all over New York. Little Branch, PDT, Employees Only, Rose and Joe’s Italian Bakery. Wait a minute. A speakeasy bakery? Not exactly, but it has the same sort of feel. Because hidden in the back of this unassuming neighborhood bakery, behind the displays of cannolis and rainbow cookies, is a small counter with a woman offering slices of Sicilian and Neapolitan pizza. You really sort of have to know it’s there.
Fortunately, I knew it was there. This place might not be one to take dates to, but it would sure be impressive when I tell all my Astoria friends about it. It’s just under the N train near Ditmars Avenue and the shop has no place to sit. You really have to push your way past the locals buying pastries, order your pizza, and then figure out where to eat it. I like that this is the last stop on the N train so I was able to find myself a seat right away – on the train. Not the classiest of dining situations, but I’ve eaten on the subway before and I’m sure I’ll do it again.
I read that the best thing to order here is a slice of Sicilian, so that’s just what I did. The Sicilian pie that was sitting out by the counter was not the most appetizing. It looked a little old and sad, but I waited patiently and kept an open mind. And strangely enough, after the woman cut a slice off and warmed it up, it came to life and looked good enough to eat. The colors were bright and I could even see some seasoning sprinkled over the slice.
The first bite was nothing special. The tomato sauce was flavorful, but I wish it had been a bit more significant. The cheese was more prominent than on most Sicilian slices and it was fine but didn’t really stand out. And I was surprised that I didn’t immediately taste that promising seasoning. But on the next few bites, the world sort of opened up. I got into the buttery crust (especially those amazing burnt edges) and I literally said “Yum” out loud. I’m not one to make exclamations to myself and I can’t remember the last time I seriously used the word “Yum.”
But I have to talk about this special crust for a minute. It’s much thicker and doughier than the popular grandma slices, but at the ends is this crisp char that is just a few notches away from being burnt, but it’s absolutely delicious. Anybody who understands the pleasure of crunching on well-done (but not burnt) cheese and bread will understand this great experience. It turned the pizza from being just an ordinary slice into something truly special.
There are so many of these little culinary secrets in New York and that’s what makes these food adventures so exciting. And what makes me such a great catch. That and the fact that I’m incredibly sexy.
Is Rose and Joe’s Italian Bakery the best pizza in NY? The fun, secret ordering process and the amazing buttery crunchy crust elevate this Sicilian slice to an 8 out of 10.