NY Style Pizza in Jacksonville
My first complaint would be that one thing Jacksonville does lack is a true brick oven pizza place. A visit to Patsy’s, John’s or Grimaldi’s in NYC would be enough to turn anyone into a pizza snob. I have posted their links below if you feel like torturing yourself. These are the types of places where you wait 2 hours to just get seated and order a pie and you don’t even complain. Another thing Jacksonville is lacking is the selection of items that almost every pizzeria in NYC has: from chicken rolls and rice balls, to Zeppolis and REAL Italian ices. These are staples in almost every pizzeria in NYC and most have selections to choose from, like meat or cheese rice balls, spinach, chicken or pepperoni rolls. This is on top of all the regular things like salads, calzones, heroes (subs) and Stromboli. Also another thing that I personally love and have yet to find down here is the ability to order a Sicilian slice without having to order the whole pie. A corner Sicilian slice in most NYC pizzerias is a meal on its own.
But enough about the pizza in NYC, lets get back to Jacksonville, FL. The places that I would recommend and have taken even the biggest pizza snobs from back home while they are here visiting have been Renna’s, Brucci’s and Al’s, in that order. Al’s was a personal favorite for a while, due to its location near where I live in Ponte Vedra, it was an easy place to call in an order and pick up on the way home. I do however have a few complaints about Al’s. First off, they have Zeppoli’s on the menu, and the description states they are Al’s version of Beignets served with a raspberry dipping sauce. This is heresy as far as I’m concerned. First off, Zeppoli’s are not Al’s version of anything; they are its own entity. Secondly, although Al’s Zeppoli’s are quite tasty, they are nothing like a real Zeppoli. Walk into any pizza place or go to any street fair in NYC and order some Zeppoli’s. They will be taken out of the fryer, thrown directly into a brown paper bag, doused with powdered sugar, and then they shake the bag and hand it to you, no dipping sauce needed. Nothing fancy, but a taste you will never forget. Now I’m thinking about the 3rd Avenue festival we used to have every year in my neighborhood, man I miss that. You get a sausage, peppers and onions on Italian bread with a coke, and then an order of Zeppoli’s and you are good for the day. Another thing about Al’s that has gotten on my nerves lately has been the pie is always undercooked. This happens even when I order it well done. I understand I order during the dinner rush, and that they are busy, but they have lost me as a customer due to getting undercooked pie’s the last few times I have ordered.
The second place on my list and the place I most often order from is Brucci’s in Ponte Vedra Beach. First off, they deliver and Al’s doesn’t. Secondly, they actually make my pie well done when I order it well done, which is not really something you think should make someone happy, but after Al’s undercooked pies, it really does. The third and most important part is that the pizza is great, a little on the doughy side, but that’s ok with me. So far, I have no complaints about Brucci’s, but to be fair, I have only ordered pizza and every time I am satisfied. I even heard they opened another one up on Hodges and Beach Blvd., so if you haven’t tried it yet I would highly recommend it.
The third place is Renna’s at Town Center, which I consider the best pie in Jacksonville. If I had one near my house it would be the only place that I order from. Thankfully I work near there, so I do get to enjoy this pizza on a regular basis. Also I want to mention, the only thing I have ever ordered there is pizza. Renna’s could hang in NYC with no problem. It is not brick oven pizza like the places I mentioned above, but it is just hands down great regular oven pizza. Their website homepage says it all, “Rennas Pizza, NY Style Pizza At Its Best!” And coming from a born and raised New Yorker, this statement is true.
Now I haven’t tried every pizzeria in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas, so if you feel there is a place I should try, please let me know. I am always up for a new place. Also, please tell me about your experiences at any of the places I have mentioned above, either the places in NYC or the places in Jacksonville. I would love to hear about it.
Also one little note, this article is about NY style pizza, so please don’t come with any opinions on Chicago style pizza, they are two totally separate things. Of course I am bias to NY style pizza, and will be the first to admit that I don’t have enough background to comment or critique Chicago style pizza. If you feel you do however, please feel free to submit an article to us on the subject and we would be happy to post it.
- C. Brown