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NY Style Pizza in Jacksonville

written by 28 April 2009 30 Comments

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

New York
http://www.johnspizzerianyc.com
http://www.patsyspizzeriany.com
http://www.grimaldis.com/brooklyn.htm

Jacksonville
http://www.alspizza.com
http://www.bruccispizza.com
http://www.rennaspizza.com

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30 Comments »

  • avatar
    diningninja said:

    Well, you forgot about Ray’s NY Pizza and Lombardi’s. You can walk into any Rays in NYC and get a slice that’s infinitely better than anything I’ve tasted in Jax.

    I’ve tried Al’s in Riverside and it was horrific. The dough is not fresh and the sauce lacks flavor. The calamari was of the frozen variety. Perhaps I had a bad experience, but it is bad enough I will never eat at any Al’s again.

    I used to live in New Haven, CT. Pepe’s and Sally’s make amazing pies with home made sauces and dough back in 1920′s. Those joints are still there. There’s a reason the wait on a nice summer evening is 2 hours. This stuff is good. Pepe’s clam, basil and garlic pie will leave your mouth watering for days. You can see the staff shucking the clams minutes before the hit your pie.
    http://www.pepespizzeria.com/

    I’ve given up finding good pizza in Jax. The only place I’ve found something edible is Moon River Pizza. Dough is good, veggies are fresh and they will make a pie you want.

    I will be keen to try these other places that get good marks.

    Fortunately, I’m in NYC 5-6 times a year to get my pizza fix.

  • avatar
    neecherry said:

    moon river is good. i’ve eaten at renna’s for years and love their pies. it’s really the closest i’ve come to new york.

    i did happen to try a new place while in crescent beach a couple weeks ago. the name makes it seem like a dud, but the pizzas were great. and they have rice balls. i never had them before and the guy says his dad makes them every day. it wasn’t my thing, but it was good. anyway, it’s called pizza depot and it’s down in st. augustine approximately across from the oasis restaurant. if you’re down there, it’s worth checking out

  • avatar
    keith said:

    good article craig!

  • avatar
    mtb1219 said:

    I love Bruccis!!!

  • avatar
    Pizza Man said:

    Rennas is the best pizza in Jax, I agree 100%.

  • avatar
    gambler said:

    There’s a little place on University Blvd that just opened its doors about a month ago called Pauly’s Pizza. Use to be the old Angelo’s if you remember that from about 7 years ago. I don’t know much about NY style pizza but their pizzas are just the way i love them, cheezy and covered in olive oil. Prices aren’t bad either

  • avatar
    keith said:

    Ah, I remember Angelo’s, that place was pretty good! I have recently discovered a liking for Abe’s Pizza off of Southside. Their white pizza is amazing!

  • avatar
    NIALLF said:

    Craig. I have to admit to a bias as the owner but have you visited our restaurant, Mezza Luna, in Beaches Town Center? We have a brick gas fired oven in which we always burn a variety of woods and we think we may be as goos as it gets in North Eats Florida. Check out our website at http://www.mezzalunaneptunebeach.com

  • avatar
    craig (author) said:

    Niallf, I appreciate the comment, and have heard about MezzaLuna, but have yet to try it out. I plan on going this weekend. I have heard it is more of a sit down restaurant, and not much like a pizzeria. I do appreciate the comment and the information and will definitely let everyone know how it is first thing next week.

  • avatar
    Budslurp said:

    Try Joseph’s on N.Main.. and then get back to me.

  • avatar
    Marleyisdead said:

    I do not know much about NY style pizza but…Arte Pizza in Fernandina Beach has Neopolitan style wood fired pizza. The owner, Tonino, is from Capri. The pizzas are thin crust and crispy. All the mozz is fresh. Ingredients are top rate. This is the best pizza I have had outside of Italy. They also have arancini, or rice balls that are so light as to be ethereal. Open 7 days a week. When in FB check it out.

  • avatar
    craig (author) said:

    Thanks for the tip. Telling me this place has rice balls is enough to make me take the ride up to Fernandina. Do you know the address? Do they have a website?

  • avatar
    Marleyisdead said:

    For Craig,
    Arte Pizza is at 109 N. 3rd St, FB, FL 32034. Phone number is 277.1515. Be sure to call and check for arancini before you make the drive (they don’t have them every day.) No web site. The owner, Tonino, is most likely to be there on Saturday and Sunday. Be sure to ask for him and talk about the food. He has worked in NYC and Miami and recently opened a place in Brunswick. Great guy!

  • avatar
    craig (author) said:

    Thanks for the heads up….

  • avatar
    bronxboy said:

    There’s only one place in Jacksonville for NY Style pizza – Tommy’s Pizza on the West side of Southside Blvd, just north of Touchton Rd.and Golden Corral, next to Busy Body.

    Tommy and his whole family are from NYC. The best thin-crust, brick-oven pizza around, and I just came back from NYC three weeks ago. To tell you the truth, Tommy’s is better than the pizza I just had in Manhattan. His slices are the largest in Jacksonville – they use a 20″ pie and only cut six slices. He uses the best cheese, not the gummy junk that Renna’s, Abe’s and AL’s use, and his sauce is the best. Tommy makes everything…dough, sauce, and even grows his own herbs. They won Channel 4′s best pizza in Jax for the past two years. Check out his website http://www.tbopizza.com

    Tommy’s also the only place where you can get gluten-free pizza in jacksonville. My son has celiac disease and he’s crazy about the fact that he can eat pizza again.

  • avatar
    craig (author) said:

    Ive been to Tommy’s a couple of times, cause I figured you can’t really comment unless you try it at least twice, and I was unimpressed both times. There is absolutely nothing special about Tommy’s, and I’m not sure where you are going in NY for pizza, if you think Tommy’s can even hang with NY pizza. But if you like it, enjoy it, just not my preference. Also, being from NYC means nothing. The people that own Mario’s at the beach are from Howard Beach in Queens, and their pizza is terrible, and Howard Beach might be one of the most Italian neighborhoods in the 5 boroughs.

  • avatar
    ejc said:

    Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza is the best in Jacksonville.

  • avatar
    ejc said:

    I think you should definitely go back and give Tommy’s another try. It is so much better than Als and Rennas.

  • avatar
    diningninja said:

    “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.”

    You say Al’s is giving you undercooked pies — yet you still give them top billing.

    As a food critic/reviewer/blogger, grow a pair of Italian meatballs and do your readers a favor. Don’t send them to blow money on poor quality food.

  • avatar
    craig (author) said:

    “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 is third and this is due to the lack of good pizza in Jax. Ive seen foodtv and know New Haven has 2 good pizza places, so Im sure you know decent pizza. There are 100 Ray’s in NYC, which one is really the Originals Ray’s pizza? They are not all related, they are actually mostly knockoffs of the original one. If you read the article you would have read that I used to go to Al’s first, but I actually have not bought a pie from Al’s in close to a year. Thanks for the heads up on Moon River Pizza, Ill check it out.

  • avatar
    craig (author) said:

    Thanks for the heads up on the rice balls. I grew up eating them, from the small ones for 60 cents at Lenny and Johns on Flatbush Ave. or the big ones for $2 at Nino’s in Bay Ridge. Both these places are in Bklyn and make sick pies and also very good rice balls. If you are ever up that way, chck em out. And I plan on definitely checking Pizza depot next time im in St. A.

  • avatar
    nurseshirl said:

    What you described as- thrown in a bag,shaken, covered with white powded sugar – sounds like a DOUGHBOY – NOT a Zeppoli-
    ask an Italian From Federal Hill in Providence,Rhode Island
    -what a REAL Zeppoli is…
    fluffy pastry, filled with custard,with whipped cream & a cherry on top..and sometimes,powdered white sugar sprinkled on it..

  • avatar
    mhhumphries said:

    Craig:

    I would be interested to know if you have tried and if so, what you think of Moon River Pizza on Edgewood?
    Not saying it is NYC pizza (the slices I had at Ray’s in NYC were amazing!) but I think Moon River is the best in town.
    Never had Renna’s (gotta try it), often go to Brucci’s (close to home and love the Yankee Pizza) and after about a dozen tries and many items on the menu, I have given up completely on Al’s.

  • avatar
    PhanLord said:

    How about Picasso’s pizza on San Jose http://jaxpicassos.com/
    or Pompei in Orange Park http://www.pompeiicoalfiredpizza.com/
    (its kinda out of the way but worth a visit from time to time IMHO)

  • avatar
    jaxfoodiefreak said:

    Try Picasso’s NY style pizza (although my fave is their St. Louis pizza) – pretty darn close to NY pizza you get in NY, although not as good as Grimaldi’s. Moon River Pizza is my 2nd choice. Would love to see your final review of these places to compare.

  • avatar
    Moon pizza river said:

    [...] NY Style Pizza in Jacksonville | EatJax.com 28 Apr 2009. I've given up finding good pizza in Jax. The only place I've found something edible is Moon River Pizza. Dough is good, veggies are fresh NY Style Pizza in Jacksonville | EatJax.com [...]

  • avatar
    Jim Lynch said:

    Try Tommy''s Pizza on Southside Blvd., just north of Touchton Road. Great NY Style Pizza and other foods. They even serve Egg Creams…….

  • avatar
    Susie said:

    Joseph's Pizza is the closest to authentic Pizza in Jax. Doing something right since they've been around since 1956. If you're really into real homemade food – try Joseph's on Main ST or Atlantic Beach!

  • avatar
    Jersey2jax04 said:

    You should also try carmines pie house-2677 Forbes street in jax. It's pretty good and the atmosphere reminds me of some of the old corner places I grew up with in jersey. Tommys is the best though and also does an awesome antipasto.

  • avatar
    denisephumphreys said:

    Little Marios in Marshalls shopping center in Jax Beach or Vinnies on Beach Blvd just over intracoastal!!_

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