Attitude by the slice 

Joey's Pizza brings authentic flavor and personality to north side

As I pull up to Joey's Pizza (formerly Leon Gessi New York Pizza II), a young man is hanging bright imitation flower baskets outside the small Briargate Boulevard shop. Inside, four booths and classic black-and-white photos collide with graffiti of an Italian flag framed by choice words: Bronx, NY City, Queens, Brooklyn.

After greeting me warmly, owner Joey Stasolla hands his little nephew to his sister to focus on me.

"So what makes your pizza New York pizza?" I challenge. Apparently, it's a question the 25-year-old New Yorker has longed to answer.

"It's all in the crust and the sauce," he says defiantly.

Most people don't put the proper amount of garlic in the sauce, he says. And they bastardize the phrase "New York style" when they've never worked in a true "City" pizzeria.

Tough talk from a young gun. But Stasolla, Long Island-born and -bred, started hand-tossing pies at 14. Having worked from the Bronx to the Hamptons, and having learned at the side of some old-timers, he says he's learned 20 different ways to make pizza.

Two years ago, he came to the Springs for love, and when that didn't work out, he decided to open up a shop where he'd take traditional technique and add his own twists.

He dresses me a slice with mushrooms, extra garlic and onions ($4.99 with a small Caesar salad, or $2.25 plus 75 cents per topping, by the slice). Using both hands, I dive into the toppings and zesty sauce, which give way to a thin crust and its snappy crunch. In the next booth, a young man shows his girlfriend how to "properly" fold a slice before eating. Noted.

My husband tackles the Rocky Balboa hoagie ($6.99 for 6 inches with a drink), a mammoth, spongy roll stuffed with sausage, sweet peppers and onions under a blanket of melted mozzarella. (Stasolla makes the cheese daily, sans brine for a firmer texture, and sells small rounds for $4.99.) Sweet and meaty, the half-sandwich satisfies; the 12-inch version's a steal at $7.99.

Stasolla also makes his dough, meatballs, salad dressings and sauces fresh daily. The dressing on the Caesar salad ($3.99 small, $5.99 large) is thick and tangy with solid garlicky flavor and a low, salty note of anchovy. A syrupy honey balsamic accompanies the hearty and satisfying Antipasto salad ($5.99 small, $7.99 large), lettuce topped with salami, pepperoni, ham, black olives, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and artichoke hearts.

Also on the gourmet side is the light, crisp and delicate Margherita pizza ($18.99 for an 18-inch pie). Its mild pomodoro sauce (a lighter and sweeter tomato sauce) sings with fresh basil, slices of garlic and Roma tomatoes. Joey's also offers calzones ($7.99) and pizza pops ($8.99) pizza dough filled with assorted ingredients and baked. The baked eggplant with ricotta pop, thick and creamy, will thrill eggplant fans.

Stasolla hopes to introduce more people to real New York style pizza and to eventually move into a larger space. In his thick New York accent, he describes a place where you could grab a slice to go or sit down with a beer and watch a game: "You know ... boom, boom, boom!"



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