The problem with writing a review of a pizza joint is that pizza appreciation is a deeply personal thing. Sentimental factors will cloud the most sincere attempts at objectivity. For example, it is a fact that the best pizza in the world comes from Armando’s Pizza, down the street from where I grew up in Cambridge, Mass. That’s because when the subject of pizza comes up, many an eater’s heart and belly return to the pizza joint of their home neighborhood, like a salmon swimming up the river of its birth.
Based on the strength of Alibi Chowtown reader requests, there are many who feel that the world’s best pizza comes from J.J.’s on Menaul.
Some like deep dish pizza that’s gooey with cheese. Some prefer chunks of feta. Some prefer a crust so thin it offers barely a crunch, while others want their crust made of spelt. To some, including many J.J.’s fans, the only acceptable piece of pizza is one with green chile on top.
The green-chile-bacon-cheeseburger pizza at J.J.’s fits that bill. It’s spicy, meaty and doesn’t for a single bite let you forget that you’re in New Mexico. J.J.’s dough, made daily, is soft on the edge and thin on the bottom—it could pass for bread from a good bakery. While it’s a bit soft for my taste, I ate all my crusts just the same. The green chile is also out in force in the Ranchero, a pie of crispy pepperoni, bacon, hamburger and chunks of chile.
It’s spicy, meaty and doesn’t for a single bite let you forget that you’re in New Mexico.
I was brought back to bygone days by the bank of old-school video games at J.J.’s. Looks-wise, it’s an unremarkable but clean pizza joint, with tomato-sauce-red booths and walls. J.J.’s isn’t a place to go for the ambience, and that’s OK. It’s redeemed by free delivery, allowing you to eat it wherever you please.
Fans of sweetened pizza dough will probably enjoy the cinna-twists, thick breadsticks flavored with cinnamon and icing. Alas, when I ordered some as part of a take-out order, the staff may have been slightly more than half-baked. I had arrived five minutes late, and my pizza was ready—but the cinna-twists hadn’t yet gone in the oven. On my suggestion, they put my pizza back in the oven to warm up a few minutes before the cinna-twists were ready.
J.J.’s Albuquerque turkey sub, with turkey and green chile, is a tasty sandwich with crispy pieces of lettuce that makes it light and just a bit watery inside—almost like a Vietnamese spring roll in sub form. But it could have used more of that chile.
My favorite pizza topping at J.J.’s is the barbecue beef, which is tender and smoky. The barbecue chicken is also good. Both pies comes topped with onions, and it’s worth paying a little extra to have them sprinkle on the chile while they’re at it. Vegetarians, meanwhile, won’t feel forsaken. The spinach-garlic is tasty, though a little skimpy on the spinach. Best of all for non-meaters is the veggie combo, like a cheesy gazpacho on crust with olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. It’s just another example of how the toppings may be different here out West; but even Back East pizza snobs like me can see that J.J.’s use of them is creative and well-executed.
• Green-chile-bacon-cheeseburger pizza
• Barbecue beef pizza
• Veggie combo pizza