Eating pizza in the ‘80s

The pizza at JJ’s is pie without pretension.

The pizza at JJ’s is pie without pretension.

Photo By David Robert

We must inevitably call this pizza joint “a college hangout,” as it is a classic destination for kids freshly finished with finals and looking to drink beer and eat pizza. And it’s ideal for such noble pursuits. There’s a nicely stocked bar, pinball machines and walls papered with posters of the foxiest bikini babes of the 1980s. There are also record sleeves of pop music heroes—John Lennon and Loverboy—and a vintage Coors ad featuring E.T. Of course, this bonhomic ambience would be meaningless without quality cuisine. Luckily, the grub is bitchin'.

I started out with an order of chicken wings (12 for $5.75) that I ate with almost no help from my compatriots. I ravenously devoured the wings, which are tasty, messy and addictive—just what you want. They come in four flavors: mild, medium, hot and “nitro.” I had hot but should have gone “nitro.”

Three of the four people in my party had small pizzas to themselves. The smalls are 10 inches and have enough crust and toppings that there was some left over to take home. My friend Michelle, a long-term JJ’s devotee, had the small cheese pizza ($6.94), which she claimed is “the standard against which all other cheese pizzas are judged.”

My girl, Danielle, had a small veggie, maxed out with fresh toppings, and I had the “Baja” ($10.61), with chicken, pepperoncini, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and chorizo. It was great, and I wolfed it down despite already being full of chicken wings.

The pizzas are served with ranch and honey, perfect for dipping the substantial crusts. The pizzas we ordered were right off the menu board, but you can build your own using JJ’s myriad topping options.

In addition to the appetizers and pizzas, JJ’s also serves sandwiches. My pal Mark, always willing to order something funky that will look good in print, ordered the “Hot Gobbler” ($4.89) sandwich: turkey, jalapeños and Swiss cheese.

A couple of bites in, Mark exclaimed, “This is ham! This is ham—it’s supposed to be turkey! It’s called the ‘Hot Gobbler,’ for crying out loud.” He took another bite, “It’s pretty good, though.”

Mark decided not to complain about being served the wrong meat and happily ate the rest of his sandwich. After the meal though, he said, “That sandwich was OK, but I’ll stick with the pizza from now on.”

One irritant is that you order at the counter and then, if it’s busy, they call your name out over an intercom to tell you when your pizza’s ready. This can be a bit jarring. I was already feeling embarrassed because of the number of paper napkins I had gone through wiping wing sauce off my chin, and then to hear a booming voice announce “Brad, your pizza’s ready!” was really disorienting. This probably won’t be as much of an issue for the less neurotic, but it was awkward for me.

But such is the way at a casual pizzeria such as this: a real pizza joint with no pretensions of being a “gourmet pizza restaurant.” However, it attracts a wide clientele and is, like a good pizzeria should be, a great place to go after soccer matches.

It is a college spot, but it’s weirdly dated, like the posters on the wall, to sometime circa 1982. It’s like the cozy basement of some dude who’s been done with school for years but still likes to have the undergrads over for beer and pizza. Mark compared it to when "Billy Madison goes back to high school in his REO Speedwagon T-shirt." But the atmosphere is oddly charming, and the kids wouldn’t keep coming back if the pizza wasn’t great.