Big Y vs. Joe’s Pizza and Spaghetti

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Here we are in Week 4 of the Valley Pizza Challenge and welcome!  I haven’t eaten the pizza at either of these establishments so this week I was particularly interested in getting a first look at their wares.  We’ve got Big Y, a staple supermarket of western massachusetts that has dipped their toes into takeout pizza, and we’ve got Joe’s Cafe / Joe’s Pizza and Spaghetti.  I’ve always been intrigued by their sign featuring a man wearing a sombrero, so this was my first chance to get a closer look!  In terms of Big Y, we got the pizza from the King St. Big Y which I have shopped at for groceries many many times, but I’ve never had their takeout pizza.  So let’s get down to business!

Here are the standings as of Week 3.  As you can see, this is our last week in Round 1, and next time we will be tasting what Google’s rating system considers the best pizza in Northampton, Filo’s Greek Taverna.

 

Week 3 Corrected Bracket

 

Big Y

Big Y, tucked into a giant parking lot next to a Walmart.

Big Y, tucked into a giant parking lot next to a Walmart.

As I said earlier, I’ve been shopping at this Big Y for years and I’m very comfortable there.  I’ve never actually ordered from their Pizza shop before but it was a pleasant experience.  And if you need to pick up some groceries or other supplies it’s a super convenient place to pick up pizza.  The only thing is you’ll want to make sure you give yourself plenty of runway since they tend to take a while.  I attempted to order there a few months ago on a weeknight but the wait time was at least 45 minutes for pickup.  Today I ordered a couple hours in advance just to be safe, since I wanted to make sure I got home in time to meet up with our next pizza.  The pizza itself was pretty inexpensive, around $12.

 

Joe’s Pizza and Spaghetti / Joe’s Cafe

This is the most glorious sign in Northampton.

This is the most glorious sign in Northampton.

I’ve been enjoying this sign for years, but haven’t stepped foot inside mostly because there have always been other places closer to where I lived.  This is right in downtown Northampton, just down the street from Roost, so if you live in town there really is no excuse not to go.  I didn’t actually get to pick up the pie from here, so unfortunately I can’t describe the inside.  What I can say is that the order ended up taking a little longer than quoted.  The price for the pie was in the $15 range.

 

The Pizza

Joe's on the left, Big Y on the right

Joe’s on the left, Big Y on the right, greedy little hand bottom-left

 

It really is remarkable the size differences we’ve been seeing.  These are both larges and again the smaller pizza was the more expensive one.  This week we went back to a half-pepperoni / half-cheese arrangement at the request of some of our testers, and right off the bat you can tell that Big Y is not stingy with their toppings.  It looks like they dumped a wheelbarrow of pepperoni on that half of the pizza!  Aside from the size and the amount of toppings, the Joe’s pizza a definitely a thin-crust pizza in the same vein as Pizza Paradiso and Roberto’s, while Big Y’s offering is more similar to Mimmo’s or Papa Gino’s, at least in appearance.

As of this week I’ve decided to retire the mouthfeel category and integrate it with the remaining three categories.  Even though I love saying and writing the word mouthfeel, I’ve been feeling like it is just rehashing the things I talked about already.  So let’s see how it feels to go without it and see if we miss it.  It’ll be easy to bring it back if we decide to.

 

Crust

As we’ve gone through this challenge, I’ve noticed a definite bias in our group towards chewy crust, and while the Big Y pizza has the appearance of a chewy crust, it is surprisingly not chewy.  It’s pretty thick, and actually a little overcooked, so it had more of a crunch than a chew.  The tasters on the pepperoni side also noticed that a lot of the grease from the pepperoni got soaked into the crust, which tended to be a little overwhelming.

The crust on the Joe’s pie was quite thin but mostly had a dense rubbery texture to it that we all found a little disconcerting.  The flavor of the crust was pretty decent actually, but the texture just wasn’t right.

Winner: Big Y

 

Big Y Category Joe's Cafe
Crust

 

Toppings

As you can see from the photo, Big Y backed up a pickup truck’s worth of pepperoni onto our pizza, and it was tasty and spicy, but maybe a bit overboard.  While the cheese looked like it was going to be congealed and gamey it ended up having a pleasant texture and taste.

The toppings on the Joe’s pizza were not quite as apparent.  The pepperoni’s were actually pretty good but there really weren’t many of them, and the cheese had a strong flavor but it didn’t quite hit any of us right.

Winner: Big Y

 

Big Y Category Joe's Cafe
Toppings

 

Flavor

Biting into the Big Y pie, nothing really jumped out at me, and it had a mild inoffensive flavor that was helped immensely by the brightness of the pepperoni.  There was nothing wrong at all with the flavor, but there wasn’t much to the sauce and the cheese didn’t strike any of us as particularly special.  The flavor of the Joe’s pizza was definitely stronger, with a bright, sweet sauce, and strongly flavored cheese.  Overall based on these words you would have thought that we would have chosen Joe’s but something about it kept it from being voted for.  In the end our preference went with Big Y.

Winner: Big Y

 

Big Y Category Joe's Cafe
Flavor

Final Thoughts

This was a tough one because I don’t think the Joe’s pizza was terrible, but the Big Y pizza was so much more visually exciting that it may have biased us on some of our votes.  While none of us was particularly excited about the actual flavor and texture of the Big Y pizza, we still preferred it to Joe’s, which did itself no favors with its weirdly dense and thin crust.  Someone commented that the Big Y pizza was great for an office party, because it’s cheap and there’s a lot of it, and you eat it because it’s there.  If you know you’re going to be shopping at Big Y already and you want some pizza, sure go for it (especially if you like pepperoni), but there are probably better pies in town if you’re willing to do some additional driving.

 

Big Y Category Joe's Cafe
Crust
Toppings
Flavor

 

Winner: Big Y (11 votes)

 

Loser: Joe's Cafe / Joe's Pizza & Spaghetti (1 vote)

 

Winner: Big Y

bracket

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