HITS & Misses

I’ve heard some good things about the ‘za at Joseph’s Pizza on the outskirts of Springfield, but was curious about the rest of the menu. Italian spots are always a struggle for me, because I expect certain things to taste a certain way. But once I found out the bread’s made in-house, I had to give it a go. The Muffaletta sandwich ($8.50) had exactly what I wanted in a sandwich, and it’s giant to boot. Layers of ham, Genoa salami, mortadella, pastrami and provolone inside a hyuuuuge housemade sesame bun. A sandwich with this amount of meat doesn’t need a salty, oily addition—that’s a joke, because, yes, yes, it does—and Joseph’s does it right with an extra-salty, oily kiss of housemade chopped olive dressing. This one I’ll definitely order again.

The other two specialties I ordered—Chicken Piccata ($13) with angel hair pasta and Eggplant Parmigiana ($12) with ziti—were perfect for soaking up sauce. The piccata is sautéed with capers, artichoke hearts and fresh mushrooms in a lemon butter and white wine sauce; it was good, but not great. The eggplant parm is a standard Italian dish. Joseph’s eggplant was super-thin, hand-sliced, breaded and fried—maybe just a tad too fried, but still quite good. You can top with meat sauce or marinara and mozzarella. Both were big, but I’m not sure I’d get them again.

I don’t know what to say about the garlic knots. You get a dozen for $4, but the degree of garlic used was piddling, aka not enough to justify using the word ‘garlic.’ To be honest, they made me a little sad sitting there by themselves—but they paired beautifully with the soup.

I was quite excited about the minestrone soup. I have fond memories of this easy, tasty, satisfying mélange, so I had rather high expectations as I dipped my spoon in the bowl. It emerged with a watery, barely tomato broth hosting measly frozen veggies, like potatoes and carrots. Green beans were the only beans I saw. Where were the great northerns, the red kidneys? It was a disgrace to all minestrones that came before and all that will come after. Skip it.

My tastebuds were flummoxed by the marinara. It wasn’t traditional; more like a veggie sauce with pasta. Often, basic pasta sauce starts with any combination of celery, carrots, onions, etc. These veggies are chopped small enough to cook down so you can barely taste/see individual pieces. At Joseph’s, you get a chunky veggie sauce with carrots, zucchini and more.

Joseph’s is a homestyle place, the people are nice and you get fresh bread made in-house with every order. Gluten-free pasta is available, too. These are definitely selling points, but you may want to stick with sandwiches and pizza.

I’ll be back for the muffaletta, but I’m still on the hunt for a favorite Mom & Pop Italian spot in Northeast Florida.