“Quick! What’s a good date-night dinner spot in
#Ridgewood?” we recently inquired on Twitter. Armed with several excellent possibilities, we bundled up and headed over to Joe’s Restaurant, an old-timey Italian joint on Forest Ave. We’d wondered about this place for awhile, as it has a bit of history: the original Joe’s, a few blocks down the street at 66-53 Forest, opened in the 1960s, and they moved into the current fancier digs about 10 years ago, according to the nice young man who served us. The first location remained open and served pizza until four years ago, which means there was a magical six-year overlap period during which both Joe’s were open. The Village Voice’s Robert Sietsema even rated the old Joe’s #19 on his “100 Best Italian Restaurants” list in 2004! We’re bummed that we never got a chance to eat there.
Cool thing: a quick peek through the window of the old Joe’s reveals a scene that’s eerily frozen in time, like a tiny Ridgewood museum of the recent past. Tables remain covered in red & white checkered tablecloths and topped with salt & pepper shakers, and there’s a delivery bike and a bag of recycling. (Why did no one ever take out the recycling?)
Back to the date at the current (pizza-less) Joe’s, though. We were starving and over-ordered a bit, as tends to happen when it’s the middle of winter and you are post-courtship.
Off to a good start: Free appetizers included tasty onion-topped mini focaccia squares and very satisfying roasted peppers in fresh garlicky oil, along with delicious warm crusty bread and butter. We asked for more bread and mopped up all the garlic oil, of course. House wine costs an affordable $6 per glass.
Fried calamari. So many places sadly don’t include the calamari legs, but Joe’s does. I would order a legs-only calamari appetizer if I could, so I liked this a lot. Nicely fried, not rubbery, good sauce. Yum.
Antipasto salad. Pretty standard, run-of-the-mill ingredients but it was good, and the portion generous.
My entrée: Chicken Parm. The parm came with mashed potatoes (and pasta w/ sauce, not pictured), which was unexpected but nothing to complain about! They were actually great mashed potatoes — fluffy, with lots of butter and salt and oomph. The chicken itself was just a tad overcooked but not tough, and definitely still delicious, so I’d be willing to give it another shot. Hopefully a fluke. (UPDATE 2022: definitely a fluke, have eaten this countless times in the 9 years since this was posted, and it’s always been amazing!)
My date’s entrée: Sicilian sausage, also served with pasta & sauce. While the sausage tasted pleasantly of fennel and we appreciated the way the sausages hugged each other on the plate like they were on a date themselves, the accompanying pan sauce was a tad salty.
Unfortunately, we didn’t leave room for dessert. Joe’s gets their sweets from Bindi, the largest restaurant dessert distributor on the East Coast according to our server. The photos/descriptions on the menu actually looked quite good, despite it being a pamphlet from the ’90s. And it just so happens that the Joe’s folks recently opened a bakery in Middle Village, unsurprisingly called Joe’s Bakery, so next time we’re over that way we’ll definitely try a sfogliatelle — our favorite Italian pastry. No word on whether Joe’s Bakery will eventually supply desserts for the restaurant.
All said, we’ll definitely go back go Joe’s. We liked the minimal interior — there’s some viney foliage adorning the ceiling, which we’ll take any day over the Cracker Barrel country kitchen thing many Ridgewood eateries have going on — and found the service prompt and pleasant. Next time we’ll try the lobster & rib steak, which the couple next to us ordered and it looked delicious. Good post-date activities include walking through Korean Square (across the street, technically a triangle) and perusing the shelves at Europa or Max Euro further down on Forest. Oh! We almost forgot to mention our nightcap at Cozy Corner Tavern. Cheap drinks, nice folks, good date. In case you need another reason to visit, check out this weird video that doesn’t depict actual food or decor at Joe’s:
Cozy Corner Tavern
6001 70th Avenue
(718) 381-8397 [map]
75-50 Metropolitan Avenue, Middle Village
(718) 326-0190 [map]
*The website, like the weird video, does not depict actual food or plating at Joe’s.