You probably wouldn’t give this place a second glance if you drove past it, but it’s an amazing discovery. Joe’s Pizza and Pasta in Conroe, Texas, is one of those places that was built out in an existing building, giving it a second-hand feel.
There’s an old gondola out front to help you find it, too. Inside it still has a bit of the economy feel, but there’s a comfort zone that draws you in. The smells that fill the place encourage you to take a seat, review the menu, and start to salivate in anticipation.
Our first visit to Joe’s was several years ago. they still had plastic table cloths and folding chairs in the main dining area. We had followed a friend there, and knowing nothing about Conroe at the time, though for sure we were getting lost. It’s actually pretty easy to find.
We decided Joe’s was a good candidate for this blog based solely on that first experience. It’s a good things we went back for lunch last week. the place has really changed inside. Dark, cozy and intimate are all good descriptions of the current Joe’s dining area. Rat Pack era music wafted down from hidden speakers as a nice undercurrent of sound for the conversations that abounded.
We were seated in the back area, that now includes a secluded little corner with a romantic fireplace. The waitress was friendly, even with the busy lunch crowd. She made sure we had our drinks and a basket of garlic rolls as quickly as possible. She wasn’t pushy about taking our order, either. That’s always a plus for us as we like to peruse the menu and take our time.
Let’s start with the menu. It may look a little spare at first glance (the wine list takes up as much space as the Homemade Pasta Dish portion) of the menu, but that’s because Joe’s is an Italian place through and through. There are chicken, veal and shrimp dishes served with a variety of pasta styles including spaghetti, angel hair, ravioli, cannelloni and penne.
The brick oven New York style pizzas take up a large portion of the menu. They are available in 14″, 16″ and a whopping 18″ pie. You might feel the topping options are limited, but in truth they are about as traditional as pizza gets. The portions are large, even on the lunch menu. We didn’t order a pizza this trip, but we will try to squeeze on in soon and report back on it, with pictures.
Everything on the menu seems to be right out of one section or another of old Italy, with a very Sicilian feel and flavor. Tomatoes and spices are prevalent, but not exclusively used. The red sauces are very red, the cream sauce very creamy, and everything is a shade more intense without being overpowering.
The first item to hit the table was a basket of the house rolls. While they seem to be nothing more than fancied up pizza dough, let me assure you that the pizza dough here is more than adequate to the job. The rolls are allowed to rise to heights, then droned in a mixture of butter, garlic, and cheese. The look good and taste much better. The spicing allows them to accompany most of the menu items without clashing.
The lunch menu is indeed small. It’s a header announcing Lunch Specials for $6.95 (at the time of that visit), and two lines of standard items including chicken or eggplant Parmesan, cannelloni, manicotti, and spaghetti with or without meatballs. We chose the chicken parmesan and manicotti.
The green salad served with lunch is a typical iceburg/carrot sliver/purple cabbage mix. tI as fresh with no cooler burn and included a topper of grated mozzarella on top.
I chose the chicken Parmesan and was not disappointed. The chicken breast was breaded, and took up half of my plate. It and the pasta were then doused in red sauce and topped with plenty of mozzarella. The chicken was tender and the pasta al dente. Neither arrived at the table with the overcooked-because-it-sat-under-a-heat-lamp feel.
My lunch partner chose the manicotti. He is a bit of a connoisseur of manicotti, it being his favorite Italian dish. He approved of the dish and wished there had been more of it. He proclaimed it delicious. The red sauce on his dish, while appearing to be exactly the same as on the chicken, had a sweeter flavor. The al dente shells were stuffed with a marvelous mix of cheeses, creamy and spiced just right. Overall an excellent balance spicing and cheese to sauce flavor ratio.
Joe’s menu is not a way to get skinny, but when you make the best Italian comfort food in Conroe, who cares?
Joe’s Pizza and Pasta is located at 1604 N. Frasier in Conroe, Texas, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am until 10pm. They offer dine in- take away and catering for all occasions.
— Ann Cathey
Photos by Christopher (or taken with his phone)