The best thing about Joey’s Pizza isn’t the pizza. It’s everything else that comes out of the ovens

Joey’s Pizza was NoshMob #1— a democratic eating society. Wanna join?

Here’s what the Mobsters had to say…

Amy D:“The server gave my son who’s twelve a little extra attention…he was smiling. The kids loved the Cheese pizza. The Combo… It reminded me of a New York style pizza. Thin crust and greasy. Enough that my husband would comment on the grease and he’s not usually picky on this. Toppings were good, the usual put on the combo: sausage pepperoni salami and mushrooms.”- Mike “Mr. Meat” S.: I had the Italian Sub, good, not great. Italian Delight in Novato still holds the title of best sub.

– John L.: “First let me say that with such strong personalities at a table, the food would have too be out of this world. Unfortunately it wasn’t. But for the price point it seemed fair. I tried a slice of the heart attack . Not bad really. Reminded me of pizza you would eat at the beach as a kid . The Italian sub & roast beef and garlic were both ok. Again for the price not bad. Over all I would say I won’t be running back for more . But iv payed more for less before.”

– Anne-Marie: “I had- The Big Tone – by the slice. chicken bacon artichoke mushroom pesto. Was a really tasty huge slice of pizza. $4 Couldn’t finish it!- The Antipasti Salad – small $5.25 A great salad w/mozzarella pepperochini’s salame (pepperoni too, but asked them to leave it off – not a big fan).

– Ty: “Not so good in my book. Caesar salad was ack. Pizza was meh … Though those pretzels were good. And the iced tea was good. I might go back to try a whole pizza and see what that’s like.”

– The Pregnant Lady: “Cheesy garlic breadsticks: These were a-m-a-z-i-n-g!” “A-dog Pizza: definitely one I’d order again.” “Meatball Sandwich: A fantastic deal for only $5.50 for a small- a nice-sized lunch for most people (who aren’t 38 weeks pregnant or sharing with a hungry lunch partner.) The melted provolone managed to get into every nook and cranny without taking over. Warm cookie sundae: This thing is a monster! It was HUGE! A giant, warm (kind of doughy) cookie covered in a whole lot of ice cream, a whole lot of chocolate sauce, a whole lot of whipped cream and some chocolate chips that were rolling down the side of this mountain as it was delivered to the table. We thought we didn’t have room to do much damage. We were wrong.”

Recently opened in the revolving restaurant space above Gary’s at the Belvedere, there’s been little buzz other than the ugly vinyl signage strung outside.  In fact, I’ve kind of avoided the spot. The specter of restaurants recently past (Blue Label and Blue Label Burgers) still knocking about felt a little chilling.

But a well-tested BiteClubber raved about Joey’s. Repeatedly. Re-peat-ed-ly. She’s pregnant, so what could I say?

Inside, not much has changed. Most of the Goodwill furniture is still there, as are the creaky, squeaky floors and hostess-free entrance (you have to kind of wind your way to the bar to find someone). But there’s also a new energy and a warm, yeasty smell that greets you at the door — rather than the cigarette smoke that used to permeate the walls. It’s immediately more comfortable somehow.

Hot, homemade pretzels — not quite soft, but not quite hard, and bathed in garlic salt — arrive at the table within a couple minutes. The place is almost always understaffed, but friendly and affable, and surprisingly prompt (though not fast).

Don’t be intimidated by the menu, which stretches for several pages, featuring pizzas that range from ho-hum (pepperoni, cheese) to hmm, okay (Joey’s Garlic supreme with garlic sauce, pepperoni, sausage, tomatoes and green onions) to wow (see the board at the bar for personal creations that mix meats, pineapple, and all manner of other toppings).

Overall, the pizza is good. It’s cheapish (prices top out at $17.99, but smalls are around $14 and plenty big for several) and you can get any sort of mix/match pie you’d like. I also love that you can get massive slices for $3.50. Lunchtime score.

But the big winner? The sandwiches. Fresh, flat rolls that are piping hot and filled with meat, cheese and veggies. The Cheesy Garlic Roast Beef (garlic, Ranch, cheese, roast beef) has made appearances in my food daydreams for weeks. At $5.50 it’s a steal, because you’ll likely take home half. Monster Meatball, Y&T Chicken and Brie are also winners.

Salads are pretty meh, but cheesy garlic sticks, fries and mozzarella sticks that actually have melted cheese in the middle make it a very kid-friendly spot.

Leave room for dessert. A warm chocolate chip cookie sundae slathered with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream ($5.95) is worth a trip alone. Warm. Chocolate Chip. Sundae. On several trips, they were out of the “Mama Joey’s ‘Labor Inducing’ Cheesecakes”, but hope springs eternal. Especially for my pregnant pal.

Joey’s Original Pizza isn’t fancy or gourmet. But it’s the kind of neighborhood spot that’s satisfying, and feels like a value for a quick lunch or a family dinner.

Joey’s Original Pizza, 727 Mendocino Ave, Santa rosa, 583-7688. Also 2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa, 542-279. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Cheesy Garlic Sandwich