By Gary Nager
Whether you like hand-tossed, thinner-crusted New York-style or the thicker crust (but not deep dish) Chicago-style pizza, my friend Joe Khanafer and his family at the new Joe’s Pizza Kitchen in the Cross Creek Center plaza (in the former location of the Urban Culinary Café) in New Tampa (but only a couple of miles south of Wesley Chapel) have got you covered.
Joe, who was raised in Africa, has owned a variety of different businesses here in the U.S., including starting and eventually selling the Sultan Hummus Co., says he decided to open his first-ever restaurant close to his home in the Cross Creek Blvd. area of New Tampa because, “I wanted something for them, for my family. Plus, this is one of the few types of businesses you can open that, if it’s successful in one location, you can be successful opening multiple locations.”
Joe says many of the recipes used at the Pizza Kitchen are his own, including his “secret” crust recipe. “I have a customer who asked me for my crust recipe,” says Joe. “I told her I would sell her my dough instead.”
Joe says that very few pizzerias in the Tampa Bay area offer both New York and Chicago style pizza.
“We have some customers who only like one type of pizza, but a lot of them have enjoyed both styles,” he says.
He also offers small, medium, large and extra large sizes (from $5.49 to $10.99) for either style, as well as a variety of specialty pizzas, from a traditional Margherita (with olive oil, garlic, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan), the “sizzler steak” (with mushrooms, bacon and your choice of peppers, and my favorite to date, the zesty chicken parmesan pizza, with Pizza Kitchen’s awesome marinara sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and crispy chicken.
Although I have yet to sample any, Joe also is proud of his homemade calzones (pizza dough pockets filled with ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan); strombolis (rolled pizza dough filled with your choice of two toppings, mozzarella and parmesan); and pepperoni rolls (which feature pepperoni, mozzarella, parmesan and pizza sauce), all available with extra pizza toppings (from pepperoni, sausage and meatball to black olives, spinach, banana peppers and so many more).
For starters, I also recommend Pizza Kitchen’s fresh garlic knots, mozzarella sticks and especially, Joe’s unique wings, another one of his “secret recipes.”
“I season my wings three days ahead of time and many of my customers order them with no sauce or with the sauce on the side,” he says. “They tell me they’re the best in town…and I agree.” I also enjoy Pizza Kitchen’s Greek and grilled chicken salads.
My favorite of Joe’s hot subs to date is the zesty meatball parm sub (I order it with extra sauce), although the steak, onion, banana pepper and mozzarella sub will be my next one to try.
Joe offers a variety of great specials every day, including a large cheese pizza for only $7.99 (regularly $8.99), two large, two-topping pizzas for $19.99 (regularly $21.99) and two large cheese pizzas, with 20 of his awesome wings and a two-liter soda for $29.99 (regularly $34.26). See the Pizza Kitchen menu when you visit for other great specials.
Joe’s Pizza Kitchen (10016 Cross Creek Blvd.) is open every day for lunch and dinner. For additional information and takeout orders, call 528-8777 or visit NewTampaPizzaKitchen.com.