Pizza King – Schenectady, NY

Pizza is probably my favorite food in the universe. For me, it’s a form that can be built upon and varied, but at the heart of it, is simple in principle.

Bread and toppings. That’s what I believe pizza should be. I leave my mind open for variations on the form.

Pizza King at 122 Jay Street in Schenectady is a place that only sells pizza. Pizza King comes highly recommended from Daniel B. of FUSSYlittleBLOG and other foodie-types. They’re located in a really convenient spot just blocks from Proctors and other offices off State Street. On the Monday I visited, in the 25 minutes I spent waiting outside, I watched dozens of people enter and exit.

When I went in, I found it a little difficult to browse the slices on the counter because the line spanned so far back. People thought I was trying to cut them, but all I wanted to do was look at what they had. There were at least 25 types of pizza on the counter in front and about 8 thicker variants in the back. The classic NY thin crust variants included Buffalo chicken (available mild, medium, and hot), chicken marsala (available plain, with broccoli or with spinach), Philly cheese steak, pepperoni, mushroom, white with broccoli, and my personal peeve, sausage, peppers, and onions with the additional stipulation of “sauteed” included. [side note: I love that they specify that this combination is sauteed together. I found it very reassuring that they had to defend the combination and reaffirm that the toppings are sauteed to two other customers while I was there. Water on top of pizza just doesn’t work.] The thick crust variants on the back table included meat lovers, broccoli and ricotta, a Sicilian style square with sauce on top, and some others.

This was lunch, and I was really hungry, so I figured I would try three slices. I settled on plain, Philly cheesesteak, and a thick cut meat lovers slice. The young man at the counter seemed to be used to warming just two slices for each customer, so I confused him a little.

The plain slice was ok. The bottom of the pizza was very crispy from being baked twice, but the end crust lacked the crunch that you want when you get to it. I ripped through the crust before I ate it to make sure I wasn’t eating raw dough.

The flavor of the crust was very good; seasoning was spot on.

The cheese and sauce complimented the crust well, and the spices in the sauce helped lift the flavor in every bite. Aside from the underdoneness (is that a word?) of the outer crust, I’d say their plain slice is alright.

It was a little tough to be excited about the Philly cheese steak slice knowing how the end crust was and from seeing how it looked. The crust was way too wide in this slice, and it was more underdone than the plain.

The toppings were a mixed bag. The beef was good and nicely seasoned. I liked the onions that were there and also liked that they didn’t cook into a watery mess. The mushrooms that were under the cheese were interesting and excellent, probably the most outstanding topping on the pizza. The cheese, most likely American, had a very plastic texture (which you can see in the above image) and stuck to the back of my teeth as I ate it. It tasted fine; I don’t mind American cheese on stuff like this, but there is better American cheese out there.

I had to leave a significant portion of crust because there was just way too much, and it was way too underdone. (side note: Cassie’s two slices, chicken marsala with mushrooms and white broccoli with garlic, also had milk white, broad, underdone crusts.)

The thick crust meat lovers slice was the most exciting of the bunch. The balance of toppings to crust was perfect, and the amount of outer crust was in the right proportion to the size of the slice. The pizza is clearly cooked in a pan, and the bottom crust has a slightly greasy yet crispy texture. The crust of this was actually a bit more delicate and the seasoning in the dough was completely different from their standard NY slices. The sauce and cheese worked better on this slice than on the plain, and I’m sure the additional fat and flavorings from the pepperoni, sausage, and nicely crisped bacon helped to flavor the sauce. This was the best thing I tried, and it was very impressive.

I was surprised by the fact that they have such a small oven in the front. In my mind, there was no way they were baking over 30 types of pizza and warming slices in that little oven. After a while, I saw a different guy bring out some different pies, so that tells me there’s probably another oven in the back, which makes perfect sense.

While we were there, some girl threw a fit because they walked out a sign indicating the Cherry Coke from the fountain had run out. I totally heard her yell, “THIS IS THE WORST DAY OF MY LIEEEEEEEEFE!!!” but Cassie claims she never did. She should have. Also, it’s awesome that Pizza King only offers fountain soda. That’s the best part about going to a pizzeria!

When the kid rang me up (he hit 5 times the price of one slice on the register — this I saw), the slices were the same price, including the plain, so that’s a good thing to know if you’re the type of person that likes paying for volume (if I am wrong about this, then they overcharged me for the plain slice). For five slices and two medium sodas, the total was under $19, which isn’t bad at all, but the economy of eating pizza falls apart after you order more than 2 slices (especially specialty slices) and don’t order a whole pie.

It’s really great to see that there are places around that focus only on pizza and offer so much variety constantly. I just wish that their NY style pizzas were formed with less crust and that they allowed the outer crust to pick up some more crunch and color. Next time I go, I’ll scope it out; if the ends are milk white, I’m just sticking to the back table, because that’s where the special stuff is!


9 thoughts on “Pizza King – Schenectady, NY

  • Chad's Adventures (@Chad9976)

    I work three blocks from here and try to stop by once or twice a month. It’s a toss-up between Pizza King and Nico’s. Both have their pros and cons.

    Thank you for pointing out the ridiculous crust space. i think this is a chintzy move on their part because it makes it LOOK like you’re getting a huge slice (and you are), but 25% of the slice is just crust WTF?!

    One thing I like about Pizza King is the consistency. Two speciality slices and a small soda always comes to $8 even (unless they’ve changed is since they re-opened?). Nico’s has specials so some days it’s cheaper for the same amount and some days it’s more. Although I find Nico’s pizza actually goes all the way to the edge and their slices are even bigger. Have you reviewed them?

    Anyway good review. You sound mixed on your assessment. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when people don’t use a rating scale what they actually thought, ha ha.

    • derryX

      I didn’t review Nico’s yet, but they’re in AOA’s Tournament of Pizza. It’s fun to try to figure out which comments (if any) on there are from me.

      Other than judging things side by side, I stray away from rating scales. There are times where things just don’t compare (such as the pizza on the front counter and on the back counter at Pizza King), and a rating would distract someone from getting that point.

    • ktvorwald

      I agree with Chad about the crust space, and I would’ve asked them to put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Woefully underdone for my tastes.

      • derryX

        Therein lies the issue: the underpart of the crust was already cooked to the max. It would have burned with much more exposure to the oven floor, and that wouldn’t have even helped with the color on the outer crust. If you miss the opportunity to get color on the outer crust on the first bake, that’s pretty much it.

        I was going to talk about areas of circles and how decreasing the radius of toppings makes a major impact on the overall area (Area = pi * radius^2) of the toppings, but I gave up.

  • -R.

    “Also, it’s awesome that Pizza King only offers fountain soda. That’s the best part about going to a pizzeria!”

    I’ll have to disagree. Studies have shown that around 50% of soda fountains nationwide have significant degrees of fecal coliform bacteria contamination. I’ll stick to a bottle or can. Sorry if I’ve ruined it for anyone; blame your fellow diners’ lack of proper hygiene.

  • Daniel B.

    The nice thing about good slice shops is that you can see the slices before you order them. Clearly on that day the end crust was underdone. Bad on Pizza King for being careless. But despite observing their lack of color you still selected the underdone slices.

    Some of my favorite taquerias out west are highly variable on the cook of their protein. Sometimes the pollo asado is dry. Other times the carnitas is lacking a good crisp crust. Luckily they too have everything out for inspection so I can choose the item that looks the very best for my meal.

    At a place like this there is an element of personal responsibility that should not be ignored.

    • derryX

      For sure, and I definitely noted that the next time I go back, I’m avoiding the milk white crusts.

      The stuff on the back table looked very nice and consistent though. I really did like that pan style crust there. [And their main crust was good too, albeit undercooked and a bit wide on the crust on some pies.]

  • Daniel B.

    I was reminded of this post today, and thought it was important to call attention to the fact that this review was based on a visit to the shop when it was under different ownership. That kind of rubs this “foodie-type” the wrong way.

    • derryX

      The ownership is the same.

      “Pizza King” had a partner, his brother, and that man is overseeing operations now. He co-oversaw operations before.


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