Last night we discovered John’s. It first opened its doors in 1929 on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. After losing its lease, owner John Sasso dismantled the brick oven and moved it to it’s currant Bleecker Street address when it still turns out the renowned and legendary pizza.
In 1984 John’s opened a branch on 64th Street on the Upper East Side. Its continued success made the search for someplace as unique as the pizza a goal. As a result, the newest John’s in Times Square opened in 1997. Built in 1888, this site once was the Gospel Tabernacle Church. After reconstruction, John’s opened this location with more than 500 seats (I had guessed 450) and considered the largest pizzeria in the country. Believe me, it was huge and I was pleased we were seated in one of the smaller rooms.
But, let’s get onto the pizza and why it is different. This thin, crisp, chewy crust, with creamy mozzarella, fresh ingredients and their own special sauce, is baked in brick ovens fueled by anthracite coal. They do not have thermostats to regulate temperatures. Hence, a trained eye for watching is required as it only takes a few minutes. The pizzas are hand-made and there are no pre-set portion controls. In other words, no two pizzas are alike.
We tried the whole wheat crust which was wonderful. Of course, many people believe there pizza is wonderful. All you had to see was the line and full tables. We ran into two New Yorkers who had sat behind us at the theatre the night before and they said this was a favorite for pizza. When locals continue to frequent a restaurant, it generally can count on quality and this is true at John’s.
By the way, the menu has all the other Italian dishes you would expect to find. But, what we saw coming out of the kitchen looked mouth-watering. What we’ll try next time includes: Roasted Veggie Platter, an array of fresh seasonal vegetables roasted in a coal-fired brick oven, served with mozzarella cheese; Pete’s-A-Rolls, home-made dough stuffed with your choice of fresh sausage spiced with fennel, mushrooms-onions-peppers with mozzarella cheese, or spinach with mozzarella cheese; Linguine Alle Calamari, calamari rings sauteed in white wine, garlic and marinara sauce, served over linguine pasta; and last but certainly not least, the Tiramisu, soft sponge base, soaked with vanilla and espresso coffee, layered with mascarpone and zabagilone cream.
So, when you are in New York and just want a good pizza, try John’s. Let me know how you like it.
Times Square, 260 W 44th Street, (212) 391-7560
The Village, 278 Bleecker Street, (212) 243-1680
East Side, 408 E 64th Street, (212) 935-2895