Last night we discovered John’s. It first opened its doors in 1929 on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. After losing his lease, owner John Sasso dismantled the brick oven and moved it to his Bleecker Street address, where the renowned and legendary pizza is still produced.
In 1984, John’s opened a branch on 64th Street on the Upper East Side. Its continued success made the search for a place as unique as pizza a goal. As a result, the newest John’s in Times Square opened in 1997. Built in 1888, this site was once the Church of the Gospel Tabernacle. After the reconstruction, John’s opened this place 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 that we sat in one of the smaller rooms.
But, let’s move on to pizza and why it’s different. This thin, crispy and chewy crust, with creamy mozzarella, fresh ingredients and its own special sauce, is baked in brick ovens fired with anthracite coal. They do not have thermostats to regulate the temperature. Therefore, a trained eye is required to observe, as it only takes a few minutes. The pizzas are handmade and there are no preset portion controls. In other words, no two pizzas are the same.
We tried the whole wheat crust which was wonderful. Of course, many people believe that pizza is wonderful. All you had to see was the line and the full tables. We ran into two New Yorkers who had sat behind us at the theater the night before and they said this was a favorite pizza. When locals continue to patronize a restaurant, they can usually count on quality and this is true at John’s.
By the way, the menu has all the other Italian dishes you’d expect to find. But, what we saw coming out of the kitchen looked delicious. What we’ll try next time includes: Roast Vegetable Platter, a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables roasted in a charcoal brick oven, served with mozzarella cheese; Pete’s-A-Rolls, homemade crust stuffed with your choice of fresh fennel-spiced sausage, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers with mozzarella cheese, or spinach with mozzarella cheese; Linguine Alle Calamari, squid rings sautéed in white wine, garlic and marinara sauce, served on linguine pasta; and last but not least, the tiramisu, a soft sponge base soaked in vanilla and espresso coffee, topped with mascarpone cream and zabagilona.
So when you’re in New York and just want a good pizza, give John’s a try. Let me know how you like it.
Times Square, 260 West 44th Street, (212) 391-7560
The Village, 278 Bleecker Street, (212) 243-1680
East Side, 408 E 64th Street, (212) 935-2895