You might remember our latest entry from the annals of Stamford pizzas past, as it existed in town until our city’s pizza glut and Shiki Hibachi vanquished it from existence. While the menu at John’s Best may still refer to a sister pizzeria in the Woolworth(!!) Shopping Center on Hope Street, it’s merely a yellowed, decrepit, vinyl-sleeved relic of the past.
Establishment. John’s Best certainly hearkens back to a different age. Namely the early 1970s, which is probably the last time its interior was updated. A weathered peak awning emblazoned with (equally weathered) “John’s Best Pizza & Restaurant” lettering welcomed us into a dim and dumpy dining room littered with stained-glass lighting fixtures and fake plants. As if the wood-printed tile motif wasn’t homely enough, we were seated at a wrought iron table in a cramped little booth that had our knees and shins mere inches away from smashing into the extraordinarily overbuilt table supports. Decor aside, we were comparably pleased with the prompt and oddly complementary service (she told one of us, “nice hair!” before darting off to the kitchen with our order). While this tailed off toward the end of dinner—the check took forever, our water pitcher was splattered with sticky soda syrup, and the loud, endless banter from adjacent waitresses had us stirring with rage—there weren’t too many barriers to us stuffing our faces with pie. John’s Best’s menu consists mainly of Italian food, ranging from pasta dishes to sandwiches and salads and of course, pizza.
Pizza. We opted for a half-plain, half-meatball pie and for the most part, it wasn’t terrible. The crust was light and airy with enough of a chewy bite that it didn’t come off as bready or insubstantial. The cheese was creamy and plentiful, with a satisfying snap and welcoming stringiness. Unfortunately, the cheese was in short supply on a good two inch wide strip at the perimeter of the pie, pooling in the middle. The sauce was about average with the chunky texture and slight sweetness and tang of fresh tomatoes, but it felt underseasoned and a bit bland.The meatball topping was a bit of a letdown as well, with a rather unwelcome sponginess and metallic notes that could have used some of the unmistakable Italian flavors we’ve come to expect. The texture of this pie also left something to be desired as the oven-blistered, dry crust couldn’t quite hold up to the oils and cheese, soaking them up and devolving into a clumsy, floppy mess over time. Further, the cheese had a tendency to slide right off the pizza, and the pie as a whole lacked cohesion, both flavor- and texture-wise. The better aspects of this pie bordered on average and while not horrible, this pizza’s mediocrity was among its biggest sins.
The bottom line. There’s a very clear reason why John’s Bests have been closing all around Fairfield County: an unwillingness to update and upgrade a decent-but-flawed pizza and a laughingly outdated dining experience has allowed time—and far better establishments—to pass John’s Best by.
Hits the Spot: 5.0/10
Large Cheese: $12.45