Our second venture into true NYC pizzadom took us to John’s of Bleecker Street in the friendly, sunny West Village (it was really part of our first venture, as we hit Grimaldi’s earlier in the day).
In an environment like New York City where there exists a “John’s” or a “Ray’s” on every other corner claiming to be “Famous” or “Original” or “Famous Original,” it’s hard to stand out as another “John’s Pizzeria.” John’s of Bleecker Street, however, has done just that by establishing a following dating back to 1929 with pizza that don’t need no stinking gimmicks.
Establishment. In many ways, John’s doesn’t look and feel like a typical New York Pizzeria, especially in Manhattan where a lot of them are by-the-slice walkups. John’s doesn’t do slices, only full pies as evidenced by their painfully long “specialty” menu that details every single combination of ingredients and toppings in list form. This restaurant is relatively large with a good amount of seating and eclectic decor in the way of mosaic painted walls, intriguing light fixtures and wall hangings, and the spoils of a carve-your-name-into-anything-made-of-wood policy.
In other ways, John’s is exactly like a typical New York pizzeria: popular, excellent at packing as many people as possible into cramped booths (we said a good amount of seating, not good seating), littered with autographs of celebrities (Johnny Depp) and pseudo-celebrities alike (Road Warrior Hawk, two of Vanilla Ice), and featuring a brick oven that spits out good pizza on a daily basis.
Pizza. Our brick oven fired pie of choice was a large sausage and fresh garlic pizza (we were hard sold on the garlic, this is important). This pie came to the table hot out of the oven with a well-charred crust, beautiful melted slices of mozzarella, and a shockingly bright red sauce.
The crust was yeasty and delicious, but it was also rather toothsome and chewy, giving our jaws a more significant workout than even a bagel should. The cheese was of excellent quality and of lower moisture than we’re used to, lending the pie it’s nice, stringy snap with a more aggressive flavor. The sticking point with this pizza, however, was the sauce; while fresh-tasting and cleanly seasoned, the harsh bitterness of the tomato seemed overly concentrated, giving it the taste of a cooked down tomato paste rather than a good sauce. The toppings were nothing special either as the sausage was pretty forgettable and the fresh garlic that was so forcefully recommended to us ended up singed and bitter, not helping the sauce issues in the least. Still, despite its shortcomings, this is probably a better pie than many of the by-the-gigantic-slice, gas fired pizzerias on every other corner in Manhattan can serve up.
The bottom line. John’s of Bleecker Street serves a good pie with big flavors and textures that will hit or miss amongst different palates that stumble into their friendly, intriguing establishment.
Hits the Spot: 6.7/10
Large Cheese: $14.00