“No slices” it reads on the website, menu, and on a plaque hanging over the kitchen. Below the plaque, a cook faces out into the dining room as he scoops handfuls of toppings from 8L buckets. That’s a lot of mise (preparation for what I imagine is a usual night: Busy!). Everyone who eats at John's leaves smiling, celebrities included. Vanilla Ice, Regis Philbin and Jack Black have all demolished a John’s Pizzeria pizza. There are photos lining the front window to prove it. The “small” is quite large at 14 inches but the thin crust is enough to persuade me that it’s possible to finish it alone. I opt for cheese and pepperoni ($14).
As I wait, I sip my Chianti (no vineyard listed on the menu, $6) and enjoy watching the two waiters rush around serving pizza on big silver trays to the chattering patrons. There is rock music on, but it’s quiet enough to hear conversations swirl around the room. The restaurant is small and every seat is taken. There is a line outside of hungry New Yorkers and tourists, but there is a high turnover rate (that it, people order, devour, and tear themselves out of their seat to make room for the next customers quite rapidly) so they needn’t wait long. There are 10 booths and 4 tables of 4 – all of which have become a canvas of happy etchings of customers past: “KIKI” and “I <3 U”. It reminds me of Sneaky Dees, home and good times.
A few minutes later, my pizza arrives. I usually smother my pizza in chili flakes - and there are some on the table, along with powdered Parmesan - but I take my first bite without either. I finish my first slice and decide I won’t use either for the rest of the pizza. The thin layer of cheese is lying on the dough, with two concentric circles of sweet, tangy and bright red passata on top of it. The pepperoni is thin and not too salty. I began scribbling down notes at first bite – and I have now consumed half of the 6-sliced pizza. Needless to say, it’s delicious.
Orange oil drips onto my plate and I am quick to sop it up with the thin (but still moist and chewy!) crust. The waiter hasn’t visited me since he dropped off the pizza. Maybe that’s because he knows it’s perfect. I leave dazed, with a paper bag containing my two last slices. I eat one the next morning for breakfast and it’s still perfect. I save the other for Toronto.
278 Bleecker Street, between 6th and 7th Ave.)
New York City