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John's Pizzeria

278 Bleecker St., New York, NY - (212) 935-2895
Posted By Michael Stern on 3/18/2007 11:15:00 PM
Pizzerias all over New York call themselves “Original,” and while John’s of Bleecker Street (and three offshoots on E. 64th, W. 65th, and W. 44th) makes no such claim of primacy, it is a Greenwich Village original. It is a source of true New York-style pizza in a setting that could be nowhere else. John’s is such a landmark that the last time we ate there, on a Sunday afternoon, a tour group of about a dozen Europeans came in off the sidewalk, did a “walk around” the dining room, and walked out. They were sightseeing … and the pizza-eaters of lower Manhattan were the attraction.

John’s looks extremely well lived-in and well eaten-in, its walls and the wooden backs of its rickety booths covered with a dense thicket of graffiti that represents the countless enthusiastic visitors who have dined here since 1934, when John’s moved to Bleeker from its original location (opened in the ‘20s) on Sullivan Street. At the back of the front dining room, where two Italianate murals decorate the walls above the scarred wood, photographs of famous fans of John’s are displayed. They include former Mayor Giuliani and former Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra.

There are a few items on the menu other than pizza. You can get a big house salad for two, a meatball or sausage sandwich, or the half-moon dough pocket known as a calzoni stuffed with mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Pizzas come large (eight slices) or small (six slices). There are no surprises on the ingredient list, except that the sausage is especially delicious, the mushrooms are fresh, and the mozzarella has a creamy goodness that makes magic with the brightly herbed red sauce.

What makes John’s pizza taste important is its crust. Cooked in a coal-fired wood oven, it has a dough that turns almost brittle at its outer edges in places where it blisters and blackens from the heat; and yet just fractions of an inch inside that circumference, it has a wondrous chew. The best part of it is underside. Flip over a slice – you can do this, for the toppings cling well and each slice has enough structural integrity to stay together as it’s handled – and gaze upon the bottom. It is charred from its stay on the floor of the old oven. Nearly black and on the verge of ashy, the crunchy bottom surface of this pizza is an addictive eating sensation unlike any other. For serious bread-and-pizza lovers, this crust verges on a spiritual experience.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

A half-and-half pizza: mozzarella in the background, sausage in the foreground.
"A half-and-half pizza: mozzarella in the background, sausage in the foreground."
Michael Stern





John's is a crust-lover's pizza -- a perfect balance of crunch and chew. That's not to slight the sausage, which is superb ... and the tomato sauce and mozzarella, which are Neapolitan-style classics.
"John's is a crust-lover's pizza -- a perfect balance of crunch and chew. That's not to slight the sausage, which is superb ... and the tomato sauce and mozzarella, which are Neapolitan-style classics."
Michael Stern


Sausage and mushroom pizza.
"Sausage and mushroom pizza."
Sam Meyer


Every square inch of wood on the walls and booth-backs at John's is covered with years' worth of scratched-in graffiti.
"Every square inch of wood on the walls and booth-backs at John's is covered with years' worth of scratched-in graffiti."
Michael Stern


The view from inside John's, looking out towards Bleeker Street.
"The view from inside John's, looking out towards Bleeker Street."
Michael Stern


John's neon sign.
"John's neon sign."
Sam Meyer


There are three other genuine John's in Manhattan, but connoisseurs prefer this one, with ancestry that goes back to Lombardi's, New York's very first pizzeria.
"There are three other genuine John's in Manhattan, but connoisseurs prefer this one, with ancestry that goes back to Lombardi's, New York's very first pizzeria."
Michael Stern


John's has been part of the Greenwich Village scene since the 1920s.
"John's has been part of the Greenwich Village scene since the 1920s."
Michael Stern



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