Pizza places abound in New York City, and it’s not unusual to find some that have been around for 50+ years. In the case of John’s of Bleecker Street, they’ve been serving up coal-fired thin crust pizza since 1929 and they pride themselves in making “the same traditional coal fired pizza in the oven that started it all back on Sullivan Street,” their original location.
A friend and I decided to stop by John’s for a quick dinner before heading to watch an outdoor movie at a pier in Chelsea (what kind of summer would it be in New York City without an outdoor film?). The restaurant decor is casual if not a little divey. There are some tables in the middle but there are mainly wooden booths, scratched all over with graffiti from people carving their names wherever they can. Yes, it’s allowed, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a spot not already marked up a few times over.
We were seated quickly and saw that there weren’t many offerings on the menu. You can get pizza, a calzone, 4 different kinds of pasta, a salad, meatball/sausage sandwich or dish. That’s not to say that the limited variety of dishes is a con. People generally come for the pizza so why fuss about all those other things? And what John’s lacks in kinds of entrees, they make up for in offering a selection of different toppings you can get on your pizza to mix and match any way you want. You can also order half the pizza as one topping and the other half as another if you want, which is what we did with cheese and pepperoni.
There are two size options, the small 14-inch pizza with 6 slices for $14.50 and the large 16-inch pizza with 8 slices for $16.50. I just now realized that that’s about a dollar for every inch in diameter. Is that how pizza places decide prices?! I haven’t paid enough it attention it seems. When we asked our waiter what size we should get, he immediately answered that the small was good for two people, and he was right. We finished the whole pie and it was the perfect amount to satisfy us.
The pizza itself is pretty traditional and simple. Thin-crust, flavorful tomato sauce, not a boatload of cheese, and you can definitely taste the slight char in the crust from it being coal-fired. I guess my way of comparing it against other places is that John’s offers more cheese on top than other famous, old-fashioned New York City pizza places like Lombardi’s or Grimaldi’s. Does it say a lot about me and my palate that I use cheese as a gauge?
Remember, it’s CASH ONLY and they don’t do slices. Whole pies only at this New York City establishment! Supposedly John’s is also connected to Lombardi (omg, I can’t keep all these pizza rivals and offshoots straight anymore), and here’s a handy pizza family tree if you want to look into it further. Man, only in New York City would this be a thing. I love it.
Half cheese half pepperoni small pizza
278 Bleecker St.
New York, NY 10014