John’s of Bleecker Street: Best pie in the West Village but not all of NYC

Date January 23, 2008

“In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi applied to the New York City government for the first license to make and sell pizza in this country, at his grocery store on Spring Street in what was then a thriving Italian-American neighborhood.”

That information, courtesy of Ed Levine, is the reason you’re looking at the beautiful pie below. While Mr. Lombardi created a lasting legacy at Lombardi’s with his transcendent white pies, John Sasso, one of Lombardi’s disciples, opened John’s of Bleecker Street in 1920, and created a New York institution of his own.

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Find out what makes it the best pie in the West Village and why it’s not the best in NYC after the jump.

First, a brief history of pizza in New York courtesy of Grub Street:

“Gennaro Lombardi brought pizza to New York — and America — in 1905. His pie, cooked in a volcanically hot coal-fired oven on Spring Street, had a thin crust and only sparing amounts of cheese and sauce. Lombardi had three disciples, all of whom begat equally legendary New York pizzerias: John Sasso (John’s), Anthony Pero (Totonno’s), and Patsy Lancieri (the original Patsy’s, in East Harlem). These places in turn all begat mini-chains. Patsy Lancieri’s widow sold the Patsy’s name, along with the original restaurant, to an outside group in 1991; as a result, Lancieri’s nephew Patsy Grimaldi changed the name of his Brooklyn Heights restaurant from Patsy’s to Grimaldi’s in 1996 to avoid confusion.
All the great old-time places serve what can properly be called New York–style pizza. The ultrahot ovens allow even the thinnest of pizzas to brown before the inside of the crust dries out, giving it a pliant, multidimensional majesty. And unlike in Italy, where blobs of white mozzarella float on red tomato sauce, never truly mixing, the New York pantheon pizzas like Totonno’s use a more meltable, semi-dried mozzarella that helped evolve the red-orange-sauce-and-cheese mixture we know and love today. Other more recent exemplars of the classic New York pizza include Adrienne’s Pizza Bar in the financial district, Vinny Vincenz in the East Village, and Louie and Ernie’s in the Bronx. But anybody that cooks thin, fresh dough in a hot oven and hews to a less-is-more aesthetic can be said to be following in Gennaro Lombardi’s footsteps.”

Plain and simple, John’s pizza is delicious. No one can deny that. The crust is always crisp and tasty and the cheese, thinly sliced squares of mozzarella, not the usual pre-grated variety, is always thoroughly melted and plentiful…

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..but it’s that “less-is-more” philosophy that prevents John’s from being my favorite pie in New York. I’m a man who likes a steady balance between cheese and sauce and John’s just doesn’t deliver on the sauce quota despite the tomato you see below:

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The sauce falls short because it’s a little thin and pasty, if it was heartier it would deliver what I’m looking for.

I still hold to the fact that this is the best pie in the West Village. I’ve eaten here at least 5 times and it’s been consistent throughout despite lines stretching out the door.

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There’s no ambiance at John’s, it’s all wooden booths and Formica tables, but that adds to the old school charm of the experience. It’s also cash only so keep that in mind. And speaking of old school, you just can’t argue with the results produced by a coal-oven, an endangered species in New York City. As you read earlier, the advantage to coal-oven is a temperature so hot that you can cook thin pizzas without drying them out. Despite the greasiness you see on this pizza upskirt below, John’s is not ordinarily this bad. It usually stands up to the “hold its own weight” test, never folding under the heft of some hearty toppings.

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You have to respect a restaurant that has been around for almost 100 years, especially one that continues to draw crowds regularly. If you consider yourself a New York pizza lover, you must absolutely eat at John’s of Bleecker.

So why don’t I think this is NYC’s best pie? Well in all honesty could you answer the question as to what is? In a city that prides itself on its usually out stated opinions, getting people to agree on the best pizza in New York is about as simple as beating Jose Reyes in a foot race. Keep watching NYC Food Guy for my list of New York’s best pizza. To see what I’ve eaten so far click here.

John’s of Bleecker Street

278 Bleecker St (b/t 6th and 7th)

New York, NY 10014

Phone: (212) 243-1680

No Reservations, Cash Only

 

5 Responses to “John’s of Bleecker Street: Best pie in the West Village but not all of NYC”

  1. food for thought said:

    very interesting insight into the pizza pros and cons.
    and for those who want history, it’s there.
    interestingly good.
    do i like johns? too much hype and zero atmosphere.

  2. The NYC Food Guy said:

    I have to agree, there is a lot of hype and there is no atmosphere. In the end, if you know what you’re going to John’s for and as long as you keep that in mind, it should prevent disappointment. Thanks for the comment.

  3. San-Man said:

    Personally, I could care less about the atmosphere…I’m there to get some great pizza…I don’t care whose pictures are on the wall or who’s been seen waiting on line, etc…All I know is that John’s has much better pizza than Lombardi’s (whose crust always seemed to be dried out but then, I’ve only had their pizza delivered and not fresh from the oven so that could have something to do with it)…History is interesting but definitely isn’t a make-or-break for me either…

  4. NYC West Village Pizza: John’s Of Bleecker Satisfies In That Perfectly Greasy Bar Pizza Way You Want (And Goes Great With Cheap Beer) | NYC Food Guy said:

    […] Manhattan? No, that’s Totonno’s in Coney Island or Patsy’s up in Harlem. It has history on its side as it was born in 1920 and was one of the first pizza restaurants in NYC after Lombardi’s […]

  5. ELF code said:

    These all YouTube gaming videos are really in pleasant quality, I watched out all these along with my mates.

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