Over at Me, Myself, and Pie, there's a good listing of the concentration of top-flight pizza places in Greenwich Village. Really makes me regret all the trips I made there from Jersey during my college days and never once sought out some good pie. Those were the desert years, after Rosa's in Riverside NJ closed and before I discovered DeLorenzo's in Trenton. I was resigned to eating puffy, soft, greasy, Sysco-style generic pie from Filippo's on George Street in New Brunswick.
Anyhow, this past weekend found me once again on foot in the Village. We set out for Arturo's for a pizza brunch, but were discouraged by the long line. We instead headed over to John's, and found no lines and tables open in their cavernous (for a famous pizza joint) dining area. We ordered a pitcher of cream soda, a house salad ("big enough for two") and a sausage pie.
The salad came first and it had very conventional ingredients including some pretty sad pink Florida tomatoes. Really, they should upgrade to some decent red cherry tomatoes until the Jersey tomatoes come in. However, it had a simple and well-executed oil and vinegar dressing that had a nice zing.
When our pie first arrived, it was very hot and the cheese had yet to set onto the base. As I lifted a slice to photograph the crust bottom, the cheese began to slide off. Not a good sign! But we opted to wait a few minutes while we finished the salad.
Good decision! By the time we began to divvy up the slices, the cheese had much better adhesion to the crust and we were able to proceed without knife and fork. Three of us devoured the entire pie, and the thin firm crust stayed crispy on the bottom to the end. It did not have the magical flavor of DeLorenzo's, but it was surely no cookie-cutter Sysco product. The cheese and sauce were both tasty but not stellar; ditto for the sausage.
I expect that a lot of folks would have trouble distinguishing John's pie from any other NY slice, and that's too bad. John's is not the artisan product of DiFara or Motorino, but it is exactly what a NY pizza joint should serve at a minimum. This is very good pie. Not quite destination pie, but (been saying this a lot) head and shoulders above anything you can get in West Chester PA.
When I think about those classic pies from Rosa's in the 60s, the closest I've found to that style is Patsy's in East Harlem. Now John's joins that select group making genuinely "old-fashioned" pizza. John's Pizza scores an 8.