Whoah… John’s of Bleecker Street Now Delivers For Real

Wait… what!? John’s of Bleecker Street, the no-nonsense, West Village, pie-only stalwart known for scratched tables, initialed walls, and one of the city’s most iconic thin-crust pizzas announced some big news for pizza nerds late Tuesday afternoon on Instagram: They now deliver.

“EXTRA EXTRA! You’ve waited and waited, and now… we are officially ready to deliver John’s of Bleecker Street pie to your doorstep! You’ve heard that right – our very own service is up and running. GO to our website: johnsbrickovenpizza.com and click ‘delivery!’ 🍕🍕🍕💕💕💕”

Commenters were quick to chime in with questions about the delivery zone:

grantmclachlan88: “What’s the delivery charge for Scotland?”
holz75: “Yeah, what about to LA? 😁
malao78: “Stockholm, Sweden?😜”
tellisontalk: “London?”

“We love you all…come to Gotham, where 🍕 is real!” John’s of Bleecker responded.

Gotham, where pizza is real indeed. Some folks were even a little more realistic, hoping for the delivery zone to extend as far as Battery Park City.

The delivery zone is from the Hudson River to Broadway and from Canal to 14th Street (for a $2 fee). They’ll deliver north to 23rd and south to Chambers Street for a $5 fee. Delivery hours are 11:30 am to 10:30 pm. Click on 9fold.me or go to John’s website and click “Delivery” at the top of the page to order.

Technically though, this isn’t John’s first venture into delivery. There were some bated articles and blog posts last year (“Are we about to witness the greatest food fight in history?” Spoiled.nyc asked) when it joined Momofuku Milk Bar, Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, and some 350 other Manhattan restaurants by joining Amazon’s Manhattan free meal delivery service for Prime members. You have to wonder if the annual $99 Prime membership was a high bar for the kind of folks that were going to support consistent pizza delivery.

“We gave them about three months, but it really didn’t add up to anything because they were new and they didn’t have it down,” John’s general manager Pete Garcia told me. “We had a lot of non-show ups for the deliveries and stuff from their men. Didn’t work. Then, we went to Postmates, and Postmates, instead of carrying a pizza like a regular pizza should be carried, they put it under their arm like a book and all the shit would be falling out the bottom. They’d put it in their backpacks, like sideways. “I was like, ‘You guys got to be kidding me.’

Amazon Restaurants no longer seems to feature Milk Bar but Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken still seems to be using the service.

“I figured, all right, let me go to Grubhub. They all charge 25% to 27% per order. Those guys. I figure they’re the best for the business. Right? They’re well-known anyway. Those guys, they didn’t even supply them with a hot bag. Every pie was going out without one, and everybody was getting them cold. They were also holding them on the sides, and the bikes, they bounced it on their handlebars. It was horrible.”

For John’s their experience with Grubhub was like tearing down a brand in 30 days that they’d spent 90 years building. In 1993, while explaining to The Times why they didn’t do slices, Madeline Castellotti, former wife of owner Pete Castellotti, also told them why they didn’t do delivery. “Years ago, you only bought the whole pie,” Mrs. Castellotti said. “So we kept that. And we don’t deliver because we don’t want people eating the pizza out of a box, where it loses its crispness and gets the taste of the cardboard.”

So these delivery efforts were like a nightmare come true. Pete said he told the company’s CEO he was done, and that Grubhub still hadn’t provided hot bags for the pizzas to be delivered in and that they’d asked for a second chance.

“He goes, ‘But I go there all the time when I’m in New York,'” Pete recounted. “I’m like, ‘If you show up now you’re gonna get a cold pizza just like your guys delivered it to our customers. Don’t show up.'”

They hired one of their servers to take over the delivery business, brought on six bike deliveryman, bought bikes, racks, hot bags, and bungee cords to hold the pizza in place.

“We have to protect the product,” said Pete. “If we could get it in under 25% what they charge, well damn, we’re doing a good job.”

“Yes, John’s of Bleecker is on the tourist rotation, but there’s a reason it’s a New York City institution. Pizza is cooked in a coal-fired brick oven the same way it’s been done there since 1929. Choose from available toppings (pepperoni, sausage, sliced meatball, garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms, ricotta, sliced tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, basil, and roasted tomatoes), and scratch your name into the walls like droves before you. What can’t you do? Order a slice. Pies only.” — The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Pizzas in America

Pete said that they’ve been doing delivery since the very end of August. They’ve been doing business by advertising via social media and their newsletter they’ve been calling customers after deliveries to see how things arrived. That’s how they realized that they’d overlooked buying pizza box stacks (the tiny plastic pizza tables that sit in the pie center to prevent the lid from sagging into the top of the pie), which they’ve remedied.

Right now, the delivery zone is from the Hudson River to Broadway and from Canal to 14th Street (for a $2 delivery fee). They’ll deliver north to 23rd and south to Chambers Street for a $5 fee. Delivery hours start at 11:30 am and ends at 10:30 pm. John’s ask that you ignore the links on their Google profile to seamless.com and grubhub.com and instead click on 9fold.me or go to John’s own website and click on “Delivery” at the top of the page to place orders.

As for the requests for delivery to Sweden, Scotland, Los Angeles, and the like, Peter noted it seemed like they’d hit a nerve. “That or they’re all busting our balls, saying, ‘Can you delivery to Houston?”

Ah, New Yorkers. But they give it as good as they get it at John’s.

“Hey listen, you know, that’s the next project is all I’m telling them,” Pete said. “We’ll see if we can flash-freeze pizzas somehow.”

Will a break with the past to do delivery mean they may break another famous tradition (“Pies only!”)? Apparently, signs of the apocalypse like toasting at Ess-a-Bagel may still be premature. Some things in this city still are sacred.

“We just don’t have the room to deal with that, people walking in off the street for slices and walking by people that are spending 50, 60 bucks sitting down trying to have a nice dinner,” Pete explained. “The slices we’re gonna stay away from.”

John’s Pizzeria of Bleecker Street
278 Bleecker Street (between 6th & 7th Ave.)
New York, NY 10014
Delivery (*NEW*): Hudson River to Broadway and Canal to 14th Street ($2), north to 23rd and south to Chambers ($5); 11:30 am-10:30 pm; 9fold.me
Phone:
(212) 243-1680

johnsbrickovenpizza.com
Subway: A, C, E, B, D, F, M, 1, 2, 5

Oh, Loverboy. Pizza, Oh Pizza, My Sweet Pizza, You’re the One… (Maybe?)

If things go as planned, Loverboy, the East Village’s newest pizza spot (brought to you by owners Richard Knapp and T.J. Lynch of Nolita gin mill, Mother’s Ruin) may actually be able to serve pizza by early August.

“We’ve basically decided to say, ‘Fuck Con Ed,’” the bartender at Loverboy explained. “We’ve outfitted the kitchen so that we can just go all electric. We’re closer than where I thought we’d be since making the shift. We should be ready to serve pizza within the next two weeks.”

In an interview with Grub Street, Loverboy co-owner T.J. Lynch said the spot hadn’t been named for the Patrick Dempsey pizza deliveryman-gigolo movie or the ’80s band (we’ll have to settle for a hed inspired by Mickey & Sylvia) and described their concept as combining “the unpretentious feel and good drinks of Mother’s Ruin, but with pizza by the slice and pie.” Instead of having folks leave the bar to find slices to sop up the frozen cocktails, they decided they’d serve pizza themselves (“I think it’s because we’re geniuses” Lynch added).

Loverboy’s pizza style? Lynch, who worked on it with consulting chef Nick Pfannerstill (previously chef de cuisine of Dovetail), told Grub Street, “Our style is called awesome pizza. That’s the culinary definition.” More specifically, he then went on to describe it as a square-style with a thicker crust that’s not quite Sicilian-thick.

Tone can be lost in translation, but the quotes do read a little, ahem, abrupt and… confident.

Continue reading Oh, Loverboy. Pizza, Oh Pizza, My Sweet Pizza, You’re the One… (Maybe?)

How Toro Pulled off the Lou Malnati’s Deep-Dish Pop-up

Last week’s Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pop-up took over Toro with foot-long cheese pulls, delighting Chicago transplants and skeptical New Yorkers with pizza FOMO. But how did it come about? And how did Lou Malnati’s pizza heir and Toro partner Will Malnati and team pull it off?

“I was in Chicago for the Beard Awards,” chef Ken Oringer explained. “I told Will, ‘There must be thousands of Chicagoans in New York City who crave this pizza. Why don’t we do some type of pop-up?’”

Toro had been doing guest chef pop-ups over the past year, inviting friends like Rachael Ray (who connected Will with chef Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette of the original Toro in Boston) to cook, selling tickets for the events in the private dining room. Time and again the question arose: could they pull off a Lou Malnati’s pop-up? “It never went away,” explained Malnati. “So, one day I was like, ‘All right, all right, all right. Let’s see if we can really do this.”

The May 30th, Lou Malnati's pop-up at Toro featured two PBRs per guest.
The May 30th, Lou Malnati’s pop-up at Toro featured two PBRs per guest.

Moving forward meant Will acting as middleman between the kitchen in New York and the Lou Malnati’s team in Chicago, figuring out what they had and what they’d need. Will may have spent years establishing restaurateur cred beyond pizza, but the Chicago native earned his pizza chops in the family business before studying at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, working in every restaurant. He even returned to Chicago after graduating to open a Lou Malnati’s before starting a career in hospitality in New York at EMM Group.

Continue reading How Toro Pulled off the Lou Malnati’s Deep-Dish Pop-up

Sofia’s New “DoughDici” Pizza Soufflé Is New York’s Most Inventive Pizza in Years

There’s a unique, new pizza in town. It’s called the “DoughDici,” and it’s a poofy play on a Detroit-style pie, a purposefully fallen pizza soufflé with a thin frico edge and an airy interior that resembles the inside of the Platonic ideal of a garlic knot. The DoughDici, a play on “dodici,” Italian for “12” (a nod to its dough’s 12-hour rise), is the creation of pizza tinkerer Tom Degrezia of Sofia Pizza Shoppe on 1st Avenue between 54th and 55th. Because of the time that goes into tending them, each DoughDici will be sold by appointment (link below) in limited quantities (two to three a day) just a few days a week.

If you’re a pizza fanatic looking for the next new thing: this is it.

There’s an ever-so-slight oil crisp-brown and golden undercarriage, a frico, Detroit-esque crust that’s slightly chewy and salty from the cheese, but without the Motor City overflow.

Degrezia has been tinkering with the DoughDici in his Sutton Place sliceria for seven months (he’s still looking for someone to make pans with the slightly angled effect he’s striving for), giving lucky regulars a slice if they happened to be there when a pie came out. Meanwhile, Degrezia’s partner Matthew Porter has trademarked the name. They were inspired by the Detroit-style pizzas popularized at Emmy Squared in Williamsburg but wanted to take their own approach.

Continue reading Sofia’s New “DoughDici” Pizza Soufflé Is New York’s Most Inventive Pizza in Years

Cornering the Market on Grandma Pizza in Hell’s Kitchen at Corner Slice

Ivan Orkin, the brash Jewish guy from Long Island who supposedly had no business opening a wildly successful ramen shop, is now the ramen guy whose brand seemed to have nothing to do with pizza and who has now opened Corner Slice, a grandma pie joint.

“You could say I’m the white guy making ramen, but the white guy went to Japan in 1980 and learned how to make it for 30 years,”Orkin retorts. “My family was Japanese and my heart is Japanese. Pizza is no different. I was born in Lenox Hill Hospital and been here my whole life. The experience of a great pizzeria… it’s who I am. If you listen to my backstory one of the things that reminded me about ramen was New York diners. Your guy was always there. You could get your food pretty quickly. I think pizzerias are really similar.”

The truth, as Orkin and partner David Poran quickly point out, is that Corner Slice, Gotham West Market’s new pizzeria, is the brainchild of chef and partner Mike Bergemann, 29, who Orkin and Poran call “the mastermind of the pizza.”

It’s been asserted that 2017 will be the year of the square pizza in New York City, a declaration Corner Slice will help cement. Bergemann describes the pizza he and his younger brother Pete, 27, are baking in an electric PizzaMaster deck oven from as “a blend of every square-style pie.” Actually, thinking inside the box has been on the rise for years. Prince Street Pizza opened with squares in 2012, when chef Michael White was also testing square pies at his East Village Midwestern riff Nicoletta. Razor-thin edged square icon Rizzo’s opened in 2013, on the Lower East Side after being Queens-bound nearly 55 years, and quadrate aspirations made news in 2015 at beloved Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s and with Matt and Emily Hyland of Emmy Squared.

A topdown view of the pizza at Corner Slice.
Mike Bergemann calls his grandma pizza “a blend of every square-style pie.”

Square-centric pizzerias have been pretty successful recently. Prince Street’s Spicy Spring square now tops many pizza-lovers best-of lists, Rizzo’s soldiers on and Matt and Emily’s Emmy Squared is an Instagram staple bound to amplify the trend when their second Detroit-style spot opens in the former Blue Ribbon Bakery space. (It will be their first Manhattan pizzeria). With 310 Bowery, grandma pizzas (always square) have even entered a New York City bar pie arena dominated by poofy crusted quasi-Neapolitan rounds at Alligator Lounge and Crocodile Lounge in Williamsburg and the East Village. But lackluster “Detroit” squares at the new Bryant Park Whole Foods (not good) are a reminder that it’s quality, not being on-trend, that leads to success.

You’ll find that focus on quality at Corner Slice.

“The pie is special because it’s made properly,” Orkin explains. “I don’t mean to sound like a jerk but we have good flour made with care and fermented the way dough is supposed to be fermented in my opinion. And I think we decided we could make a little less money and buy better ingredients and make it up in volume. We’re really doing that on purpose because we want people to enjoy the pizza and not get caught up in the price of artisanal ingredients. The reason why slice business has fallen off is because they’re not using great ingredients. New York took a bit of a left turn into Neapolitan style and we’ve lost our way a little bit in terms of what New York pizza is. It’s been an international phenomenon and while it’s absolutely delicious when done properly, it’s just not New York pizza. Remember, that’s means going to John’s where they say, ‘No Slices,’ and it’s like, ‘Dude, how many times do I have to tell you we just serve pies.'”

Corner Slice’s signature tomato square calls on New Haven tomato apizza and Jersey tomato pies for inspiration. The crust is airy and light with a pocked, golden-crispy undercarriage and a wide, dark edge reminiscent of a crunchy bread loaf that should eliminate comparisons to focaccia. There’s a thorough slathering of bright tomato — part California sauce, part Jersey chunk — spread across the base and a scattering of garlic confit. It’s garnished with a gentle Di Fara finish of grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil (fresh basil goes on the pie into the oven).

The effect of enjoying Bergemann’s tomato slice and an espresso almost has more in common with the fresh, crusty pan con tomate traditionally served with coffee in Catalonia. And in case it wasn’t obvious, that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a delicious slice.

Bergemann has a ton of ideas and he’s been involved in every part of the design and process. (He did all the branding and design with his girlfriend Courtney Inge.) There are 10 to 20 baked goods in the mornings until pizza starts being made at 11:30 am, including a delicious lard bread. I caught up with Mike Bergemann the day before he opened Corner Slice to learn more about the philosophy behind what he and his partners are doing at Corner Slice.

Continue reading Cornering the Market on Grandma Pizza in Hell’s Kitchen at Corner Slice