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

Joe’s Pizza Opens in Midtown, Immediately Becomes Times Square’s Best Pizza

For as many tourists that visit the Great White Way, Times Square has long been a wasteland for good pizza. I don’t know what’s worse, bedbug Elmos or that tourists grabbing a slice at La Famiglia or Little Italy Pizza (God forbid, 2 Bros), think they’ve tasted the legit pizza New York is known for. Sure there’s the Midtown John’s outpost, but as far as good slicerias go, you used to have to walk down to New York Pizza Suprema across from the Garden. Things have improved. You can walk over to Corner Slice on 11th Avenue or crosstown to Sofia Pizza Shoppe but until recently, if you wanted a great slice right there in Times Square… fuggedaboutit. No longer. Today, Joe’s Pizza opened at 1435 Broadway just two blocks south of where the ball drops. It immediately took the mantle of Times Square’s best pizza.

“You’re always nervous when you move into a new neighborhood,” Joey Vitale told me. Joey is the grandson of the original Pino ‘Joe’ Pozzuoli, famed pizza operator of Joe’s Pizza in the West Village.

By the looks of things, he’s got nothing to worry about. The new Joe’s Pizza on 1435 Broadway literally a block from Bryant Park and just a few steps up and out of the Times Square NQR station has the look and feel of the 14th Street East Village expansion. Unlike the West Village original, it’s roomy with stools and counters on either side of the pizza counter, behind which, three new deck ovens are being broken in.

Continue reading Joe’s Pizza Opens in Midtown, Immediately Becomes Times Square’s Best Pizza

50 Top Pizza Releases 2017 International Pizza Rankings

There’s a new online pizza guide that is setting out to rank the world’s best pizzerias and while Italy is the dominant part of the guide so far, 50 Top Pizza representatives gathered today at Neapolitan pizzeria Ribalta in Manhattan to announce the top 50 winners across five different continents outside of pizza’s birthplace.

“This is the first online guide for pizzerias, not pizzas, we’re talking about the pizzerias,” announced Maria Rosaria Galletta, who translated the event’s announcements from Italian.

Parse that as you will. There’s a trove of pizza listicles writers out there who may beg to differ, but you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find any who will disagree that 50 Top Pizza may be the most thorough online ranking of Italian pizzerias. In attendance were 50 Top Pizza’s curators, wine journalist Luciano Pignataro (LucianoPignataro WineBlog), Barbara Guerra and long-time sommelier, master taster of cheeses and olive oil, Albert Sapere. The list was published by Formamentis and financed by a number of sponsors including Caputo Flour, Olitalia, Così Com’è and Consorzio Tutela Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.

While most of the awards will be doled out to pizzerias in Italy, it was the international (outside of Italy) results that were shared at the event, some of which are bound to set at least some American pizza experts, specifically New Yorkers and Chicagoans, talking.

Before the list’s methodology was explained, the event began with the curators offering a reminder that pizza was born in Italy, noting many actually don’t know that (it was unclear through the translation if this was tongue-in-cheek or they really felt it needed to be said).

“There are other pizza guides in Italy, but this one is different because it’s online and it’s completely free” asserted Mr. Sapere. “And there is a geolocation system that can bring you all the way to the door of the pizzeria.”

The curators reached out through their personal networks to pizza experts and passionates to create a panel of 107 people from all over Italy. Each was asked to submit up to 20 favorite pizzerias in Italy. All told, 900 pizzerias were nominated. The top 500 are being featured in their guide and were all reviewed anonymously by the panelists. While Neapolitan pizza may be the most famous Italian pizza style, Roman-style pizzerias, “gourmet pizza” (which they defined as pizza mostly served in Italy’s northern regions), and the pizzerias of Tramonti were also included.

Continue reading 50 Top Pizza Releases 2017 International Pizza Rankings

New East Village Artichoke Pizza About To Open

The sign is up and the butcher paper is about to come down at the new Artichoke Pizza just across the street from the old one, which sadly burned down just a few weeks ago (FDNY fire marshals said it was caused by heat from its overheated pizza oven flue). The new sliceria had been in the works for almost a year and there’s a new lease, about six times the space for customers, and about 15 times more room for the Artichoke crew to sling their signature pies late into the night for hungry East Village party-zens. These things sometimes have a way of turning from days to weeks, but cousins Francis Garcia and Sal Basille said they may open as soon as today.

It’s happy news that the block will continue to feature one of businesses that helped bring life to a strange stretch of 14th Street that will soon see even more foot traffic from all the people who will call all the new construction going up either work or home.

And it sounds like if you swing by in the opening weeks, you may have a chance to eat a slice from a pie personally slung by one of the owners. More from the Artichoke pizza boys to come.

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
320 E 14th Street,

New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 228-2004
artichokepizza.com
Subway: L

Who Invented Buffalo Chicken Pizza?

Whether you agree with Buffalo chicken as a pizza topping from a culinary or philosophical perspective or throw it in with pineapple and ham as a controversial bastardization, you’d be hard-pressed to deny Buffalo chicken’s iconic presence on menus at pizzerias across America. And while Teressa Bellissimo is generally credited with having invented Buffalo wings at Anchor Bar in 1964, credit for its invention as a pizza topping is a little harder to pin down. When did wings move out of the side dish and onto the pie? Who Invented Buffalo chicken pizza?

The hard beginning of a search for the originator of Buffalo chicken pizza has to be 1964 with their Nickel City origin. From there, consider that La Nova Pizza is generally accepted as the first pizzeria in Buffalo (in 1971) to also start serving wings. It seems logical that would mark the best starting point for the first pizzeria to serve Buffalo chicken on top of pizza. I’m working on finding out when La Nova started making their Chicken Finger Pizza (it features a blue cheese base, spicy crust, fontinella, Cheddar and mozzarella) but so far, no word as to whether it marks the birthplace of this topping’s national prominence.

Continue reading Who Invented Buffalo Chicken Pizza?

New Slice Joint Sofia Pizza Shoppe, an Oasis in Midtown’s Pizza Wasteland

Slice aficionados who’ve bemoaned the lack of a good slice in Midtown can rejoice. A new sliceria called Sofia Pizza Shoppe in Sutton Place is serving a crispy-bottomed thin pizza that inspires faith that the art of the quality New York City slice joint may yet persevere in the face of average reheats and the $1 slice. But this kind of quality doesn’t usually pop up out of nowhere. No wonder then Sofia’s family pedigree is linked to one of Brooklyn’s longstanding, unheralded neighborhood pizza institutions, Bensonhurst’s J&V Pizzeria.

Sofia opened last July on the west side of 1st Avenue between 54th and 55th streets in a space last occupied eight years ago by a pet groomer. Founders and friends Tom Degrezia (left) and Matthew Porter have both directing and acting credits (Porter had a role on “30 Rock”) and a passion for pizza. But it’s Degrezia with the sauce in his veins. His grandfather Vincent Degrezia opened J&V Pizzeria in 1955. And Sofia isn’t his first restaurant. Tom and his dad opened Sofia Wine Bar & Cafe on 50th near Second Avenue in 2008, where they serve a limited pizza menu.

“We live in the area, so we knew there weren’t any great slice places around, but when we started getting pizza delivery requests at the wine bar, we knew it wasn’t just us that felt the neighborhood needed a go-to ‘sliceria,’” Tom explained.

In fact, Degrezia and the New Hampshire-born Porter (who name Staten Island’s Joe and Pat’s and Rocco’s Pizza Joint in Chelsea as their respective favorite slices after theirs and J&V’s), said until Sofia opened, they had to go downtown or Brooklyn to get a good slice. They weren’t alone.

Ten years ago, bewildered by the dearth of quality slices in Midtown, I spent a week systematically seeking good pizza. River to river, 25 blocks deep, America’s supposed pizza capital was dominated by Bravo, Little Italy Pizza, Sbarro, and Papa John’s. Neapolitan joints PizzArte NY and Don Antonio by Starita (by Roberto Caporuscio of Kesté renown) have made inroads, but when it came to New York slices, it was a disgrace. (For the record, Pizza Suprema on 31st and 8th is technically in Chelsea.)

The wait is over.

Continue reading New Slice Joint Sofia Pizza Shoppe, an Oasis in Midtown’s Pizza Wasteland

That Time I Spent $86 for Pizza and Learned the Sicilians Are “Masters of Food”

This essay was written September 11, 2007 during a four-month eating odyssey across Europe.

“Shit!” I cursed with a heaving breath as I ran down the dark, empty street parallel to the Calata Piliero in the Porto di Napoli.

I was halfway through three months of eating my way across Europe using my last shiny dimes saved during five years of an unfulfilling office job in New York City. This was the last ferry to Sicily. I was trying to run from the ticket office to the pier by ten o’clock. With each asphalt-slamming stride the thirty kilos strapped to my back and chest lofted up and crashed down, knocking the air out of my lungs. If someone was to jump from behind a cargo container or shadowed doorway at least I was running. I had eight minutes to catch the ferry and no accommodations in Naples.

It was the pizza’s fault.

Continue reading That Time I Spent $86 for Pizza and Learned the Sicilians Are “Masters of Food”

Da Michele Opens in Rome

When you think about it, it’s hard to understand how one of Italy’s most storied pizzerias hadn’t opened a second location. And so it happened in November, the first offshoot of the Naples icon L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele opened its first location outside of Naples, in Rome.

The Local reported that the Rome location was a surprise. Apparently, the restaurant had already announced plans for a London branch (London!), but there was no word of expanding within Italy until it actually happened.

There’s some poetry (and irony) in the Rome location. If you start digging into the history of pizza, you find pretty quickly that it was a Neapolitan dish popularized by the poor — something that didn’t migrate north to cities like Rome because, well, it wasn’t regarded as worth the north’s attention. And yet here it is now.

Rarely even do the truest things stay pure, some say. Perhaps. And it’s easier to say this without having a financial stake in Da Micheles popping up in Rome, London, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Tokyo, Brooklyn and Los Angeles but there was something beautiful about Da Michele having one location.

Having not been to the Rome joint on Via Flaminia 80 (a short walk from the Piazza del Popolo) and not planning on visiting soon, I’d recommend anyone visiting Italy interested in pizza to visit the original.

Recalling my first experience at Da Michele nearly a decade ago, here’s a travel essay I wrote during a four-month food tour of Europe that details a visit: That Time I Spent $86 for Pizza and Learned the Sicilians Are “Masters of Food”

“Portafoglio” Pizza Lands in New York City (Again)

Not that you needed a food day to celebrate America’s favorite comfort food (is there even really any doubt that pizza wears that crown?), but today is National Pizza With Everything Day, and West Village Neapolitan upstart Rossopomodoro is making it the obligation of New Yorkers with good sense to pay respects. Rosso is slinging free pies out of the back of their kitchen on 118 Greenwich Avenue for two hours on Saturday afternoon between 4 pm and 6 pm. And not any old slices, but “portafoglio” pies, a style that has landed before in Gotham but never quite taken hold. That’s right, New York pizza-style hounds, if you haven’t had the Naples fold yet, here’s your chance.

“The literal meaning of ‘portafoglio’ is ‘wallet,” explained chef-owner Simon Falco. “It is the best you can get for your money. In Italy, pizzas are about the size of our small version and are eaten by one person. In Naples, portafoglio is their ‘fast food’ version of pizza in which an entire Neapolitan pizza folded in a particular way.”

Think Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever’s eating-a-slice-while-walking sequence but Naples style.

“We make the portafoglio a tad smaller, so you can eat it on the street and it is truly for one person,” Falco said.

The fold? A half-moon then a quarter-moon. According to Falco, it’s usually only made with Margherita pies because the double-fold doesn’t allow much room for toppings. That doesn’t quite jibe with the food holiday, but makes sense from a practical standpoint.

This isn’t the first time eating pizza “al portafoglio” has appeared in New York City. Not long after Kesté first opened on Bleecker Street, there were reports of it being served there (New York Magazine’s “Folding Manifesto” features a great diagram). But for all the new Neapolitan places, the folding method has never really seemed to have taken off. Falco thinks he knows why.

“Whenever portafoglios have popped up in New York City, the restaurants have tried to serve them at a sit-down table. But this pizza is meant to be eaten on the street and not at a seated meal. We will be able to showcase the dish in an authentic way by serving it through the back of our kitchen on the street.”

The restaurant will also be collecting signatures to advocate for the addition of Neapolitan pizza-making to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Falco hopes that could lead to more training of chefs in how to make pizza like a true Neapolitan pizzaioli.