30 West Lincoln Avenue, Mount Vernon NY 10550 (Rochelle Terr./N 7th Ave.; map); 914-668-1957
Pizza style: A cross between bar pizza and New York–style
Oven type: Gas
The skinny: Named No. 1 pizza in the world by famous pizza-hacker Jeff Varasano. We think it's very good, but not quite top of the pops
During our head-to-head comparison of Frank Pepe's Yonkers and the original FP in New Haven, Connecticut, last week, we kinda sorta got lost (no, not in Yonkers).
Luckily, I pulled off the highway before I could go any farther out of the way and, how fortuitous: We found ourselves near Mount Vernon, New York, which means one thing in Sliceland: Johnny's Pizzeria.
Johnny's Pizzeria, I suspect, has long been a beloved not-so-secret secret in Mount Vernon. The place came to wider acclaim when pizza-hacker extraordinaire Jeff Varasano (the guy who famously disabled his oven's self-clean cycle in pursuit of pizza perfection) put it at the top of his "Best Pizzerias in the World" list that appears at the end of his world famous insanely detailed pizza recipe:
It's very non-standard, but deserves its ranking at the top. Closed Sunday, Monday, and whenever they feel like it. This place easily has the WORST service of any restaurant you are likely to visit. They don't like their customers and it shows. But it's probably the most consistent place on the list. Crispy and NOT for those looking for Neapolitan style. But it's the kind you can't put down and will crave forever.
We visited Johnny's once before in March 2007, and it had been a while, so we figured we'd do some Pepe's pizza pregaming at Johnny's.
The place is tucked away in a tiny strip mall on West Lincoln Avenue just west of Gramatan Avenue. If you're heading there along Lincoln from the east, make sure to bang a right into the parking lot just before the Lukoil filling station. Otherwise, you're going to have to circle around and approach again.
Varasano is right. The place is not Neapolitan style at all. Ed Levine, who was along for the trip, remarked that it was close to "bar pizza," that is, very thin, very crisp. It's probably a mixture between a "New York–style" pie and a bar pizza, in that this is one of the thinner pizzas I've encountered in a while but other than that, it's topped much the same as you'd see a New York pizza topped.
It's not chewy chewy like some New York pizzas can be, though it is not so crisp that it breaks when folded. If it were thicker, it probably would seem crisp-chewy, but it is ... did I say thin?
So thin in fact that when the four of us ordered just one large pizza, the waitress was all like, "What? For four people?!?" (Not so much grumpy as Varasano's "worst service" description would imply but just miffed and seemingly perplexed.
Ed felt compelled to order a chicken Parm wedge (they call heroes wedges in Westchester County, apparently) just to get her off our backs. (Gruff service perhaps, but masters of the upsell.)
The pizza here is certainly very good. It's well balanced in terms of crust-sauce-cheese ratios and tastes great. But to call it the best in the world, well, I'm thinking that this might be a sentimental favorite with Varasano — much the same way people would say my fascination with Maria's Pizza in Milwaukee is sentimentality.
Still, this pizza is notches and notches above those you'd find in a run-of-the-mill New York City corner slice joint. Is it worth a drive from NYC or even Yonkers (now that Yonkers has Pepe's)? Probably not. But if you happen to find yourself in the area — either lost or the correct path to somewhere else — it's certainly worth a slight detour.