Monthly Archives: June 2012

Johnny G’s Pizza: 2012 Edition

Johnny G’s

Reppin’ the doughboys city wide.

Johnny G showin’ us the ropes

Pre-oven artwork

A masterpiece

On it’s way into the tanning salon

Slow roasted deliciousness

A sea of pulled chicken

Doin’ work

Plic showing off the new product

Jonny C, Johnny G and Johnny P

Johnny G’s

7315 Oxford Avenue (Five points)

http://www.johnnygspizza.com

Castro:

Well, well. We finally meet again old friend. 8 long months have passed since we first reviewed Johnny G’s pizza. The last time we showed our smug faces in there, he fixed us a pie that blew our minds and took the #1 spot on our “best of 2011” list. The infamous “spinach, tomato, basil & bacon pie”. Johnny even gave us a shout out in the advertisement he ran in the paper in the following months. Whenever someone asks “Hey Castro, where’s a good place in the northeast to get pizza?” I always follow it up with “Johnny G’s at five points.” This time around, we were summoned by the man himself to sample a new breed of pie that he’s been strategically developing in a secret laboratory, somewhere deep in the mountains of Eastern Europe. He wanted to unveil this bastard creation exclusively to the doughboys so that all the world can lay witness to history in the making. A pizza named after yours truly.

I consider Johnny G a pizza professor of sorts. He has some 40 years on his resumé working in the industry. He knows his way around the kitchen like an American Gordon Ramsey, but he’s also a savvy business man. When he’s not flipping pizzas and earning his stripes as the go-to pizza joint in the Fox Chase region, he’s busy catering events for 100+ people with items such as succulent pulled pork, fall off the bone rotisserie chicken, glazed bone-in hams and massive decadent dessert trays. If I could compare him to someone from a movie, it would probably be Paulie Cicero from Goodfellas. His ferocious and cutthroat leadership skills have catapulted him into the realm of most feared pie slinger in the northeast. “Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn’t have to move for anybody.” Johnny G doesn’t take orders. He gives them. He’s a boss and in the words of Rick Ross, “A boss is one who guarantees we gone eat.”

Today, Johnny G graced us with the opportunity to taste something old and something new. But before we get into the new, let’s start with a classic. His rendition of the “Tomato Pie.” He starts with a layer of freshly sliced provolone cheese blanketing the bottom of the pie, serving as the anchor for this work of art. Then he adds the backbone of this pizza; A filletto di’pomadoro sauce made from vine ripened, super sweet crushed cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic and a dash of a few secret family ingredients. He then adds a heaping drizzle of olive oil and tops it off with a geneorus sprinkle of fresh pecorino romano cheese. I can’t even put into words how sweet and tangy this sauce is. Without a doubt one of the sweetest tasting pizza sauces I ever had. The bitter and buttery sensation the extra virgin olive oil adds, gives this pie a refreshing, summery flavor. At first bite, goosebumps are guaranteed to make an appearance. It’s so light and crispy, I bet any one of you could eat an entire pie by yourself. Hands down my favorite pie JG offers.

The real reason the doughboys were called upon by Sir Johnny G to make a second appearance is to be the first to try a new addition to his upcoming menu. This pizza is currently nameless, however, John and I were graced with the opportunity to give it a handsome title for his upcoming menu change. I’ll get to that at the end. This pie starts off with his famous rotisserie chicken that’s been slow roasted for hours and hand pulled from the bone. One thing JG is well known for is slow roasting his chicken and pork. He then marinades it in a combination of the seasoned chicken juices, a puree featuring freshly sliced pineapple and maraschino cherries, and a sweet baby ray’s based BBQ sauce infused with a little bit of actual Jack Daniel’s. Legit marinade. After the chicken is carefully spread out on the dough, he tops it off with a blend of whole milk and skim milk mozzarella cheeses and a few final squirts of his patented BBQ sauce hybrid. After a brief stay in his 500 degree oven, perfection was birthed. Once he swung his peel like a katana blade and scooped that pie out of the oven into the box, I caught a wiff of that smokey BBQ and pineapple mix. It was such a soothing and relaxing aroma. There were 4 of us hoovering around the box, ogling JG as he wielded that pizza cutter like he was orchestrating a symphony. The crunch it made as it was split 8 ways was music to my ears. I lifted up the first slice and it held up perfectly. You could’ve piled on another pound of toppings and that crust still wouldn’t have buckled. As the first droplet of that pineapple glaze and BBQ mix hit my taste buds, I was in complete awe. I was like a child tasting chocolate for first time. And then the second wave of attackers came in the form of the slow roasted, juicy chicken that just melted in my mouth. This was sincerely a match made in heaven and a force to be reckoned with. As for the name? My top pick is “The smokey doughboy.” I implore you to drop whatever it is you’re doing at this very moment and order this pizza. If you can think of a family friendly doughboy name for this behemoth, by all means send your suggestions our way. As for this pizza goes, Johnny G has literally outdone himself with this creation. I know we’re only halfway through the year, but I think I may have just found the front runner for 2012’s best pie.

Plichter:

It’s not every day that you come across a pizzeria such as Johnny G’s; a place that combines professionalism, friendliness, and an overall quality product. Johnny believes in the community and supports the businesses in the area, which is a rare find in the cutthroat local restaurant circuit. If there’s an establishment around that serves awesome sandwiches, he has no problem recommending them. He gives credit where credit is due and genuinely wants to please his customers. He’s even gone above and beyond to support us, the Doughboys, and has helped us spread our message. Even before he knew we were reviewing his pizza on that first trip, he was more than attentive and neighborly towards us. I hadn’t been to Johnny G’s since our first encounter roughly eight months ago, and I quickly realized it had been far too long.

Tomato pies have gained a decent amount of popularity in the Neast over the past few years. Believe me, I’ve had my fair share just to spice things up from time to time. But my biggest qualm is that that unless you’re getting a thick-crusted, traditional tomato pie, the sauce will almost always run off the slice if not left to congeal. But the crust at Johnny G’s combines the sturdiness of a thicker crust with the thinness of east coast pizza. The filletto di’pomadoro sauce provides a sweet and hearty base that only runs towards your taste buds. And don’t let the name “tomato pie” fool you; the freshly sliced provolone underneath along with the pecorino romano cheese above will meet the needs of any cheese loving Philadelphian. I seriously wish I were eating that thing so bad right now. But if you’re mouth isn’t watering yet like mine is, wait til you hear about the next delicious option being added to the menu at Johnny G’s…

Chicken options on pizza have certainly come a long way. But after having sliced or diced chicken on your pizza, what’s the next direction you could possibly go? Ugh, how about PULLED BBQ CHICKEN?! Other than serving local pizzeria favorites, Johnny is known for serving up some delicious rotisserie chickens. Once pulled from the bone, the chicken used on this pizza is marinated in a combination of pureed pineapple and cherries, Sweet Baby Ray’s, and a hint of Jack Daniel’s. Never have I heard of someone taking such delicate measures to make sure to get a pizza perfect. And as far as perfection goes, this thing was as close as possible. Once the smoky BBQ aromas filled my nostrils, I knew this was sure to be a fan favorite. Being such a pizza lover, I never wanted that eating session to end. But after eating six slices in total, I finally hit a wall. A delicious, barbequed wall.

Nothing makes me happier than when a pizzeria really steps their game up. Not that Johnny G’s really had to in the first place, but the fact that they’re constantly striving for greatness does nothing but impress me. They don’t cut corners, and they never settle. Next time you’re there, ask for a “Smokey Doughboy”, but don’t make plans for the rest of the day. It’s so delicious, you’ll have to spend the rest of the day with a stuffed stomach, recovering from a pizza coma.

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Manco & Manco Pizza

Manco & Manco Pizza

Ahhh, memories

Sliced up

Crust bubbles

A taste of the boardwalk

Beach pizza

Manco and Manco Pizza
(formally Mack and Manco)

8th, 9th & 12th streets on the boardwalk in OC, Ocean heights shopping center in Somers Point.

Castro:

The summer is finally here. That means tank tops and ray bans are in full effect. If you live in Philly, it’s not really summertime unless you take a trip to the jersey shore. Whether you spend a few hours, a weekend, weeks or even the entire summer down at the beach, it’s by no means complete without eating boardwalk pizza. Johnson’s popcorn, surreys, fudge kitchen, Kohr Brothers ice cream, pork roll sandwiches from Stewart’s, the surf mall. Nothing is more of a staple in Ocean City than Manco and Manco’s pizza. The OC has always been my vacation destination for as long as I can remember. This was mostly due to my hatred for the scum that vacation in Wildwood and turn that boardwalk into the Broad and Cecil B. Moore of New Jersey. No tram cars. No fixed, unwinnable carnival style games. No having to walk a 1/2 mile to get to the ocean. Ocean city trumps wildwood in every way possible.

Every summer I stayed at 7th and Atlantic with my dad, just a stone throw away from the Manco’s spot on 8th street. TAFKAMM (The artist formally known as Mack and Manco’s.) I recall eating slices from here at least twice a day on my vacations. For a kid with $100 allowance to last the whole week, that was the cheapest means to combat hunger, and in my overweight eyes…it was the best. As you fight past the hungry crowd of tourists waiting at the front counter for their slices, you’ll most likely end up having to wait a few minutes for a table. As you impatiently wait, take a second to look at the faces of the people in there. Smiles. Laughter. Family. Togetherness. Memories that will last a lifetime are being made at that very moment. The white polos with matching sweatbands. The wood chairs and table tops. The green pizza trays that are without a doubt, older than I am. The iconic soda cups. This is the definition of pizza to vacationers. This is why people work 51 weeks a year at their shitty jobs in the city: to spend that 1 week in the summer with their loved ones and gorge themselves stupid with boardwalk pizza.

Watching the cooks toss the dough in the air like the Harlem globetrotters of pizza is somewhat hypnotizing and comforting. Once the dough is good and ready, they pile on 2 heaping fistfulls of mozzarella from oversized tupperware containers. The next step to a perfect boardwalk pie is applied from what I can only assume is a foot pedal operated hose that fires out generous squirts of that tangy pizza sauce. Finally, it’s tossed into a 500 degree, oscillating rotary oven. I imagine on any given Friday or Saturday in July, they must churn out no less than a thousand pizzas. In the 10 minutes I waited for a table, I watched 8 pies come out of that oven. Sliced into 8 proportionately slices with a small paring knife, they come to your table just as quick as you place your order. Some quick tips to remember:

1: Get it with a birch beer. You’ll enjoy it much more.
2: Always ask for extra ice.
3: Give it a minute to cool off or you’ll suffer 3rd degree burns on your face when the liquid cheese drips onto your chin.
4: Stick with plain. You’ll never go wrong.
5. No shirt. No shoes. No problem.

Look me in my eyes and tell me you don’t tear the crispy bubbles off like scabs and eat them, and I’ll call you a liar. I feel their crust is the best part. I’m that guy who eats everyone’s crust that doesn’t finish it, no matter how small a piece. I think the signature crunch is the trademark to a Manco’s pizza. I’m 100% positive that I could pick Manco’s out of a blind taste test. Not sure the name change was the smartest business decision. That’s like “Toys R’ Us” changing their name to “Toys R’ Ours.” People will still call it Mack and Manco’s until the end of time just out of memory. I know I will.

Since the blog started, I can name 10 places off the top of my head with better pizza than Manco’s. This is by no means the best pizza in the world but I was raised with it every summer, and I’ve been carrying on that tradition with my kids for the past few years now. It’s customary to grab a pie any time I’m even remotely close to the garden state parkway. The consistency and the nostalgia in every bite is the main reason Jonny Castro makes his annual return to MM and puts away 6 slices.

Plichter:

I’m going to be blunt about Manco & Manco. I think their pizza is overrated and inferior in comparison to other pizzerias in Ocean City. Before I moved to OC, so many people would ask me about Manco & Manco. “Oh, I bet you’re going to LOVE being so close to Manco & Manco.” This is by no means the way I feel. Watching the families wait in line to get a table at this mediocre pizzeria actually made me a little sad. I find absolutely nothing special about their pizza. I just don’t understand it! The only way I can justify their growth over the years is that 1) they’re on the boardwalk and 2) people are stupid. The only positive experience I’ve had with Manco & Manco was their buffalo chicken pizza from the Somers Point location. The pizzas at that one are made a little more delicately than the slop they throw together on the boardwalk.

So in conclusion, I’m not impressed with Manco & Manco. If you’re in Ocean City and need your pizza fix, hit up Piccini, Express, or Mario’s. They know how to get the job done. If you’re on the boardwalk, go with Three Brothers or Primo’s. If you must have Manco & Manco, do yourself a favor and head to the Somers Point one.

Rustica

Rustica

The goods

Keepin’ it simple

BBQ n’ meat

BBQ n’ pesto ish

Don’t feed him after midnight

Serious about my meat

The holy grail

Rustica
903 N. 2nd Street

Castro:

It’s safe to say that Northern Liberties is one of the most up and coming neighborhoods in the city, and steady has been for the last few years. I see more and more people checking into bars on facebook all along that 2nd Street corridor. After a night of banging down Mexicana margaritas, pounding liters of German beers, or gettin’ creepy with WWF wrestlefest, what better way to end your night than with one of Rustica’s famous slices.

Hidden within the tree line on the Southeast corner of 2nd and Poplar is one of NoLibs’ most well known and adored businesses. Rustica takes me back to a time where sitting down to crush a slice was almost unheard of. Granted there’s a handful of tables to take care of business at, I love the idea of dressing your slice up as you walk out and eating it on the go. Not only are they extremely reasonable in price but their slices are massive, dangling off three sides of your plate. I bet you a dollar that whatever time you choose to hit up Rustica, you’ll find a no less than 10 people standing around outside with greasy paper plates and saucy fingers, enjoying one of their diabolical creations. If you check out the picture we posted of the July 2011 issue of Philadelphia magazine, you’ll notice they gave Rustica’s pepperoni slice the honor of being the cover model for the best pizza in the city. And what a sexy cover model she is. Luscious meat. Symmetrically cut. Perfectly seasoned. Everything you want your centerfold to be. I carry this magazine around with me everywhere I go. I’m like Biff Tannen and it’s my sports almanac, rolled up in my back pocket.

I ordered the pepperoni pie based solely off of how impeccable the slice on the cover of that magazine looked. I shit you not, when that pizza came out of the oven, it was identical to the picture. The word masterpiece comes to mind when I looked at that freshly cooked pie. The slices of pepperoni were thicker than your average pepperoni. They had the semi-inverted, crispy edges to them and were evenly distributed on every slice. The crust was thin, light and held up perfectly. It had that crackle of crunchiness to it that I’ve come to expect from really great pizza. I even had to go back up and try the pepperoni and meatball pie. 2 of the best all around meat toppings, together on one slice. They made the sauce ratio a little bit heavier on this slice to compliment the meatballs, and they did it up real proper. I highly recommend this to any carnivore out there who enjoys meat as much as me. Lastly, I tried the BBQ chicken w/carmelized onion. Most people do the standard pizza with chicken and a smokey BBQ sauce on this pie. Rustica uses a sweet BBQ sauce that’s just light enough to replace the tomato sauce but still have a hickory kick to it. They added the sweet carmelized onion to give it that extra unique taste that everyone seems to have overlooked. The last pizza place that made me feel this way about a BBQ chicken slice was Soho in Olde City, and I think Rustica may have took them to the house with this one.

Rustica has reacquainted my love for pizza parlors that whip up slices to order. Whether you want to believe it or not, the key to any thriving neighborhood’s success partially relies on having good and respectable places to eat. In this doughboy’s eyes, Rustica has no problem taking that title for Northern Liberties.

Plichter:

Although I don’t really frequent the Northern Liberties area that much, I’m kinda disappointed in myself for not visiting Rustica before this trip. I’ve been to the Standard Tap a few times for lunch, been to North 3rd on multiple occasions, and even had a few sandwiches and craft beers at the Foodery at one point or another. In fact, I believe I’ve stooped as low as eating at a hotdog cart at 2nd and Poplar in a drunken stupor after a night of drinking at the 700 Club. But should I ever be in the area again any time soon, I’ll be sure to return to Rustica.

As Castro mentioned, Rustica can be overlooked to the untrained eye if you’re not on the prowl for pizza. Nestled behind a couple trees on a tight and popular block, it’s not the type of place that you coincidentally visit. With the exposure they’ve received from Philadelphia Magazine, I’m sure that the majority of people who visit Rustica are like Castro and I; people who have heard the buzz and need to try the pizza.

The layout of Rustica combines the interior of a classic pizzeria with the ever-so-popular option for outdoor seating. We figured we’d enjoy the best of both by sitting at the table adjacent to the window, giving us a great view of the yuppies driving by and families inside. With options being an important part of any trip, I really appreciated the many slice pies to choose from. Not only that, but their prices were more than reasonable. (Two specialty slices and a soda came close to eight bucks.) Trying to get an opinion for both the carnivorous and herbivorous, I opted for the BBQ Chicken slice and the White Basil Pesto with Tomato. Most BBQ chicken slices come equipped with sauce dripping from every angle imaginable, which can sometimes be messy to say the least. Rustica on the other hand seems to marinate their chicken, negating the need for BBQ sauce atop the slice. The caramelized onion went well with the tangy chicken, which left my mouth watering and will def keep me coming back for more.

The White Basil Pesto with Tomato pie is sure to satisfy the needs of any pizza-loving vegetarian in the area. I love when a pizzeria can make something like basil really pop, and the pesto definitely helped it do just that. The sliced tomato wasn’t overpowering, and the fresh mozzarella really was the icing on the cake. (Or should I say the cheese on the pie?) In any event, it was one of my favorite white pies to date. I love the food at the Standard Tap, North 3rd, and the Foodery very much. But next time I’m in the area, I’m def headed right to Rustica to try another one of their specialty pizzas.

Pizza: The Tattoo Edition Pt. 2

Some people like to get tattoos to honor the death of a loved one. Others prefer to immortalize their children, so they’ll stay forever young. I, on the other hand, prefer to get tattoos simply for the shock value. I’ve never taken myself seriously, so why start now? Each one of my dumb tattoos is a testament to my anything but normal stance on life. I don’t care what people say about me, the way I live my life, or anything in between. Every morning when I wake up, I can look at the slice of pizza on my chest and crack a little smile. Since most people can’t do that when they wake up in the morning, I consider myself very lucky. Every time I see it, I’ll be taken back to the weekend it happened. I’ll remember the excitement of the artist, Tommy Peters at Ink Ur Body Tattoo, for getting to do such an out of the ordinary piece; the laughter of my friends who told me I was stupid; and the looks on the faces of every idiot in Wildwood who did a double take and mouthed “What the fuck??” Yes, I love pizza. But more than anything, I love the fact that I get to share my adoration of ‘za with all of you on a weekly basis. Thank you for all your love and support, from the bottom of my heart (underneath a slice of pizza).

-Plic