7315 Oxford Avenue (Five points)
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.
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.