On our first night in New York, my wife wanted me to find a place for dinner for ourselves and her parents in Times Square. This was rather difficult because, when I think of restaurants in Times Square, I think of Bubba Gump, Olive Garden, and TGI Fridays. This was going to be my in-laws’ first meal in New York City – ever. So I had to step it up to something better than a chain restaurant. Fortunately, after a little bit of internet research, I was able to find John’s Pizzeria. Plus, I had already put brick oven pizza on the list of things we had to do during the trip.
The first thing that I noticed about John’s Pizzeria near Times Square was that it was cavernously large. I was thinking that, with the restaurant’s proximity to Times Square, there would be a long wait. However, we were seated right away. We actually sat down next to this almost repulsively huge mural of old New York. It was a fitting welcome to the city for my in-laws.
There is a second level that looks out over the view of the mural New York skyline. And even above that, there is a domed ceiling. It makes me wonder as to what this space used to be. The value of land in this part of the city makes is highly unlikely that the domed ceiling was part of the pizzeria owner’s design of the place. It seems just too decadent of a use of real estate. Think of how many tables of pizza eating tourists you could fit into this space, but for the open air structure of the space.
But, as intriguing and captivating as the dome was, I was preoccupied with something else entirely – the brick ovens. In two separate corners of the space, there was a brick oven. At each oven, there were two men making pizzas. The men would pull out a roll of dough and star pushing it out into a circle. I thought that they might even toss the pizza doughs into the air at some point, but they never did. Yet, their pizza doughs were perfect circles. Undoubtedly, this is from much practice and hours spent in front of these ovens. Then, they had all their sauce, cheese, and toppings laid out in perfect mise en place. It was mesmerizing to watch them work. I may have even been salivating.
Once we ordered the pizza, it came out lightning fast, which for me is but a fringe benefit of using a good brick oven for pizza. The dough was super thin, but not crackery – something that is possible only with high, intense, and quick heat. The cheese was wonderfully savory, and there was just the right amount of light sauciness. And the basil just made it all taste imminently fresh.
I wanted to keep things light for our first meal during this New York trip, so we order a couple rounds of drinks, an appetizer, and only one pizza for the four of us. Once we finished the pizza, we had eaten what I had thought was a good volume of food. But, my palette wasn’t sated, and I wished that we had ordered about three times as much of that pizza. It was exactly what I was hoping for in a New York pizza. And it was near Times Square, of all places.