Authentic New York Pizza in Orange County?
“Tommy… there is not an authentic New York pizza served in Orange County, you hear me?” This was the reaction of my New York native coworker , when I told him that there is a new pizzeria in Orange County that serves authentic New York pizza.
The day before , I attended a media event at a new pizzeria called Johnny’s Real New York Pizza in Newport Beach. On my first bite, it reminded me of the thin crust pizza that I fell in love while vacationing in New York. Did my coworker think Johnny’s pizza was authentic? Find out later in this post.
Johnny’s Real New York Pizza is owned by Johnny Younesi, a Queens native, who moved to Southern California to pursue Law. Discovering there is more in life than courthouses, Johnny and his associates opened Johnny’s as a passion project and bring a little slice of his beloved New York to Orange County. I personally think he opened up the restaurants so that he could get easy access to great New York pizza
Here is what I tasted at the media event:
Appetizers and Pasta
Big C’s Best Eva Garlic Knots - They get their pizza dough and twist it into knots and cover it with olive oil and garlic. After they come out of the oven they are chewy and full of garlic flavor. I bit into a knott that came fresh out of the oven and the steam rose into my nostrils carrying the delicious aroma of fresh garlic and fresh dough. They are awesome with ranch and pizza sauce!
Johnny’s Hot Wings – I consider myself a hot wings aficionado and Johnny’s made them to my liking. They were meaty and had a pleasant vinegary tang, with the and the right amount of heat to make you crave another. I also liked the semi-crispy texture of the wings, such that they provided a nice texture difference between the skin and meat.
Authentic Italian Mozzarella Sticks – In the words of one of my fans who saw my instagram post of these mozzarella sticks, “the proof is in the mozzarella sticks, if they get the sticks right, then they will get the pizza right.” He was right. The mozzarella sticks had a nice stringy texture from the cheese and crunchy exterior. The sticks had a really nice flavor when dipped in pizza sauce.
Penne Bolognese – I used to work in a spaghetti restaurant and became stuck when it comes to meat sauces, so I rarely eat meat sauce at a restaurant. Johnny’s Penne Bolognese is one of the rare exceptions to this rule. Bolognese is a meat and tomato sauce that is easy to make wrong and difficult to make right. Johnny actually used his 100 year old family’s recipe for this dish and the love showed in the flavor. I liked the balance of braised beef to tomato sauce, creating a very hearty sauce that played nice with the penne pasta.
The Real Test, Pizzas
Johnny’s puts a lot of effort into their dough, as it is the heart of making an authentic style New York pizza. They make their dough fresh daily using flour that is high in protein and specially filtered water that emulates the mineral rich and soft water found in New York. In the New York tradition, they actually toss their pizza dough high in the air, thus stretching out the dough nice and thin. During his opening comments, Johnny told us that he “I just didn’t want to make good pizza, but good food using great ingredients.”
Cheese Pizza – “The Best in the City”
When I try a new pizza restaurant, I always order the cheese as it is the litmus test for the quality of their pies. I like to taste the quality of the crust, sauce and cheese (the holy trilogy of pizzas) in their pure form to see who the components taste together. I think Johnny’s did a great job with stringy cheese, crunchy crust and slightly acidic sauce. I liked how they sprinkle the top of the cheese pizza with dry basil, providing an extra flavor layer.
The Fontaine – “The Best Pepperoni You Eva Had”
The Fontaine was is a classic peperoni pizza made with just tomato sauce, mozzarella and peperoni. I liked the flavor of the pepperonis and the amount on the pizza, such that I was able to get a taste in every bite without being overwhelmed.
ANDOLINI – “The True Sicilian”
This is a real meat lover’s pie made with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, house made meat balls, sweet Italian style sausage, genoa salami, fresh herbs. This pizza was very savory with the flavors of the meat popping on this dish and taking center stage on the palate . The sauce provided enough acidity to keep the palate fresh. I liked how the crispy crust went perfectly with the salty meats and herbs.
This pizza was made with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, pepperoni, green bell peppers, onions and of course some fresh garlic. If you are ever looking for a grown-up version of the classic pepperoni, this pie is perfect. The peppers, onions and garlic added a couple different flavor layers that provided flavor diversity, while keeping the pizza’s flavor light.
A couple days after the media event, I took my New Yorker co-workers to Johnny’s to test if my assumptions about the pizza’s New York authenticity were correct. As he took his their first slice I watched his faces relax from a from skeptical frown to a smile. I asked them if the pizza stood up to his strict standards, his response was, “it is close.” I pushed back and asked him what could have been done differently to make it more authentic. His response was, “if I ate this pizza at the corner of 7th / Bleeker St, then it would be authentic”.
I will take that as a nod of approval.
Newest Location : 1320 Bison Avenue, Newport Beach (The Bluffs Shopping Center) – Just opened up!
Original Location: 2756 East PCH, Corona Del Mar
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