Tag Archives: pizzeria

NYC Food Adventures: John’s of Times Square

pizza

Did it convert me to New York style pizza?

New York City is known for many things: cheesecakes, hot dogs and pizza. While I haven’t known many New Yorkers who rave about it, my friends from New Jersey are enamored of the large, thin, flexible slices and they seem to seek it all over the Bay Area (here is a hint, if you do like this style, Bluebird Pizzeria in San Leandro makes a mean NY/New Jersey style pizza). I, however, am not a fan. I love thick pizza, the thicker, the better. My favorite in the Bay Area is Zachary’s, which serves a stuffed pizza, where cheese and dough melt into an incredible combination. Beyond that, I’ll go with Chicago pizza and deep dish pizza. The only pizza I like less than New York pizza are Italian pizzas, with their often paper thin crusts.

Still, we were in New York and we had to have pizza – even though this is probably my husband’s least favorite meal. Alas, I didn’t want to go out of our way to have it, but John’s of Times Square was conveniently located next to the St. James Theater, where we had tickets to see Spamalot (amazing play, btw, totally worth going to).

John’s of Time Square is an offshoot of John’s of Bleeker Street, itself an offshoot of Lombardi’s, New Yorks’s first pizzeria. The Time Square location was opened in 1997 by Madeline Castellotti, the estranged wife of Peter Castelotti, Sr., then owner of the Bleeker St. location. Madeline Castelloti saw the potential on an abandoned church and turned it into a 400 seat restaurant. As the area around Times Square cleaned up in the 2000s, the restaurant took off and it’s now a popular – and affordable – dining location. Peter and Madeline’s children, who inherited the two restaurants, have been in some juicy family drama for the last twelve years, which is still going on and might be worthy of an Amazon Prime miniseries, but none of that is important to the enjoyment of the pizza.

And the pizza is pretty good as far as thin pizza goes. We got it with sausage and mushrooms, one of my favorite combinations, and we fully enjoyed it. The thin crust was pleasantly chewy, the sauce did its job and got out of the way, and the toppings were fresh and tasty. I really had nothing to complain about. If I had to have thin pizza again, I’d definitely go for this one.

As much as I wanted to try New York style pizza, it turns out that the pizza served at John’s of Times Square and many of the older New York pizzerias is not actually New York style. Rather, these are American-Neapolitan pizzas, made in the Neapolitan style but baked in coal rather the wood ovens they use in Naples. New York style pizza, meanwhile, is baked in gas ovens. I wonder if the difference might be on the crust – with the latter being spongier anf more flexible. In any case, we didn’t try it, so I can’t comment on it. John’s didn’t convert me into American-Neapolitan pizza, but it gave it a good try.

In addition to pizzas, John’s of Times Square serves pasta, and they sell their jarred marinara and vodka sauces. Our waitress let us try the marinara sauce and it was very good, it had a bright, fresh flavor. If I was a local, I’d buy it.

As hinted above, even more impressive than John’s of Time Square’s pizza is its building. Located in the a converted church amphitheater, John’s features an impressive stained glass ceiling. It wasn’t that much to look at in the early evening, but photos of it during the day are breathtaking. If I were to go again, I’d make sure to hit it during the day.

In addition to the stained glass windows, John’s features a beautiful, huge mural. But the restaurant itself is a very casual affair, no tablecloths here.

There are no reservations, but we were seated promptly when we arrived around 5:30 PM on a February weekday night. A line did start forming later on – but we weren’t rushed to leave. Our waitress as efficient and pleasant, and service as very good. She recommended the right size pizza given our level of hunger.

John's of Times Square


260 West 44th Street

Manhattan

212.391.7560
​
Sunday - Saturday 11:30AM - 11:30PM

Decades later, Zachary’s still serves the best pizza in the Bay Area

A review of the Downtown Pleasanton location

The first time I went to Zachary’s – at its Solano Ave. location, I was a freshman in college. I think my college friend Gina took me, she was an upper classman and had a car, pretty rare for Cal students. I fell in love. I’d never been to Chicago and had never experienced deep-dish pizza, much less stuffed pizza. I fell in love – and I’ve been in love ever since.

Zachary’s, for my husband and I, has been a place for special occasion dinners. We lived fairly close to the Solano location when we were first married, but we couldn’t afford the expensive pizzas very often. Later, the Rockridge location became the closest one to our house, but finding parking anywhere near was a pain. The San Ramon location, which came with a larger dining room and the ability to make reservations, opened up around the time our kids started to eat pizza, and we have gone there many times over the years – but it’s 20 miles from our house, so it’s not an every-week sort of thing. This is all to say, that Zachary’s continues to be a special occasion place for us, which is why I chose it to celebrate the start of my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM).

This was my first visit to the Pleasanton location, which has replaced the now-closed San Ramon location. It’s located in the middle of downtown, and has a large parking lot in the back so parking is easy. In addition to the indoors dining room, this Zachary’s has a fenced-in sidewalk patio at the front (but you enter the restaurant through a side door), with a view of other downtown businesses and restaurants and, of course, the street. This was nice, except for one particularly super-loud car which decided to cruise back and forth and annoy everyone.

Servers wore masks and though the tables are fairly close together, the entire patio is outdoors so it felt quite safe.

The menu is pretty much the same as all other Zachary’s, consisting of stuffed pizzas, thin pizzas and salads. The stuffed pizzas are just as great as ever – I have to give it to Zachary’s, they’ve been wonderfully consistent since my first visit almost 35 years ago. In all of these years I’ve never had their thin pizza, so I can’t comment on those ones. Stuffed pizzas have abundant cheese and the toppings of your choice stuffed between two layers of pizza dough, the top layer melts into the cheese when cooked and it’s topped with stewed tomatoes. The results are just incredible. I, personally, prefer a plain pizza (with extra cheese, but my kids don’t like that) and we usually get one of these for the kids (and me, as leftovers), but my husband likes toppings. We have both found the carne pizza (sausage, pepperoni, salami & bacon) to be too salty (though he still likes it), but we are both big fans of the chorizo pizza (chorizo, green chilies & Monterey Jack), though at some locations – Pleasanton included – this is a special rather than a regular part of the menu. This time, as often, we went for the Zachary’s special (sausage, green pepper, onion & mushroom), which was very good. There was a time when the San Ramon location added very thick slices of green pepper which I didn’t like, but this wasn’t the case this time.

The Pleasanton location serves “signature cocktails” and I had a Rico Rico (aka piña colada). It was quite good, as piña coladas usually are. Nothing exceptional.

Service was efficient and friendly and we had a great time.

Zachary’s Chicago Pizza 
337 Main St, Suite B.
Pleasanton
925.600.0089
M-Th 11 AM - 9 PM, F-Sa 11 AM - 9:30 PM

Review: Angelina’s Pizzeria, Las Vegas

I ordered pizza from Angelina’s Pizzeria while staying at The Signature in Las Vegas.  It was an OK experience.  The pizza is thin crusted and pretty generic.  One of my daughter’s loved it, the other one wasn’t happy with it.  I thought it was OK.  I also got a meatballs sub which was very generic as well.

Delivery was $4 and it took over an hour – but they delivered all the way up to the room.

I would probably try a different place next time, but this was one was adequate enough. Angelina’s has five restaurants in Las Vegas.

Angelina’s Pizzeria
5025 S Eastern Ave
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 597-9056
http://www.angelinaspizzalv.com/

Rubiano’s – San Leandro – Restaurant Review

There are many positive things to say about Rubiano’s.  It’s located in a neighborhood that has long been desperate for good restaurants –  but which seems unable to keep them for long.  It’s very child friendly, one our visit there there were a couple of tables with toddlers and a guy with a friendly dog waiting outside.  The food and atmosphere are decent.  The prices are not outrageous.  And it has developed, very quickly, a large base of fans.

However, from the beginning I had heard rumblings about slow service and mediocre food, so I gave it several months to settle down before trying it.  When I finally did, last Friday night, my experience was pretty mediocre.  There is no compelling reason for going back.

We arrived at the restaurant after 7:30 PM. I had anticipated that we might have to wait to get seated, but fortunately there were spaces at the bar as well as a table for two where we could add an extra chair.  The restaurant soon got even more crowded, plus there were people waiting on the sidewalk.  The waitresses seemed to be rushing to attend to everyone.

The menu is pretty compact, which makes sense for such a small restaurant. It offers a few deep-fried starters ($6-10), a couple of salads ($5-8), simple pastas ($8-10) with your choice of marinara, alfredo or pesto sauce, stromboli sandwiches ($9) and, the piece of resistance, pizzas and calzones.  These start at $11 and $14 respectively for a small cheese, with extra toppings $1.80 to $2.40 each.  The prices are not low, but they’re in line with other local restaurants.

My daughter decided on the cheese tortellini with marinara sauce from the kid’s menu ($7), which included a drink and a scoop of ice cream.  Mike went for the meat’s lover small pizza ($19) and I ordered the meatball stromboli ($9).  What we got, however, was different.

It took me a while to conclude that there were no meatballs in my stromboli.  I had been surprised to not find them in the first few bites, but I figured they might have ended up at the ends. No such luck. The stromboli I got had cheese and tomatoes/tomato sauce, and some long, thin strips of something which I assume were artichokes.  There were no meatballs and no olives (as advertised for the artichoke heart stromboli) though there was some basil.  It tasted fine, though it was a bit too doughy for the amount of filling and the different ingredients weren’t completely harmonized.  The basil was a tad too bitter, and  yet it’s what gave the dish its fresh flavor.  I decided not to send it back because I figured that it would take another fifteen minutes to get the right stromboli, and I was pretty hungry.    Even without the meatballs this was a pretty messy dish, you need a fork and knife to eat it discretely.

The stromboli came with a side salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, green peppers and croutons with your choice of dressing.  I was pretty good.

My daughter’s troubles with her food actually started earlier.  She had ordered a raspberry iced tea, but what she got was a plain, unsweetened ice tea.  It turns out that they don’t actually carry the raspberry tea advertised on the menu.  The waitress happily substituted it for a diet-pepsi.  She did get her order of tortellini right, though instead of bringing her a kid’s size portion as she had ordered and billing accordingly, she brought a regular portion.  Thus a $7 meal, which included a drink and dessert, became an $12 one. She didn’t charge us for the ice-cream, however.   Not a big deal, but yet another mistake that shouldn’t have happened.

Mika liked the tortellini, she thought the marinara sauce was fine though she left most of it on the plate.  The adult-size serving was fine for an adult-size appetite, but not particularly generous.  She didn’t have leftovers to bring home.

Mika and I were almost done eating our meals by the time Mike got his pizza.  The meats had a very nice smokey flavor, though the saltiness in them pretty much overwhelmed the rest of the pizza.  This, of course, is a problem for meat-heavy pizzas, which is why I personally don’t order them.  He liked it well enough.  I thought the dough was pretty nice, a bit tough and a bit chewy but with a good flavor.  I prefer thick-crust pizzas, however.  I couldn’t taste much of the cheese and sauce because of the flavor of the meats.  The pizza didn’t keep that well, however. By the next day the smokiness on the meats had become much weaker and, eaten cold, it wasn’t particularly compelling.

Service was rushed but friendly.  There were obviously two pretty major mistakes.  The fault on the stromboli lies with the kitchen, it appeared correctly on the bill.  The other mistake was the waitress’, but I can’t really blame her because the place was very loud and she seemed so rushed.  We paid the bill – after all, she had consumed the food and we were ready to go-, but I would be careful of examining it and the order carefully if we returned.

As a final note, before writing this review I included a brief summary of the experience on my San Leandro Talk Facebook page.  One of the cooks from Rubiano’s chimed in to say that I should have either spoken up then – though he did recognize it would have taken at least 10-15 minutes for me to get the right stromboli if I had done so – and should “shut up” now.  He also made some comment about how I am not a San Leandro native.    That type of anti-customer attitude makes me doubly-reluctant to return to the restaurant.

Rubiano’s

600 Dutton Ave, Unit C
San Leandro, CA
(510) 553-1000
http://www.rubianos.com/
M-Su 11 AM – 10 PM