Luke’s Pizza brings a New York state of mind

Mystery Diner • Mar 19, 2019 at 8:15 AM

Making a life with my dining partner here among the hills, the beauty and the kind hearts of East Tennessee has been a real blessing for this ol’ transplanted Yankee. I enjoy finding a comfortable friendliness and gentle patience in everyone I meet. If I may venture a compliment, y’all are good people.

However, sometimes (not often) I get a hankering for what I left behind on the southern shores of Lake Ontario, and I slip back into what songwriter Billy Joel calls a “New York State of Mind.” I experienced this slippage just this past week when my dining partner and I had stopped by Luke’s Pizza to have an early supper. We were delightfully surprised to find two dine-around bunch members, the Carnivore and the Dieter already there.

Like most truly authentic pizza joints, Luke’s Pizza can be found by the side of the road, here being West Market Street in Johnson City. The building seats 30 or so inside with the takeout and cashier’s counter fronting the kitchen’s prep area and ovens. Restrooms (clean & tidy) can be found on your right as you enter the restaurant.

The New York Pizza Difference: Proprietor Luke knows how to prepare New York-style pizza, though his product resembles that from my part of the state (termed “Upstate”), rather than that from New York City. There, the pizza begins with pizza dough hand-tossed until thin, has a thin layer of tomato sauce used as its base, and puts what is usually dry, grated Parmesan cheese on first before adding the rest of the toppings. Luke’s uses more sauce on a thicker, more substantial pizza crust, adds the toppings next, followed by shredded mozzarella cheese before baking. Parmesan cheese is added afterward, and is a requirement if one wants to fully experience my “New York State of Mind.”

Garlic Knots: My dining partner and I had stopped in for a quick early supper, and were surprised to see our friends the Dieter and Carnivore already seated at a table munching on a half-dozen Luke’s garlic knots ($3) ordered from Kyle, their server, which they graciously shared us. Each knot is a little twist of pizza dough that has been proofed, baked and then served with a ramekin of Luke’s special in-house and all-purpose marinara sauce. Each knot’s texture was very light and airy with the delicate nut-like savor you get from properly prepared pizza dough. The clarified garlic butter had looked-for aroma and flavor, but not overwhelmingly so, whetted our appetites and focused our minds on our meal choices.

House Salad: Though I wanted something from the garden for my supper, it was the Dieter who suggested we share a Luke’s Pizza house salad ($4.99) among the four of us. I told our server Kyle that a house salad was what I wanted, with four plates. The salad was quite good, a mixture of torn Romaine lettuce leaves, red onion slices, diced tomato, green bell pepper, black olives and mozzarella cheese. The salad was served at table along with some of Luke’s own homemade ranch salad dressing. An excellent salad, crisp, really cold and just the thing to go with our Carnivore-dictated main course.

Meat Lover’s Pizza: Yep, our friend wanted meat and lots of it on this evening’s pizza, choosing a 12-inch Meat Lover’s Pizza ($12.99).With Luke himself at the controls, my friend’s meaty masterpiece began to take shape. First, there’s the pizza sauce ladled onto the hand-patted and spread pizza dough. Next, a quantity of sliced spicy meatballs were scattered liberally across the sauce. Thin ribbons and chips of deli ham were next, to be followed by Italian sausage crumbles. Lastly, spicy pepperoni slices big as half-dollars were added. A healthy double handful of shredded mozzarella was sprinkled on just before a trip through Luke’s 500-degree pizza oven created the bubbly masterpiece that Kyle brought our table.

Bottom line: A house salad and a 12-inch Meat Lover’s pizza from Luke’s was more than enough to satisfy four hungry members of the dine-around bunch; there was even a slice of pizza left over for the Carnivore’s lunch the next day. Luke’s also offers gluten-free pizza dough in the 12-inch size. In addition to dine-in service, Luke’s does a brisk take-out business, which can affect the made-to-order preparation of your meal. Still, considering that your meal is made to order each and every time, a short wait isn’t too big a price for excellence, giving you more time to enjoy your own version of a New York state of mind.

Luke’s Pizza

3111 W. Market St.

Johnson City


Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Available on Facebook & social media

Credit cards accepted

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