The facility: Though part of a corporate restaurant chain, Johnny Brusco’s still has the hands-on comfort and laid back dine-in style found in your typical Mom & Pop pizzeria. The Johnson City operation is located in a storefront conveniently right around the corner from our still-popular Mall. Your fellow diners will be families with children, young adults, students and seniors. You and about a hundred of your fellow patrons will be enjoying each other’s company in a comfortable dining area of booths and tables, each with a good view of the open plan (and very busy) kitchen.
What you’ll be eating: Though the kitchen staff at Johnny Brusco’s prides itself on being able to create authentic New York-style pizza, they are equally adept at turning out all manner of Italian dishes, with a note of NYC’s Little Italy detectable throughout. Their breads are of excellent quality, taste and texture and the vegetables used are fresh for the most part. Cheeses and meats are from Johnny Brusco’s commissary rather than locally sourced, meaning you can expect very little change (seasonal or otherwise) in that menu you are holding.
Appetizers: Insalata Caprese & Mini Garlic Knots: Though Johnny Brusco’s menu is indeed comprehensive, there are no Cliff’s Notes available to guide us, so the dine-around bunch and I chose a group study session, using an appetizer or two as study aids. We chose Johnny Brusco’s insalata caprese ($6.75) and a half order of the mini garlic knots ($6.50) to assist the team’s decision making processes. The insalata features red ripe Roma tomatoes paired with slices of buffalo mozzarella cheese on torn basil (or in my case, spinach) leaves, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The mini garlic knots were properly baked, then anointed with an emollient of crushed, fresh garlic and olive oil so potent that my dining partner said she wanted any good night kiss from me delivered by email.
Entrée: Manhattan Garden: Wanting something light, I picked a Manhattan Garden ($8.95) as my entree. Here, the kitchen team takes sliced fresh mushrooms, onions, green peppers, sliced black olives, tomatoes and sectioned marinated artichoke hearts, then layered into a serving dish and covered with the house marinara sauce and a mix of crumbled feta and shredded mozzarella cheese. What you have are the toppings found on a Johnny Brusco’s large-sized vegetable pizza without the baked pizza dough underneath them, and all of it delicious.
Entrée: Meatball Parmigiana sandwich: The Carnivore wanted meat, prepared simply, correctly and in a form that didn’t struggle too much during consumption. He ordered a meatball parmigiana sandwich ($8). Johnny Brusco’s version of this New York classic is to take a toasted foot-long loaf of fresh Italian bread filled with scratch-made Italian meatballs that have been roasted, thinly sliced and then layered onto the open face of the sandwich loaf. Marinara sauce is spread on top of the meatball slices and then topped with shredded mozzarella cheese. Perfection.
Entrée: “Great White” pizza: While the Carnivore was busy channeling his Neolithic ancestors, the Dieter’s favorite “Great White” personal-sized (8-inch diameter) pizza ($10) was just cool enough that we all could have a bite of it without scorching our tonsils. This tasty pizza uses that excellent pizza dough as a stage where sliced marinated chicken breast, torn leaf spinach and sliced ripe Roma tomatoes can perform; a combination that gave our collective taste buds a pleasant workout.
Entrée: Meat Deluxe calzone: My dining partner can be more of a true carnivore than even the Carnivore can aspire to, like her ordering a Meat Deluxe calzone ($9.50). A pizza dough filled with ground 100-percent beef, pepperoni, smoky bacon, mild Italian sausage crumbles and slices of Canadian bacon, then folded in half and baked to perfection. I was fortunate to get a serving of my dining partner’s entrée, and found it delicious.
Take-aways: As stated earlier, Johnny Brusco’s is a chain pizza & Italian restaurant that combines the Mom & Pop pizzeria look and feel with a menu that offers something for everyone. The restaurant is well-appointed, clean and comfortable, the staff is both capable and friendly and the variety of the meals offered are well-prepared and of good value. Stop in with some friends and see for yourself.
Johnny Brusco’s New York Style
2111 N. Roan St.
Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sun 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Available on Facebook & social media
Credit cards accepted