My favorite new pizzeria in Orlando is John and John’s – A Pizza Shop (https://www.johnandjohnspizza.com/) in the SoDo area, south of downtown Orlando and mere moments from the incredible Sister Honey’s Bakery. I’ve been twice since it opened in mid-August, but if it wasn’t across town from me, I would be a regular for sure. I believe the titular Johns hail from Philadelphia, but their pizza is pure New York style — thin, crispy, large, foldable slices with the crispy crunch I crave and high-quality ingredients and toppings. The owners are also involved with Cavo’s Bar & Kitchen, a great restaurant in Thornton Park near downtown Orlando, which boasts the best Philly cheesesteak in Orlando. (It made my list of Top Twelve Tastes of 2021 in Orlando Weekly.) More on that a little later!
Like all the best New York-style pizzerias, John and John’s has several pizzas available to order by the slice at all times, stacked behind glass like a museum:
And here are their slice prices, since those aren’t listed on the website with the rest of the menu:
These are the three gorgeous slices I ordered on my first visit to John and John’s. On the left is an “upside-down slice” ($4.99), with red sauce, chopped garlic, crushed peppers, freshly chopped basil, and pecorino romano cheese. There’s nothing like fresh basil on pizza! I am a convert, and I just wish every pizzeria did this, or at least the good ones.
I’ll tell you more about the other two slices below, but they were all masterful. I wolfed them down on site while sitting on a barstool, since pizza is always better at the pizzeria. As it steams in the box on your way home, it always loses some of that crispiness and just isn’t the same.
Here’s a close-up of the classic cheese slice ($3.99) I got customized with crumbled meatballs and caramelized onions (99 cents each). That was an absolutely perfect combination of toppings more people should try.
And here’s a close-up of the Mediterranean Blue slice ($4.99), a tribute to the Greek restaurant that was the former tenant in John and John’s space on Michigan Avenue. The pizza is topped with slices of gyro meat, feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, red onion, and creamy, tangy tzatziki sauce, on top of the regular mozzarella cheese base. It’s a breathtaking combination of flavors that really works.
On my second visit, I ordered a Spicy Swine slice ($6.99) with red sauce, mozzarella, sharp provolone, spicy Italian sausage, long hot peppers, and Calabrian chili oil, pictured next to a plain cheese slice ($3.99) to use as a “control.” Both were outstanding, as always. Note how thin the crusts are. A lot of places skimp on the sauce and cheese, pumping out pathetic, puny pizzas where half the slice is plain crust, and they know who they are. At John and John’s, the sauce and cheese extend pretty far to the edge of their slices, leaving very tasty, thin, crispy crusts you won’t be tempted to leave uneaten for any reason.
I really loved the long hot peppers on the Spicy Swine slice, but only John and John’s and another favorite, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, use them. I’ve never even seen long hots for sale in a jar, and I love buying different jars of roasted, marinated, and pickled peppers to throw into sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes.
After completely missing the pasta salad ($5.99) on the menu on my first visit (because I’m usually not going to pay attention to salads at a new pizzeria), I saw pictures online, felt the FOMO, and had to try it on my second trip. It was outstanding — ditalini pasta (an underrated pasta shape, if ever there was one) in an Italian vinaigrette dressing with fresh tomatoes, onions, basil, black olives, and parmesan cheese. It was served chilled, of course, and it was very refreshing.
I’ll try anyone’s versions of pasta salad, macaroni salad, and potato salad, and this pasta salad did not disappoint.
This was the fried cheese plank ($6.99), a crispy, knish-sized square of melty mozzarella cheese, expertly breaded. I couldn’t resist! They had me at “cheese plank.” The cup of marinara sauce was boiling lava-hot, even hotter than the cheese. But as it cooled, I dipped my pizza crusts in it, and there wasn’t a single drop left by the time I was done.
Check out that cheese pull! This would have looked great on video, but trust me, nobody wants to watch me eat.
I had to bring home a 14″ pepperoni pizza ($) to share with my wife. As in sync as we usually are, pizza is one thing we rarely agree on, but she really liked this. How could you not? It was still warm by the time I got it home since I drive around with an insulated “heat bag” in my trunk to keep takeout food as hot as possible, and it is a perfect example of New York pizza here in Florida.
This is the Chicken Leo sandwich ($14.99), with a breaded chicken cutlet, vodka sauce, fresh and melty mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and fresh basil on a crusty seeded roll.
I ate half of this sandwich for dinner, straight out of the fridge, and it was unbelievably delicious even cold. I’m going to warm the other half in the toaster oven later this weekend for the full effect, but it is probably my favorite chicken sandwich in Orlando that isn’t of the Nashville hot variety.
And I couldn’t resist bringing home the classic Cavo’s cheesesteak ($13.99) to heat and eat later, since it is such a shining example of Philadelphia’s third-best sandwich (after DiNic’s roast pork and the standard Italian hoagie) and one of Orlando’s best as well. I always refer to Orlando’s Thornton Park neighborhood as “Thornton No-Park” due to the distinct lack of parking spaces, so I don’t make it to Cavo’s as often as I would like. Luckily, John and John’s offers the exact same sandwich, and it’s a lot easier to get in and out of, despite being even further from home and work. The cheesesteak is packed with thinly sliced ribeye steak, sauteed onions, and melty white American cheese. Surprisingly, it isn’t dripping with grease like some lesser versions I tried in Philly, but it is packed with flavor, even eating half of it cold, straight out of the fridge. Like the Chicken Leo, I’ll definitely warm up the other half tomorrow. Just like I did at Cavo’s last year, I forgot to request some kind of hot peppers on it, like those long hots from my Spicy Swine slice. I knew I was forgetting something, but there’s always a next time.
I admit there are some restaurants I’ve never made it back to after writing my reviews, but John and John’s – A Pizza Shop won’t be one of them. I see so many other local food lovers discovering this place and singing its praises online. Sure, I could have written this review over a month ago, after my first visit, but I waited to join the chorus until I could go back a second time and try more things. Across town or not, it’s far too good to stay away for long, and that’s really the mark of a restaurant that does everything right, if you’re willing to schlep to it and schedule your day around getting there and back. If you think Orlando doesn’t have good pizza, first of all, you’re wrong, and you’re probably an elitist too. John and John’s is one of our newest pizzerias, and already one of our best and brightest. Just don’t forget that their sandwiches are top-notch too, and don’t sleep on the pasta salad either, even though it’s “hidden” in the salad section of the menu!