The annual Florida Panhandle vacation was over, and the drive back to Nashville again offered the opportunity for a lunchtime pizza stop in Alabama. This stop, however, would be in Birmingham rather than Montgomery. Based on the recommendation I received on the way down from my new friend at the great Capone’s Pizza and Subs, I visited Johnny Brusco’s New York-Style Pizza.
Johnny Brusco’s is about four miles east of I-65 in Vestavia Hills just on the southern side of Birmingham. Located in a fairly new strip center, it offers a large outside eating area that is just perfect for that lovely afternoon. They also have a fairly spacious joint inside, proudly displaying their allegiance to the Auburn Tigers and providing plenty of room to dine. In addition to pizza, which they surprisingly offered by the slice, their menu features salads, subs, calzones and a few pasta dishes.
I ordered ahead by phone for a large 16-inch plain cheese pie, asking for a thin crust. Although the hostess later claimed that they had three types of crust: thick, thin, and gluten-free, I didn’t spot these choices on the printed menu. I was fortunate to have specified thin since I spotted several topping-ladened pies that looked way too thick for my liking.
The pie was love at first sight. It looked wonderfully thin and crisp with just the right amount of both cheese and sauce, a rarity here in the Deep South. I also liked seeing the burnt black spots atop the end crust that signaled that the pie wasn’t undercooked. It actually was crisp enough that the slices slightly cracked just right when I folded them. All in all, this was a delicious pie, well-cooked, and obviously made with high quality ingredients. There was however somewhat of a bright taste to this pie that I speculate might have been from the use of some extra salt in the either the crust or tomato sauce.
I noticed how happy the employees seemed to be about working there and took that as a sign that they knew they were serving a good product.
I was quite surprised in my post-visit research to discover that Johnny Brusco’s was a regionally-franchised chain. In 1971, the founders started as Johnny’s Pizza in upstate New York and in 1977 moved shop to Georgia. In 1994, they began franchising some Johnny’s locations in Georgia where they now boast 70 joints. Later in 2003, a new franchise operation was created for outside of the Peach State with the Brusco’s name added, and it now has a dozen spots, including the one I just visited.
It is really hard to believe that this isn’t a local Mom and Pop operation. Although I can’t vouch for any of the other locations–if they are as good as the one in Valencia Hills, Alabama, we need more Johnny Brusco’s everywhere!
PIZZA SNOB RATING **** Near Perfection
Johnny Brusco’s New York-Style Pizza
2516 Rocky Ridge Road
Vestavia Hills, AL 35243