baltimore pizza institutions: 'the far eastides pizza pie' ...

this summer has been a very successful food based summer for this sandwich loving blogger. lobsters in maine, surprisingly outrageous sandwiches in st. croix, some tasty eats off food trucks around town, and the occasional pop up downtown bbq with good friends. while all of these are truly wonderful summertime culinary sensations, last week i traveled due east from downtown baltimore and crossed over to year round generational culinary sensation; pizza johns in essex, md.

up until last tuesday pizza johns had been merely a folk legend. a place that people talk about in undescriptive absolutes like, 'its amazing' or 'i love that place' and my favorite 'you have to go there.' dont get me wrong its all great publicity, but lacking in description or a seriously convincing or compelling reason (does this have to do with its location? i kid, i kid) to travel from the pizza rich environment that is baltimore city and venture all the way out to essex for a pie. so after being on my urbanspoon wishlist for nearly a year, i finally hopped in the mazda with a reoccurring culinary adventurist companion, dj g:/ (read: gee prompt), and struck out for this essex pizza institution of legend.

essex is amazing. eastern ave goes on forever, there are no turns. main street is an actual main street. there is water, boats, and docks everywhere. crabs arent $200 a bushel. and we even saw a green dodge challenger, like for real! drunk with our newly discovered affinity for all things essex (full disclosure: after opening up our zillow app, there have been a couple of inquiries into the essex waterfront real estate market) we were only thrown into a deeper stage of giddy inebriation when we pulled onto back river neck road and were quickly greeted by a larger than life 'pizza john' who stood out front of an italian-american chic villa/restaurant mega complex.

'italian-american essex villa chic'
instantly upon entrance we were greeted with table after table of patrons gobbling pizza, wolfing down sandwiches, and slugging tall sodas on this blistering summer day. excitement and hunger were brewing and i my lunch time essex traveling companion and i werent going to let the army of all white dressed 1960s era johnny rocket looking counter staff get the best of us, we were going to order big! there isnt any waitress service at p.j. its an old school trow back. you order everything at the counter, get a number, and take your own seat in one of the three massive dinning areas they have for pizza smashing. after little debate we decided to go with a pepperoni and green pepper pie and a half chicken parm sub to split. with a couple of large drinks our lunch cam out to $11 and change for each person. score another for essex.

before we could make ourselves too comfortable in our over sized booth that could a fit a family of 6 our first number was called. the chicken parm was first at bat. the parm was one large chicken cutlet fried, drenched in sauce, covered with cheese, and slapped on a white roll. the chicken had a crunch and was still a bit juicy, the sauce was fantastic (foreshadowing of the pizza perhaps?). the cheese was a mozzarella and there was a lot of it and it had been melted to allow for it to reach optimal stringy-ness. and finally the sub roll had been toasted to perfection; golden brown. this allowed for the sub to pack a little more crunch, absorb some of the sensational sauce, and not compromise with over the top sogginess. solid 1st at bat for pizza john.

now batting clean up ... pizza john!
a couple of bites into the sub our other number was called. our pizza kind of sauntered to our table like a clean up hitter. it knew it was the star, and it look every bit like one. golden brown crust flecked with tiny bits of over cooked cheese. green peppers glistening with the oils of cooked pepperoni. cheese that looked like it could stretch all the way back to baltimore, well at least back to dundalk. the pizza was the star. after doctoring a slice up with the usual, crushed red pepper, oregano, and a dash of salt, i took a bite of the piping hot pie. wow. the crust was crunchy and had an oven taste to it, but not over the top. the sauce was the star with a good zip to it, but at the same time an amazing tomato feel as well. the cheese could of streted back to dundalk, and the toppings were the perfect size and as a result didnt drag the cheese off the pie at all.

pizza johns was a total success. worth the trip down eastern ave and it truely deserves to be considered a baltimore pizza institution. from now on, anyone who asks me how i feel about pizza john's im going to simply tell them something like ....... 'its amazing', 'i love that place', or 'you have to go there.'

Pizza John's on Urbanspoon

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