At the corner of State Street and Jay Street lies a culinary jackpot.
Johnny’s impeccable food and service make its reputation as the best damn place in town very fitting. An Italian-American eatery, Johnny’s struts an expansive menu of pastas, chicken, veal, steak and seafood.
With timeless décor and dim lighting, the environment is both festive and sophisticated.
The service is nothing shy of top-notch. My waitress was amicable, knowledgeable and inventive. She shared interesting stories and gave whole-hearted advice adding to the experience.
Italian restaurants usually serve bread and olive oil on the side. Johnny’s is no exception.
This bread is otherworldly. Cumulonimbus on the inside and crispy crunchy on the outside, the bread is easily the best in town. I want the recipe. Dunk the bread into the mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and freshly ground black pepper mixture for an enhanced experience.
When Italian meets Mexican, sparks fly. The Italian nachos are a bombshell of flavors and textures that you’ve probably never had before. The “chips” are fried pasta crisps. It comes with crispy sweet Italian sausage, sliced pepperoncini, tomatoes, garlic, onions and Italian cheese sauce.
It’s perfection plus. The chips resemble fried wontons with a little bit of an extra bite to them.
The cheese sauce brings all the flavors together. The occasional olive or pepperoncini brings a nice pop of contrast. It’s an absolute must-have Mexican-inspired masterpiece.
Don’t even get me started on the pasta. Cooked al dente, all the pasta is A+. I tried the pink sauce a la Olivia. Light and creamy, the sauce resembles a slightly lighter and a hair more acidic that vodka sauce. Keep it up Olivia.
With jumbo shrimp and kick-butt spaghettini, the shrimp scampi was a great blend of flavor and body. The shrimp is cooked well and has a nice texture, but is slightly too buttery.
The white wine butter sauce and the garlic compliment the shrimp and pasta well. Halfway between spaghetti and angel hair, spaghettini is the perfect diameter to suck up and carry the sauce.
The big mama dish that caught my attention was the veal costoletta. With a presentation rivaling Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the veal costoletta is a dish that you first eat with your eyes. The enormous on-the-bone veal chop is pan fried and lightly breaded. The meat was cooked well and surged with flavor. A mixed green salad with fresh tomatoes tossed in a vinaigrette sits atop the chop.
A fork full of salad and veal is this dish’s ideal combination of flavor. Hiding underneath the chop are steak fries.
The under seasoned and overly-soft steak fries are like the guy who wasn’t invited to a party who shows up anyway: not really necessary. I’d rather invite my BFF mashed potatoes. Overall though, since the dish was so stellar, I can forgive the potatoes, and I’d 10/10 get it again.
You better have room for dessert, because at Johnny’s dessert is the real deal. They get a lot of their desserts from Villa Italia down the street. Johnny’s has an array of alluring treats, including fresh gelato and gelato cakes, cannoli’s and more.
I’d recommend the ultra-moist chocolate blackout cake, but exercise extreme caution, there’s a lot of chocolate. The stracciatella gelato sundae is also insane.
A mix of vanilla and chocolate gelato and with chocolate bits studded throughout, the sundae is surprisingly not overly sweet.
Make a reservation soon because Johnny’s is usually pretty crowded, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, note that they’re not open on Sundays.
In the end, Johnny’s seductive food, atmosphere, and service make it one of the best places in town. Just remember, if you have to get just one thing, get the Italian nachos.