John's Of 12th Street: Famously Authentic Italian Dining

Famously Authentic Italian Dining

So I'm at John's Of 12th Street, one of my favorite red-sauce Italian spots established in 1908, with my daughter. The pork braciole was tender like "butta." Then I asked for meatball parmigiana even though it wasn't on the menu. The waiter tells me and my daughter that the chef is in a particularly foul mood and would not take kindly to "special orders." I request the chef to come out. When he does, I jump up, grab him by the scruff of the neck, pistol whip him, make him “bite the curb” at the base of the bar, and stomp the back of his head until all of his teeth go flying... and then my daughter tugs on my shirt and I snap out of my daydream. Just as I'm returning to reality, the waiter brings me three meatballs, each the size of my head, covered in melty mozzarella and mama’s red gravy.

The garlic bread is insanely garlicky. The veal and chicken rollatini combo never disappoints. The spiedini alla Romana — fried, breaded mozzarella drowned in a buttery anchovy sauce — is so rich that I defy anyone (except maybe me) to finish a whole order. John’s is the red-sauce place of Hollywood’s imagination. Besides a very similar scene to my daydream, which was filmed at John’s and featured in The Sopranos, the TV series Boardwalk Empire also portrayed Lucky Luciano, who lived in the neighborhood, dining at John’s.

The eternally growing mass of candle wax in the back room of John’s also recently played host to a yet to be aired episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (I guess John’s is the latter). The maître d' tipped me off that the air date is Jan. 23, and features other local favorites like Mama’s Food Shop, DeFonte’s of Brooklyn and The Redhead. Looks like Guy did his homework.

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