When Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda made a cameo appearance in GQ magazine two weeks ago to give his guide to Kansas City, his selections seemed a tad obvious.
Not that there was anything wrong with them, but if you’re a native, you know all about the steak at the Golden Ox and the drinks at Manifesto. And you’ve certainly had those nights of debauchery that end at Town Topic.
In fact, the only real curve ball on Ryan’s list is the first one: Johnny Jo’s Pizzeria.
Johnny Jo’s is a tiny pizza place, tucked away in a storefront west of the Plaza. It only has enough seating for six people inside but has suddenly gained national exposure. What Ryan listed as the best “underground slice” in Kansas City isn’t underground anymore.
The article, though, came as a complete surprise to owner John Milone. He was in the shop the Thursday the GQ story came out, cleaning and getting things ready. A customer was poking his head in the windows, and Milone went and let him in and started talking to him. When Milone finally asked the customer, “How’d you hear about me,” the man responded that he’d seen Johnny Jo’s in GQ that day.
Milone didn’t bat an eye at first. Then it hit him.
“Hold on man. What are you saying? GQ? I’m not in GQ?” he said.
Turns out he was.
Milone has been operating out of the Plaza shop since January 2012. Before that he had been cooking and catering his own pizzas from home. By last summer, he had finally built up a customer base and started serving lunch before a family emergency forced him to close shop for about three months. Now that it’s re-opened, the restaurant is thriving, thanks to Ryan’s high praise in GQ and word of mouth from Milone’s neighbors around the 47th Street location.
And although the location is small, the pizza slices are enormous. Cut from 20-inch pizzas, the slices are, in Ryan’s terms, “ foldable, New-York-style big slices.” The crust is thin, and the 00 flour —a finely ground Italian flour — and double-baking method that Milone employs gives it a slightly crunchy texture.
Milone has also been expanding the menu as of late. He just added a handful of new pizza selections, including a fresh mozzarella pie, which is topped with ample chunks of mozzarella and whole leaves of basil. His slices are always $3.50, no matter how loaded they are with toppings.
A full-size Sicilian flag hangs on the wall in the pizza shop, and Milone describes his pies as a “Sicilian recipe with a Napoli twist.”
So far, business has been booming in the shop since his favorable mention in GQ.
“I’ve seen a significant increase and a ton of new people obviously,” Milone said. “And I’ve asked every person in here, ‘How’d you hear about me?’ I always do that with new people, and they say, ‘Oh, we saw your write-up in GQ.’”
With a steady flow of customers, Milone is gearing up to start serving lunches again after Labor Day weekend this fall. But no matter how good business gets, Milone doesn’t plan on opening as second store.
His goal, he says, is for the store to get so popular the line stretches out the door down the block for his slices.