For this review, our group from the office drove west to Lakeland, and Johnny Mac’s Pizzeria & Deli (1-1/4 miles west of the fairgrounds; I could not find a web site). Yes, there is a Johnny Mac, and either he or his wife are usually present – just not when we visited. The dining area is relatively small, and NOT air conditioned. Delivery is available, and the restaurant is open 7 days a week. We pushed a couple of tables together to accomodate our group of 6; each of us grabbed a bottled drink out of the cooler, ordered and paid at the counter, and sat down to await the pizza and wings.
The first pizza to arrive was a large with pepperoni, sausage, peppers, mushrooms and onions (if you order “The Works,” you also get olives, but we passed on those.) A couple of minutes later, our half pepperoni, half cheese arrived, but it had pepperoni on all of it. When we pointed this out to the server (who I believe was also the pizzaiolo), he said, “Oh, that’s right!”, apologized, quickly made another, and told us to keep the mistake at no charge. Normally I don’t think any of us would have mentioned it, but we wanted a few cheese slices to evaluate the basic taste of the pizza without toppings. At any rate, we really appreciated the generosity and graciousness of Johnny Mac’s in the way they handled the mistake.
These large pies are listed on the menu as 16″ (an extra large 18″ and Sicilian (thick) crust pizzas are also available), and as sometimes happens, ours grew a little larger, and measured about 17″ each. It’s funny, our group has started getting used to the routine: there is fast and sometimes loud conversation while we wait for the pizza, then when it arrives there is a quick grab for the slices, followed by a sudden hush as everyone takes a bite. Swallow, and then start commenting. The first thing I tend to notice is the crust, and this one was a treat. It was a perfect NY thin style crust, baked on the stone, about 1/4″ thick with a 1/2″ or so rim. It was well-browned on both the bottom and top, with a good rise and excellent interior structure. Inside it was soft, but it crackled just the right amount when bitten into. Taste was well-developed, a good balance of slightly salty and slightly sweet notes.
Sauce was nearly perfect. It was bright red and slightly acidic, with good fresh tomato flavor. The spice load was mild to moderate, with spice flakes visible. Cheese was above average for the most part, although as you can see in the photo, it turned orange and oily on the half cheese, half pepperoni pie. This is pretty common with thin pizza, because the sauce boils up through the cheese and causes oil to separate. Additional toppings usually slow down the heating, and the cheese tends to be much closer to its original color.
With the exception of rubbery canned mushrooms, the toppings were very good and generally plentiful. I would have liked more pepperoni on the half pepperoni pizza; you will have to look at the picture and decide for yourself if the amount was adequate.
Overall, this pizza produced a pretty solid “wow” factor for most of our group. When it comes right down to it, that is what matters. How much “wow,” or taste bud pleasure do you get from eating it? I asked for ratings from everyone in the group. One person said it was oily and needed more sauce: 3.5. The next gave a huge thumbs up and said, “4.5 to 5 – I’ll call it 4.5.” Another 4.5 and a 4.0 completed the ratings. Personally, I felt the “wow” factor was close to 4.5, but the canned rubbery mushrooms knocked it back just a little bit. Also, a few days after our group visited, I picked up a pizza to take home, and for some reason it didn’t impress me or my wife the way it did when the office group visited. If I recall correctly, the sauce was not very plentiful (dry, even), which was also mentioned by one in the group. Taking all of these things into consideration, the Pizza Geek gives Johnny Mac’s Pizzeria and Deli a rating of 4 out of 5 slices – generally recommended, with room for improvement.
Summary – Pros: excellent crust & sauce. Cons: canned mushrooms, could use more pepperoni.
What do YOU think? Have you tried pizza from Johnny Mac’s? Did we get the review right? Please leave a comment.