Johnny is back making pizzas and other Italian specialties at his Howe Avenue restaurant.
Agni “Johnny” Kalici has opened Downtown Pizza where he once operated Johnny’s Pizza. The establishment offers take-out and dine-in options Monday through Saturday.
Kalici said the key to a good pizza is in the dough, sauce, cheese, and the person making it.
“If the pizza maker knows what he’s doing, you’ll eat good pizza,” he said. “With my pizza, you can feel the difference, see the difference and taste the difference. It’s the best in the Valley.”
Kalici has been making pizza for 26 years, since he was a teenager. “I’m a professional pizza maker,” he said.
He uses high-quality Wisconsin cheese created by an Italian food maker, he said. “It’s not greasy because it’s real cheese,” Kalici said. He also uses top-of-the-line ingredients to make his sauce fresh every day, he said.
Customer: ‘Like a slice of home’
Downtown Pizza offers New York-style pizza, with medium-thickness crust, whereas Johnny’s had used thicker crust. “I’ve had people tell me it’s better than in New York,” Kalici said.
Evan Bernard, who owns the nearby City Stylez barbershop, said the pizza reminds him of his native Brooklyn, N.Y.
“The pizza is great, the sauce is perfect,” Bernard said. “The place is like a slice of home that you don’t have to drive two hours to get.”
Not just pizza
Downtown Pizza offers a full menu, including pasta dishes, parmigiana, wraps, panini and focaccia sandwiches, subs, and burgers.
The busiest day of the year? By far, fireworks night on the Slab, he said.
Kalici previously worked at many pizzerias in the region. He came to the United States from Albania in the 1990s and began working at his aunt’s bakery in Derby. He is partially fluent in six languages.
He works up to 12 hours a day to get everything just right for customers, with assistance from his wife, Ferzie — she specializes in baking — and his staff.
Downtown Pizza is at 350 Howe Ave.