Johnny DeAngelo is the owner of Johnny D’s, an Italian and New York style pizza restaurant located at 13214 Coursey Blvd in Baton Rouge, near the intersection of Stumberg Lane and Coursey Boulevard. Johnny is a native of New Jersey, where he grew up making pizzas, something he still does, and does well. He has been kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for Cuisine Rouge:
1. How did you get started in the restaurant business?
“I made my first pizzas in 1973 in Mr. Hill’s Restaurant and Bar back in Bayonne, New Jersey. My sister Janet and I ran the kitchen. I was fresh out of high school and I knew cooking pizzas was what I wanted to do with my life.”
2. What or who were your influences?
“When I was a kid my biggest influence was the great Julia Child. She inspired me to not only cook, but to also pursue a cooking show of my own. I also learned from my mom and sisters, especially working in my sister’s restaurant Mortorano’s (which is now Schlitz and Giggles downtown).”
3. When did you know you could make it in this business?
“Do you ever really know you will make it in this business? When my sister closed her restaurant, it sat vacant for a year (the Jones Creek location). I reopened it and the biggest indication we were doing something right, was the people’s positive reaction. We had to be doing something right! We have had plenty of regular and return customers over the years.”
4. How did you decide on this location?
“I started looking as soon as I heard of the plan to expand Jones Creek Road. There was a good chance I would lose my parking lot and that would have been very bad for business. I drove around and just saw a “For Sale” sign in the window. I inquired and the rest is history. It was truly God’s will that I ended up in this location.”
5. What do you love about your job?
“I love to make people happy. I love the interaction with the customer. Every day I get to meet new and interesting people; people from all walks of life that are united by their love of pizza!”
6. What do you hate about your job?
“When things are out of my control. The service by the wait staff, the performance in the kitchen; I have no control over how someone ultimately does their job. It causes great stress when you can’t control someone’s performance. I take it personal when a customer does not receive the highest quality of service.”
7. When you aren’t cooking, what do you like to do?
“I love to shoot guns. I have many pistols and rifles and enjoy shooting them at the range. I am an avid believer in the Second Amendment.”
8. What would you be doing if you weren’t the owner of Johnny D's?
“I used to work for a security sales company, so I would probably be doing that. Or I would be working for my wife at DeAngelo Real Estate.”
9. What is your favorite dish on the menu?
“The Johnny’s Choice pizza – loaded with Italian sausage, onions, and mushrooms.”
10. What would your last meal be?
“Pizza of course! My perfect pizza has a nice thin crust, light on the sauce and cheese, and plenty of quality ingredients such as Italian sausage, onions, and mushrooms.”
11. What is your best moment as a restaurant owner?
“My best moment was being able to provide all the food for a wedding for one of my friends. Knowing I was able to do something so nice for someone was a good feeling.”
12. What is your worst moment as a restaurant owner?
“When Hurricane Gustav hit Baton Rouge. To a small business this was devastating. We had to shut down for two weeks and I lost a lot of money and all of my food. We were literally on the brink of disaster.”
13. Anything new for the future?
“Well I would love to have my own cooking show in the restaurant. I have also decided to place the rosemary and garlic baked chicken with roasted vegetables on the menu as a special. Also I am reapplying for our liquor license. It will take 90 days to get approved but we should be able to serve beer and wine soon.”
14. Other than what you make, what other foods do you enjoy?
“I love Chinese and Mexican. My wife especially loves fajitas. I am also a fan of sushi, however the more standard, cooked stuff, not sea urchin. My favorite non-Italian meal would be a perfectly cooked filet mignon with a fully loaded baked potato and a good salad.”
15. If a person is only visiting your place once, what dish should they get?
“The spaghetti and meatballs. It is simple, good comfort food and I am very proud of it. Make sure to top it with plenty of Pecorino Romano cheese.”
Cuisine Rouge would like to thank you Johnny DeAngelo for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck to you and Johnny D’s in the future!