Let me tell you about my childhood. I don’t remember much before the age of 6, but what I do remember is Len & Jo’s. I actually thought it was called “Lemon Joe’s” for many years, but once I became literate, I sorted the name out correctly.
I was born in Newton, NJ, and lived about 40 minutes away from the joint, located in Port Jervis, NY. How did I ever find my way there? Well, I suppose you could say Len & Jo’s goes way back in my family. My grandparents went there when they were dating, and they took my mother there too after she was born. As she put it, “Len & Jo’s has just been a part of life forever.”
When my parents would take my sister and I to Len & Jo’s, it was a grand occasion. Even as a child with taste buds about as sophisticated as fishnet stockings, I knew their pizza was something special. I just couldn’t get enough. My sister and I would have contests over who could eat the most slices. Neither of us ever compared to my uncle though. He can down an entire large pizza himself, no sweat. That’s how amazing this pizza is.
Once I moved to Pennsylvania, I found myself 2 1/2 hours away from Len & Jo’s. This made life harder, but my family fashioned a way to make due. Every now and then, we would make the trek to Len & Jo’s and order a staggering amount of pies. I’m talking a dozen or more. We got them half-baked and sealed up so we could pack ‘em in our cooler, take ‘em home, and store ‘em safely in the freezer. Then, when the mood struck, we could retrieve a Len & Jo’s original from the freezer and bake it up. It was almost as good as having it fresh at the restaurant.
Whenever we call to place our special orders, Len & Jo’s knows us by name. They also know my grandparents, aunt, and uncle, who are equally devoted Len & Jo’s lovers. We’ve even got Len & Jo’s t-shirts. Is it a borderline obsession? Perhaps. Is it justified? Hell yes, it is.
Now that I live in CNY, I am a devastating 4 hours away from old Len & Jo’s. I don’t get to make as many trips as I would like because of that, but every now and then, I find away. Last weekend, for example, my mother and I began the process of helping my sister move in to her new apartment, so we worked in a little detour to our favorite pizza joint. It was just as delicious as I remembered. I inhaled such an appalling amount of pizza that I cannot bear to repeat the number of slices here. Trust me, you don’t want to know. It was just so good; I couldn’t stop!
So what makes Len & Jo’s pizza the pinnacle of all pies? Well, it’s definitely a combination of all the components. It’s got a paper-thin crust with crunchy edges. Unlike a lot of pizzas with cardboard crusts that I don’t bother chomping my way through, I always eat all my Len & Jo’s crusts. I don’t leave a single crumb of that pie.
The pizza has a sweet sauce that perfectly compliments the cheese. The nice thing is that you aren’t bombarded with gobs of thick tomato cement; it’s just the right amount to let you know it’s there without overwhelming you.
And then there’s the cheese.
Oh sweet Jesus, the cheese!
This incredible gooey sea is what really makes the pizza. What’s the secret? It’s American cheese.
Please don’t freak out. I know you’re thinking pizza is meant to be topped with mozzarella, but once you experience this, you will never EVER go back. Len & Jo’s does make a traditional mozzarella pizza, which is DELICIOUS, but this american-topped pizza is pure heaven served straight to you on a convenient crust.
I don’t know where they get their cheese, because I’ve never experienced American cheese like this anywhere else. It melts to the point of molten perfection, so incredibly creamy that it’s almost like a sauce. You need not ask for extra cheese; they give you so much that you can’t even keep it on the crust. The unruly stuff will be all over your hands and face, and you’ll love every second of it. Sometimes, I have to use a fork and knife for the first couple of bites just to tame the cheese. I can’t even describe that perfectly ooey-gooey texture; it’s something you’ve just got to experience. I’ve never had a pizza like this anywhere else. It’s amazing.
Now, I have to be honest about something. Len & Jo’s decor isn’t exactly elegant. In fact, you’ll find walls covered with animal heads and shelves buried beneath tacky knick-knacks. But you know what? I love it. It has looked exactly the same for as long as I can remember, and in a world where businesses are constantly changing to fit a certain image, you have to respect that. It’s a family-owned business with real love for what they do. Besides, the tacky decor is charming in its own way.
Here’s the deal: I’ve been to more pizza places than I can count. I’ve tried every kind of crust, sauce, and cheese you can imagine. But nothing has every compared to Len & Jo’s. That spectacular melty, cheesy masterpiece is what I truly imagine heaven tastes like. If you are ever in the area, and by “in the area” I mean within 100 miles, you NEED to stop by. Your life will be changed forever.
Tell them the Bierstine’s sent you.
Len & Jo’s Pizzeria is located at 186 W Main Street, Port Jervis, NY 12771