Hungry for pizza? Hit up Ianni’s in Vandergrift for some unique specialties |
Valley News Dispatch

Hungry for pizza? Hit up Ianni’s in Vandergrift for some unique specialties

Joyce Hanz | For the Tribune-Review
Ianni’s Pizzeria in Vandergrift serves fresh wood-fired thin crust pizza in addition to hoagies and salads.
Joyce Hanz | For the Tribune-Review
Specialty cocktails at Ianni’s Pizzeria in Vandergrift include: Chocolate Mudslide, Moscow Mule, Strawberry Martini, Orange Crush and Homemade Sangria.
Joyce Hanz | For the Tribune-Review
Ianni’s owners Paula and Billy Johns and Jonelle and Wesley Harris with four wood-fired specialty pizzas: The Margherita, Rickey, Rocket and Agway. Billy Johns serves as chef, and each pizza is his own creation— made with fresh dough and homemade pizza sauce.
Joyce Hanz | For the Tribune-Review
Ianni’s Vandergrift location is in the iconic building that formerly housed Carino’s.

It’s a Mecca of sorts for aficionados of “ ’Za.”

Ianni’s Pizzeria in Vandergrift beckons the faithful with its wafting smell of burning hardwood.

Family-owned and operated for more than 90 years, Ianni’s (pronounced e-on-ees) serves homemade specialty pizzas in a completely renovated open, airy and industrial-styled two-level space formerly occupied by Carino’s.

The flagship Ianni’s, located in New Derry, opened in 1927, originally as a rollerrink and soda fountain.

A Delmont location was added next and, while scouting a third Ianni’s location, Vandergrift looked appealing, said owners Billy and Paula Johns along with their son Wesley and daughter-in-law Jonelle Harris.

“The people of Vandergrift are so welcoming,” Paula Johns said.

Customers flock here for the specialty wood-oven pizzas, cooked with radiant high heat (fueled with seasoned hardwood) with freshly made dough and homemade sauce.

“No frozen pizza crusts here,” Billy Johns said. “It’s truly all top-quality.”

More than 45 gallons of pizza sauce are made daily at the Vandergrift location.

Choose from 16 custom pizza creations such as the Popeye, topped with spinach, almonds and a red wine garlic vinaigrette or the OTC (off the charts), which lets the customer choose their toppings and level of heat (from a one to five).

The Margherita has bragging rights here as most popular, said Johns.

The true Naples pie features plum tomatoes, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, provolone cheese and fresh basil.

Custom pizzas are the culinary creation of Billy Johns, who experimented for months back in 2003, perfecting thin-crust wood-fired pizzas before selling them to the public.

“I was in the bar business and the liquor laws became terrible and I thought ‘we have to do something,’ ” he said.

Johns always dreamed of baking good French bread and pondered the age-old art of cooking with fire.

“That’s the way people have been cooking for thousands of years, so I decided to put a wood fire in my old bar in New Derry. I started making my pizza there and giving them away free,” Johns said.

The pizzas quickly became popular with his customers and they began insisting on paying for them.

“I said no — they weren’t good enough yet,” Johns said. “I kept trying different cheeses, different flours, different everything. It took me about two months to finally hit it where we started charging customers for pizza.”

And Ianni’s was born.

Prices range from $7-$20 and pizza are available in small, medium or large.

Most of the pizzas are thin-crust except for the Ricky and the Domenica, which are thicker-crust top-sellers.

A full-service bar offers craft beers and signature cocktails such as Moscow mules, martinis and homemade sangria.

New this season is outdoor seating.

“We used to go to Ianni’s in Delmont, but we are so happy they put one in Vandergrift,” said frequent customer Melissa Leibert-Locke of Lower Burrell. “We have tried all of their pizzas. My favorite is the Margherita.”

Billy, who Paula John nicknamed the “Einstein of pizza,” won’t budge on revealing his pizza sauce secrets.

But, if he likes you enough, he’ll name a pie after you — like the Domenica, which boasts the thick crust and cooked cheese but a cold sauce “sweeter than Grandma” — for whom it’s named.

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.