‘It’s time to start living’: Johnny’s Pizzeria bids farewell to Sunset Park after 56 years

Johnny Miniaci Jr. addressed the crowd as staff worked to keep up with the flood of orders Wednesday
Johnny Miniaci Jr. addressed the crowd outside Johnny’s Pizzeria as staff worked to keep up with the flood of orders on the business’ last day.
Photos by Adam Daly

Johnny’s Pizzeria in Sunset Park served up its last pies Wednesday, as the Miniacis wound down the family business after 56 years on Fifth Avenue.

Fans of the beloved pizza-joint braved the wet weather on Jan. 24, forming a line down the block hoping to get one last since or a selfie with a member of the Miniaci family.

First opened in 1968 by John Miniaci senior and his wife Lilia, the eatery became a staple in the neighborhood for generations of pizza-lovers. Following the couple’s death, the Miniaci children took the helm of the restaurant and continued serving up premium pies to the local community.

The family recently made the decision to hang up their aprons and retire from the pizza business, breaking the news to devastated patrons on Jan. 18.

“Although this decision has not come easy for us, we would like to be sincere in telling you that it is the right decision, as we are set to begin our retirements,” the announcement said, marking Jan. 24 as the last chance to purchase a pie.

Addressing the crowd who showed up for the last day of business on Wednesday, Johnny Miniaci Jr. said it was “time to start living.”

“My time is up,” he said. “It’s tough, you’re on your feet all day, everyday. I haven’t been to one party with my family. It’s time to start living instead of working.”

Thanking the community for their loyalty over the years, Miniaci credited the customers for making the pizzeria a household name: “All of you here made Johnny’s Pizzeria what it is today. We didn’t do it, you guys did it.”

Loyal customers lined down the block Wednesday to grab one last slice
Loyal customers lined down the block Wednesday to grab one last slice at Johnny’s Pizzeria.Photo by Adam Daly

Among the customers queuing in the rain Wednesday was former Sunset Park resident Eleanor, who said she always makes a point of dropping by Johnny’s when she’s back in the neighborhood.

“They opened up in ‘68 so we used to come here from high school, so I’ve known them forever,” she told Brooklyn Paper, adding that the closure is like “losing a member of the family.”

Other customers in the line reminisced about the role Johnny’s played in their school days, while newer patrons expressed their sorrow of only recently discovering it.

“I only ate here once before, much to my shame,” said a customer named Corrado, who was saddened to hear his new favorite pizza joint was closing but acknowledged that the Miniaci family’s retirement was “much deserved.”

Johnny’s Pizzeria in Sunset Park closed its doors Wednesday, Jan. 24 after more than a half-century in business.Photo by Adam Daly