Charlestown’s latest restaurant is a product of the pandemic. Johnny Pomodoro, an Italian counter-service spot that started as a pandemic takeout idea from fine dining alum Johnny Burke, is now open at 297 Main Street, at Sullivan Street, on a sunny corner spot in the neighborhood.
Detroit-style pizzas — identified by their rectangular shape, thick, spongy dough, and sauce splattered on after toppings — are a big draw here. At Johnny Pomodoro, Burke cooks the pies in seasoned iron pans and then tops them with ingredients like chicken cutlets, crispy pepperoni cups, and, in one case, all the fixings of a Caesar salad. Customers can buy the pizza by the slice during lunchtime (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) or by the whole tray — and it passes the all-important cold test, according to Burke. “I haven’t met too many pizzas that I don’t like but there are a lot of pizzas that I wouldn’t eat cold,” Burke says. “This [pizza] is just as delicious when it has spent the night in the refrigerator.”
Aside from the pizzas, the menu includes everything from meatballs and mozzarella sticks to wings, subs, and salads. Each item on the menu was designed with takeout in mind, according to Burke. The restaurant itself is only doing takeout and delivery; there’s no sit-down service available. But diners can still poke their heads in, and the restaurant exterior is marked by gigantic front windows intentionally designed to allow hungry customers to peer into the space.
Johnny Pomodoro is one of many takeout concepts that Burke tried out when his full-time catering business came to a standstill during the pandemic. “Johnny’s Smokehouse, Johnny’s Cantina, Johnny Pomodoro — we had different ones,” Burke says. “This was the one that we continuously had the most fun doing and saw the best turnout from. We were like, we’ve got to find a home for this place.”
This isn’t the first time that Burke has launched a takeout-only restaurant: Prior to the pandemic, he started Johnny’s Takeaway at his catering headquarters in West Roxbury. Johnny’s Takeaway has since closed, but the catering business is back in full swing and still based in West Roxbury. Before running his own catering company, Burke and his core catering team worked for fine dining stars in the city including Barbara Lynch.
As for Johnny Pomodoro, Burke has been heartened to see the local turnout for the shop — especially given the two-year slog that it took to open the restaurant — and there are already plans in the works to expand the idea elsewhere in Boston. (Burke declined to share more details until those plans are finalized.)
The chef sees the takeout-only shop as a pretty pandemic-proof business model — and an opportunity to better support staff within the company. “When we got the 200-something events that were on our calendar canceled almost overnight for our catering company, it was like, you know, what do we do?” Burke says. “I really opened this so that my team always has a place to go.”
The lunch and dinner menu: