It’s Johnny’s world

Johnny’s makes a cold version of zabaglione, an Italian custard traditionally served warm with marsala wine.

Johnny’s makes a cold version of zabaglione, an Italian custard traditionally served warm with marsala wine.

Photo By David Robert

Johnny’s Ristorante Italiano

4245 W 4th St.
Reno, NV 89503

(775) 747-4511

As much as I love exploring new restaurants, I also love stepping into older, more established ones. There is something special about restaurants that have been around for more than 25 years. Restaurants like Johnny’s (also known as Johnny’s Little Italy) are part of the town’s history. When I walked inside, I felt like I stepped back in time—a time when there was a certain prestige in working at a nice restaurant and excellent service standards were expected.

My friend Paige and I made an early reservation, which I recommend strongly because this place gets packed. As we were escorted to our table, we walked down the long hall that separates the bar from the restaurant, and I admired the classic black-and-white photography on the walls and the spacious dining room. When you sit at a table at Johnny’s, you really feel like you’re in your own world.

The menu is traditional Italian cuisine. I started out with the fried calamari appetizer ($7.95), which Paige and I shared. This is one of those dishes that depend on the freshness of the seafood, and it was fresh. It came with a small dish of spicy tomato-caper sauce and half a lemon. The freshness of the calamari prompted me to trust the fish here, so I ordered the filet of petrale sole ($19.95). After eating here a million times, Paige knew what she wanted without even glancing at the menu: the polenta with sausage and peppers (15.95). Both of our entrees arrived, and I was blown away by the size of them—enormous! I could tell our server was struggling to heft the polenta dish. The sole plate wasn’t much smaller. I really liked the sole; it was parmesan-crusted and seared, accompanied by a little nest of angel hair pasta in a pomodoro sauce and grilled vegetables. Being a California barbecue boy, I like anything grilled, and these veggies rocked! I polished off the sole, but Paige barely put a dent in her polenta. I tasted it, and it was awesome, creamy soft polenta smothered by sausage, peppers and tomato sauce. I asked her why she wasn’t eating it, and she said she was saving it for lunch and wanted to leave room for dessert.

The dessert stole the show. I ordered the Florentine Cup ($6), and Paige ordered the tiramisu ($5.50). I guess huge is the theme here because this pair of desserts fits the bill. Now I can see why Paige wasn’t filling up on polenta and sausage. After I tasted Paige’s tiramisu, I concluded that I shouldn’t ever try making this myself—these guys have it mastered. The Florentine Cup was a knockout, too. It was filled with fresh strawberries, ice cream and zabaglione—truly delightful.

As our evening came to a close, I spoke with our server about Louis, the owner and chef, and she told me he was closing the restaurant for two weeks in September for a full kitchen remodel. I’m excited to go back and see what kind of new stuff he’ll be doing then.