When Papa Johns announced it was opening a location next door to the iconic Johnny’s Pizzeria back in August 2017, many in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood were incensed. None more so than Johnny’s co-owner, John Miniaci Jr.

Sunset Park was a bastion of locally owned businesses—and many residents wanted to keep it that way. Miniaci even circulated a petition to dissuade the Papa Johns HQ from going through with the plan. “This is a neighborhood that has had businesses in the same family for two and three generations,” Miniaci told the New York Times that summer. “These big corporations come in and don’t see the value of that.”

At least 2,200 locals signed Miniaci’s petition. But you can’t fight city hall—or, it seems, a national chain’s corporate office. That Papa Johns store sits today at 5804 5th Avenue, right beside Johnny’s Pizzeria at 5806. Still, it never diminished the Miniaci family’s pizza-making legend.

Related: L&B Spumoni Gardens: From horse-drawn wagon to Brooklyn icon 

Even so, Johnny’s, which opened in 1968 and weathered countless recessions as well as a pandemic, will dish out its last Sicilian slice tonight. “It had to come to an end after 56 years,” Miniaci said in an Instagram reel posted on Tuesday, January 23, one night before Johnny’s final farewell. He then stepped outside and turned the smartphone camera on a long line of customers that, despite the cold, cloudy weather, stretched well past the pizzeria’s entrance. The crowd cheered at the sight of him.

This photo shows the exterior sign of Johnny's Pizzeria.

(Johnny’s Pizzeria / Instagram)

But make no mistake: Miniaci and his partners are closing Johnny’s on their own terms, not because of stiff competition from one of the country’s top pizza chains. They’re just ready to retire.

“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,” a note on the pizzeria’s website states. “Therefore, our last day of business serving you all will be on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.”

Ba-da-boomp-boomp-boomp. Another one bites the dust. Brooklyn, it seems, keeps losing its most famous pizza shops. But the problem isn’t necessarily a lack of customers. The owners are simply aging out of the business.

They’re just plain worn out. As much as you might love it, let’s face the facts: The pizza biz will do that to you.

This photo shows John Travolta, wearing his iconic suit from Saturday Night Fever, getting a slice at Lenny's Pizzeria.

John Travolta returned to Lenny’s Pizzeria in 2018. (Lenny’s Pizzeria / Instagram)

Lenny’s Pizzeria, which opened in 1953 and was famously featured in Saturday Night Fever, closed in February 2023. Lenny’s owners, Frank Giordano and his daughter, Josephine Giordano, were ready to move on after running their shop for decades. Frank retired at 77, and Josephine has since moved to Florida. But, she told PMQ at the time, “It’s not over for me. I just need more time with my family and less time working.”

Shortly after Lenny’s closed its doors, John Esposito, owner of Sal’s Pizzeria, called it quits, too. “It’s just [my] age,” Esposito told News12 in February 2023. “I’ve been here since I was a kid, and I just want to do something a little different with my life than make pizzas until the very end.”

As for Johnny’s Pizzeria, Miniaci’s mom and dad, Lilia and John Miniaci Sr., founded the pizza shop in 1967 and later turned it over to their children, John Jr. and Maria Coluccio. “And look at it now—56 years later and running,” Miniaci Jr. told Fox5 in New York. “It’s great. I have no words. Unbelievable.”

Related: Why this college-town pizzeria closed after less than a year

Miniaci, Maria and her husband, Rocco Coluccio, grappled with the decision to close shop. Ultimately, Miniaci wanted to reset his priorities. “My kids are young,” he said in the Fox5 interview. “I wanna spend time with them. My family wants to spend time with everyone, and we’re gonna have a great time.”

Rocco sounded a similar note. He said he suffered a mini-stroke a couple of months back and “decided I needed a break. [We’re going to] spend time with children and with family. It was very hard to decide.”

Fortunately, some of Brooklyn’s classic pizza joints just keep going and going. L&B Spumoni Gardens and Luigi’s Pizza are just two stellar examples. If anything, Luigi’s reputation has only grown with the social media generation, thanks to owner Gio Lanza—the son of founder Luigi Lanza—and his frequently hilarious Instagram reels. Di Fara thrives on even after the death of its beloved founder, Dom DeMarco. And despite shutting down after a fire in 2009, again in 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy and yet again during the pandemic, Totonno’s, one of the country’s oldest pizzerias—it opened in 1923—doesn’t appear to be going anywhere either.

Meanwhile, Brooklynites were already mourning Johnny’s exit before it had even closed. Sam Sierra, for example, told Fox5 that he’d been eating at Johnny’s since it first opened. “When you lose places like this, you don’t really get them back,” he noted.

True enough, but if a giant like Papa Johns couldn’t take down a little family-run shop like Johnny’s, that suggests Brooklynites still want handcrafted pizza made with love and passion. And, hopefully, the borough’s newer pizza shops—like Lucali, Speedy Romeo, L’Industrie and Roberta’s—have at least half a century to go.