Michael Fagundes hand-tosses a pizza at Johnny’s Real New York Pizza in Corona del Mar on Wednesday. The pizzeria is having its grand opening this weekend. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / August 17, 2011)

Forgive the rhyme, but big-city tap water is the secret to a pizza pie capable of making a full-grown New Yorker cry, says the co-owner of Johnny's Real New York Pizza in Corona del Mar.

John Younesi, a Queens native who moved to Newport in 2000, and his business partner Jan Yoss opened the pizzeria at 2756 E. Coast Hwy. in July.

They promptly sold out of pies the first few days.

Featuring a high-tech filtration system to emulate the soft-water properties of real New York City tap water — the "critical ingredient to real New York pizza" — the 900-square-foot pizzeria has seen a constant flow of customers chowing down on its 12- and 20-inch thin-crust pies.

The filtered water — combined with protein-rich dough and New York-style ovens — is what gives the slices that "New York City crunch," Younesi said.

Free slices, other treats and prizes will be given out from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for Johnny's official grand-opening party.

The pizza parlor is not the first joint venture of Younesi and Yoss. The duo also work together as civil litigation lawyers at Younesi & Yoss, which has offices in Newport and Los Angeles, and own the Stella's Serious Italian restaurant in Dana Point.

However, unlike Stella's fine-dining style, Johnny's focuses on pizzas and Italian ices. The eatery is even designed in true New York fashion: red, white and green colors in abundance that are reminiscent of Younesi's favorite childhood haunt.

"The idea was to create a comfortable, neighborhood place where people could take a minute and get a little glimpse of what makes them happy," Younesi said.

Just as the parlor reminds him of his own childhood memories spent over pizza slices, Younesi said other native New Yorkers have had similar nostalgic responses to Johnny's hard-to-find, big city-style pies.

"Kids remember where they grew up and that good feeling stays with them," Younesi continued. "True to my belief, I see hundreds of kids come in each week and enjoy a slice."

The parlor employees 25 workers for sit-down dining, takeout, delivery and catering.

Eventually, two or three more of the pizzerias will be opened in Orange and Los Angeles counties, with Newport Beach acting as the flagship location, Yoss said.

Contact: (949) 729-9159

If You Go

What: Grand opening of Johnny's Real New York Pizza

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: 2756 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar