From John Taylor to Johnny Pork Roll: New Jersey’s Food

by Mike Ham

As a proud New Jerseyan, I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the unique culinary delights that define our state’s identity. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with John Yarusi, the mastermind behind Johnny’s Pork Roll and Coffee, nestled in the heart of Red Bank. Our conversation wasn’t just about sandwiches; it was a journey through the rich tapestry of Jersey culture and the legacy of pork roll.

Our discussion began with a nod to history as we commemorated the anniversary of John Taylor’s departure from New Jersey in 1906. Taylor’s influence on the state’s culinary landscape is undeniable, and his legacy continues to shape our tastes to this day. Yarusi’s passion for pork roll, coupled with his entrepreneurial spirit, led him to embark on a journey to reignite the love for this iconic Jersey delicacy.

Yarusi shared the humble beginnings of Johnny’s Pork Roll, starting as a food truck aimed at spreading the gospel of pork roll sandwiches far and wide. Despite lacking a formal culinary background, his love for New Jersey and its culinary traditions fueled his ambition. It wasn’t just about making a living; it was about celebrating Jersey culture one sandwich at a time.

The transition from a food truck to a brick-and-mortar shop wasn’t without its challenges, but Yarusi’s determination and unwavering dedication saw him through. He reflected on the camaraderie among food truck owners, highlighting the supportive community that rallied behind him in his pursuit of culinary excellence.

Our conversation delved into the nuances of regional preferences for pork roll sandwiches, from the choice of cheese to the type of bread. Yarusi shared anecdotes from his experience participating in barbecue competitions, where his smoked pork roll egg and cheese sandwich stole the show.

But beyond the culinary delights, Johnny’s Pork Roll represents something deeper—a celebration of community, culture, and connection. Yarusi envisions taking his concept nationwide, sharing the joys of pork roll with people from coast to coast. It’s not just about the sandwich; it’s about the shared experiences and memories that come with it.

As I bid farewell to Yarusi and Johnny’s Pork Roll, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride in our shared Jersey heritage. In a world of fast food and fleeting trends, places like Johnny’s remind us of the enduring power of tradition and the importance of preserving our culinary legacy for generations to come.

About the Author/s

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Mike Ham is the voice behind the popular podcast, "Greetings From the Garden State". Traveling up and down New Jersey, Mike brings his listeners the stories of the people and places shaping the Garden State. Not only is he a Jersey diehard, he is also a respected member of the podcast community and has spoken at several podcasting conferences. As he continues to amplify the voices of New Jersey, Mike Ham remains a passionate advocate for the diverse narratives woven into the fabric of the Garden State.

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