CLOSED: The Original Leonardos
Posted by cmh gourmand on September 1, 2013
Leonardo’s Pizza has a history dating back to the early 1950’s. It was one of the pioneers in a new wave of food in Columbus. If you read the comments on my older post on Columbus Pizza History, you will find many comments about memories of the several Leonardo’s locations over the years. The last shop closed their shutters in the late 1980’s.
Patrick and Anna Rose Orecchio started their first shop on Northwest Blvd. back in 1953 and grew a large family business with all of the kids working in front and back of the house. The empire grew to several locations by the early 1980s in various parts of town. Pizza gets in the blood and can often not be removed. This past month, Drew Orecchio (son of the founder) and his wife Laurie reopened Leonardo’s in a recently vacated Sparanos Pizza location on Hague Ave. Having read about the excitement of the grand opening in my blog comments I had to check the place out. The spot on Hague Ave. has a lot of history as well….but that is for some other time.
I suppose I was in a bit of a rush to try out this new version of a Columbus pizza legend. I left my wallet at home. No problem, after chatting with Drew and Laurie for a while, they were fine with me calling a friend to get a credit card number over the phone to pay for my order. By the time we were done, they would have gladly given it to me for free or taught me how to make my own – but I was insistent about not being a mooch. Drew spoke about his family’s history in the pizza business for a long time. He shared that his dad Pat worked 13 years without a vacation as he grew the business to other locations and mentored others in the business. Drew is clearly proud of Orecchio family history in the local pizza trade and has been overjoyed by the many former fans who have traveled to the west side for a taste of their past.
I did not have a chance to sample Leonardo’s when the original locations were open, but I did try the 21st century version of the pie. It won on all marks for me. Ample amounts of rich, slow cooked and herbed sauce, a crunchy and crackery crust edge but not thin wimpy dough crest in the in the middle of the pie. The cheese was dense with a few scorch marks in the right places. The version I tried, featured pepperoni which had just the right amount of curl and crisp. Some might call in a Columbus style pie, I say it is far better than the average for that genre of pizza.
I enjoyed the pizza and would gladly go back again. What I enjoyed even more was the conversation with Drew. He so passionate about his pizza, his business and his family he would have easily spoken with me for an hour at the end of a long day of a long week. Both Drew and Laurie have a lot of restaurant and food service experience which they plan to showcase soon when they add a bakery to the pizza shop. Laurie is a baker so I sampled one of her cream puffs and I am happy to report it is the best I have had in Ohio. The cream puff was enormous with fresh tasty and flakey pastry shell packed solid with plenty of vanilla cream. I consumed the second half the next day and it was still as wonderful. The desserts are currently from the Little Pink Pastry Shoppe and I can see their line expanding with Leonardo’s. These are good people making good food they care about. That is rewarding see and consume.
So based on one Pizza and one cream puff, I can say Leonardo’s is worth the trip. Other items include: calzones buffalo chicken cupcakes, pretzel sticks with beer cheese, sandwiches, house made soup in the cold months, pastas and salads. Head out to try any of those items with a pizza and hear a bit of pizza lore if it is slow. And make sure to take your wallet or they might think you are me.
The Original Leonardo’s
1783 N Hague Ave.
Columbus, OH 43204
614 487 0555
Monday to Thursday 10 am to 11 pm
Friday to Saturday 10 am to 11 pm