CMH Gourmand

Culinary Discovery & Misadventures in the Ice Cream Capital of the World (Columbus)

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Archive for the ‘pizza’ Category

The Challenge of Joseppi’s Mega Meat Challenge

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 24, 2014

Once upon a Thursday dreary, while I waddled bloated and weary,
after many a salty and curious volume of meats galore-
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly in my stomach there was a tapping,
As of something gently, rapping, rapping at my digestive system engorged
Tis too much pizza for two men I muttered, tapping on my laptop, I started to deplore
Quoth the Gourmand “Nevermore.”

Setting the Stage


I’ve known about the Mega Meat Challenge for about a year. My last attempt at epic eating was a two-time wash out – the Mighty Monolith at Neighbors Deli defeated me twice. I wanted an opportunity for redemption and was waiting for the right opportunity. The Breakfast Grub Guy joined me on the pizza tour I offer with Columbus Brew Adventures and during course of our adventure we started to talk about doing the Mega Meat Challenge. By the end of the tour we committed to team up together to take on the Mega Meat Pizza. I was excited. In fact so excited, I was already pre planning to defeat it a second time with Brian Thornton, from OH! Chips as my wingman for round two. I was not cocky, but I was confident about this challenge. I regularly eat a 14, 15 or 16 inch pizza with minimal effort. Stories that James told assured me that if I could just eat 45% of the pizza, we would be champs.


The Mega Meat Challenge defined

I met James at the Lincoln Village location of Joseppi’s. We were greeted by the manager Jeff Thompson. He explained that it would take about thirty minutes to prepare our pizza. Jeff shared that on several occasions, he has had people (scoundrels) order the pizza and not show up – considering the time, effort and cash that goes into creating this megalith they now have to make it to order and only after both competitors are in the house.

The pizza is 28 inches in diameter. Unlike other meat lovers pizzas, the ingredients for this pizza are not a scattering of meats but thick layers of Topper pepperoni (made for their Topper pizza – this is the old school, crisp at the edges pepperoni that is harder to find in the pizza biz today), Italian Sausage, ham, ground beef and bacon. It is cut in squares (tavern cut or party cut is the term used in the industry). I counted 8 rows and 58 slices. Jeff was kind enough to bring the pizza out for us to look at periodically as he was putting it together.


The rules are as follows, the two competitors must:

Sit at the round table near the counter
Stay near the table at all times – they can get up to do a lap around the tap, stretch or get more pop from the soda fountain.
They may not go to the bathroom or leave the building
They have 60 minutes to consume the entire pizza (no knocking meat on the ground or under the table)
Buckets are provided in case one or both lose intestinal integrity (no one has used these to date).
Dipping sauces are provided on request to help slide the slices down the hatch
No one was allowed to sit with us at the table or approach near us while we are in competition mode
The challenge can only attempted Monday to Thursday from 4 to 9 pm.

My mindset at this stage? I was confident but it was clear this was going to be a bit of work. In my notebook, I made this note for the blog post “Two men enter, One pizza leaves.” Jeff shared a few other tidbits about this beast of meats. The Lincoln Village location is the only Joseppi’s currently offering this challenge. Interest waxes and wanes, some weeks 2 or 3 groups will try this challenge and some months not one will try. To date, only one team has succeeded. I have included a photo of them below.


Winning the challenge offers more than just a boost to self-esteem. The winners get $100 in cash, $150 in Joseppi’s gift cards, two t-shirts and your photo on the wall. That is well worth an hour of my time. The cost if we lost, $50.00. Jeff was a real gentleman about the challenge. He offered a few tips to help with our attempt to consume to heart clogging pie including the suggestion of having containers and ranch and hot dipping sauce nearby to help change-up the relentless taste of pork in our mouths. Jeff did not have to be nice to us, at $50.00 for the pizza he is not making a profit when he serves this monstrosity. He also let the pizza sit in front of us to cool down so that we could eat it at the temperature we desired. Once it was to our liking, we just needed to let him know so he could start the timer. James and I locked eyes after 5 minutes of cool down and gave Jeff the thumbs up.


While you wait to hear about the outcome, I am going to digress a bit and share some of what I learned about Joseppi’s. Joseppi’s has been around since 1969 and now has several locations in and near Columbus. The family business is well represented by the third generation of Thompson’s and other family members. Jeff started working in the business the summer of his 12th year. It was his 32nd birthday on the day we came in for the challenge (November 20th). He has cousins and uncles working at many of the locations and is best friend (since he was eight, is the manager for another of the locations). Jeff really committed to the family business after his grandparents (the founders) died in a motorcycle accident, the family as a whole wanted to honor their legacy while making a living. The pizza business has been slow for several years and has just started to bounce back in the past year, so the family really relied on regular customers during the lean times (two were dining near us as they have almost every Thursday for a decade). The shop makes heart-shaped pizzas for Valentines Day and made breast cancer ribbon pizzas for some special customers. If you want to see the 30 inch pizza without committing to eat all of it, you can often see it served during the lunch buffet they offer during the week. I was really impressed by Joseppi’s and the background Jeff shared with me.



The Meat of the Matter
When James and I began, we started with gusto. I opted to use the corn on the cob approach, pick a row and work my way down right to left. He aimed for a military approach by making a hard drive to the center. We were both happy that the pizza tasted really good. We both observed that it really was a MEGA meat pizza. We started consumption at 7:58 PM. After the first slice the table got really quiet and the atmosphere subdued. I became very focused on my prey, zeroing in on each piece with all of my attention. After the 3rd piece, I decided I needed to make sure I chewed each piece 100 times to ensure I had the room I needed for sweet victory. After the fifth piece, I started to falter in my plan. Originally, I was going to limit my pop consumption to one glass with small sips spaced out at long intervals so as to not overfill with carbonation. But my rate of pizza consumption was slowing as my need for fluids was increasing. At 8:24 PM. I communicated with James for the first time in 20 minutes. He was in the zone as well so I may have startled him. I just said, “I’m getting up.” I rose to do a lap around the table, fill my glass with more Coke and then a returned to my seat. I wrote the following in my notebook: “salt+bacon = salt lick”. At 8:27 PM we had some awkward side talk while I took the photo below.


I started my next piece and 1/2 way into it I knew I was not going to eat my 45% of the pizza as planned. At the end of that piece, I thought that I would have to throw in the towel. At the end of the thought I glanced at James and could tell by his body language and demeanor that he too was struggling with his will to go on.

After a brief, dejected, conference, we opted to capitulate at 8:38 pm. Shortly after Jeff’s sister (who also works there) came in to the shop, walked by and gave us a look of pity that was painful to behold. She and all present thought we had what it takes to win the Mega Meat Challenge but as you can see from the next photo…..we were not even close. (We only ate two more pieces). #agonyofdefeat


Reflection, Remorse, Reconstruction and Deconstruction

I don’t like to lose. Like anything in life, if I can’t obtain my goal I obsessively reconstruct the events to determine where I went astray with the intensity of the investigators of the JFK assassination. My first observation and deduction was at the end when I was (shamefully) boxing up our leftovers. Each box had 8 to 10 slices in it. Using a style of pizza dead reckoning, I determined that each of the four boxes weighed 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. Next, I cut one of the pieces in half for a side profile. Take a look below. That is a THICK slice of pizza with a layer of each of the meats. Doing some quick and imprecise math, I estimated this pizza to be about 10 to 12 pounds of meat and dough. In my best food challenge performance to date I consumed 3 pounds of food. Sadly, I think that the Mega Meat Challenge was never meant to be for me. Oddly, I think I could do the challenge if it was cheese only.


The score: Mega Meat Challenge 1, Gourmand 0

Post Script
The pizza was really good as a cold meal the next day. CMH Tobias was pleased to eat any morsels offered to him. I think if it had been served cold, with the meat and cheese chilled and condensed, I might have consumed more than I did the fateful night but I would have still missed the mark. If you try this – and I think you should, use this tale as an inspiration and to guide your training, but don’t ask me to join you, I might have flashbacks. You can read The Breakfast Grub Guy’s tale of this trial -> HERE.

Joseppi’s Pizza
Lincoln Village location
4764 W Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43228
Tel: (614) 878-7291

Joseppi's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in culinary misadventure, events, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Back to the Basics: Villa Nova

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 1, 2014

Oddly, I’ve never written much about Villa Nova. I checked the Gourmand archives and found this post about “Big Beers” in their bar back in 2006. And a brief mention, while I was exploring the pizza options of Clintonville. For a restaurant that could best be described as a powerhouse of North Columbus that is a major oversight on my part.

For many years, Villa Nova was one of few restaurant options between Clintonville and Worthington. Frank and Donna Colleli started the place in 1978, converting a bar into a restaurant with a bar. As you can see from my linked post above – the bar business never suffered. The family had also operated Franco’s Pizza just down the street (another area icon). The place quickly became a cash cow so Frank sold the business and moved to Florida in 1986. His son John, convinced his Frank come home and buy back the restaurant in 1998. The restaurant has never looked back since then. It is still a family affair with three generations working in the front or back of the house everyday. As for popularity, you can see the parking lot full of cars seven days a week. In fact, the original lot was so full, Villa Nova eventually bought the lot and building next door (Just Pies) and turned it into a large lot just for the overflow traffic.

The formula is, and has always been simple. Offer Italian American Fare that is quick to serve and at a low to medium price point with no surprises. The food is basic, filling and comforting in large portions. Proximity to a large residential neighborhood and a retirement community don’t hurt business either. Of note, should you drop in is the extensive collection of pressure gauges and brass kettles numbering in the 100’s. One of the things that keeps people coming back are the daily specials. One special, which I believe has been a Sunday mainstay for 20 plus years. This was once a 1-4 times a month ritual for me. The only thing that has changed is a very slight change in price the meal is now $10.95 instead of the $8.95 of the early aughts.

I’ll walk you through the Sunday Spaghetti Special.

The special includes: your choice of soup either Italian Wedding or the soup of the day, a basket of bread sticks and a salad with your choice of dressing (I’d suggest the house Italian).


Then you receive a plate of spaghetti with one meatball and one Italian sausage served with plenty of thick, rich sauce on long, thick noodles.


And then your meal is topped off with a cup of Spumoni ice cream.


Villa Nova Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Flat Top Pizza Company: New to the Streets

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 20, 2014


Cuisine: Pizza, Ice Cream, Soda and Seasonal specials


We begin with a bit of Columbus Mobile Food culture. You may have heard of Mikey’s Late Night Slice, a guy named Mike started the first mobile pizza empire in the city. Then you may have heard of Pizza Mike, Mike Evans owned the first restaurant (pizzeria) in Westerville to serve booze in the dry city. Then his pizzeria burned down. Mike was on the Great Food Race and used that experience to start a food truck last year. And then there is Mike and Other Mike. In 2012 a couple of lads working on a food cart decided they needed to do something different to stand out from the cart crowd, so they started doing a grilled cheese style pizza on a cart. The concept worked but they found a cart limiting so they started working on a truck. It took a lot longer to build out the truck than expected so Mike opted for full-time employment while Other Mike continued plugging, painting and paying away on the Pizza Truck. Other Mike is owner/operator/dough slinger Mike Cyan. The lesson of this paragraph – if your name is Mike you are probably running a pizza truck. The name of the truck is an homage to how the pizza is crafted, on a flat top grill.

Flat Top pizza is much more than pizza. The menu also includes truck made ice cream and craft soda. Future menu items may include pepperoni rolls, cinnamon rolls and soups.

The pizzas start with homemade dough and high grade ingredients. The sauces and pesto are made from scratch.


The ice cream is made in small batches and served in scoops or floats.



The soda pops are hand crafted as well with a mix of traditional with not so traditional flavors. Mike makes special syrups and flavorings for each pop, which are mixed to order.



As for the name, Flat Top Pizza is made on a grill not in a pizza oven. The end result still combines pizza with a little grilled cheese char.

We like the look of the truck as well (as do many of the other food truck owners in town). Mike spent a long time crafting his truck, doing almost all of the work on his own. There is a cool retro look to the Flat Top (a Grumman truck, older than Mike is) with wood doors integrated into the design. Adding to the retro, pizza to go is served in paper bags (the way pizza was served back in the 1940’s and 1950’s). Flat Top officially launched in May 2014 so keep an eye out for truck as it starts to build a following at the usual spots. The easiest place to find Flat Top in action will be at Zauber Brewing Company, check with the truck and the brewery for schedule information.



Posted in gelato, ice cream, Locally Sourced, Mobile Food, pizza | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Tyler’s Pizzeria and Bakery

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 29, 2014


I’m not sure when I first heard of Tyler’s. It was brought back to my attention when my esteemed colleague at Columbus Food Adventures shot me an e-mail that highlighted the wood-fired aspect of the business. I then put Tyler’s on my very long and never completed to scout list. A month later, after dropping off some friends at the airport I found that I had time to kill and was much closer to Reynoldsburg than I ever get so that was the day.

Tyler’s is located deep in the heart of Reynoldsburg, in fact, I think it was the first time I been to the burg other than any sections attached to 270. That being the case I was hoping that Tyler’s would be a destination, because otherwise, I knew I would never have any legitimate reason to return.

Tyler’s is located in a nondescript building with simple signage. It could have easily been Tyler’s Barber Shop or Tyler’s Comics if one was driving by and did not know to look for it. I parked then spent a few minutes to search the web on my phone to see if I could find any suggestions on what to order. (At this point you are thinking….order a pizza idiot) but I do have an obligation to be thorough so I wanted some guidance, even from Yelp. I found very little on the place. Also, I must admit, when I see the term wood-fired I initially get very excited then quickly recall the many wood-fired disappointments I have experienced to date. Wood-fired often means wood flavored or wood smelling or would have wished I had gone elsewhere. I did not want to be disappointed but I was ready for it.

Walking in, the inside looked much like the outside – simple and plain. There was a sample board from which the sole employee cut off some items for me to try. There were all good. Then, I spied a Pepperoni Roll. I knew I would get one of those haven just spoken to Gary Seman at This Week about the subject a few days before. I saw many things that I wanted so I take home with me so I started with my initial order and then when I was given the price…which seemed like a steal, I added several more items to my bag of goodies.

So you are asking yourself, dude, where’s the pizza? Well in seems that Tyler was not in when I was there. The young lady at the counter has worked for him for two years and has learned a lot about baking but she was still learning the art of making pizzas in the oven so she suggested that I hold out until I could have one made by Tyler. I am sure that his apprentice could have made a fine pie but I respected that she wanted me to try one from the master so I opted to get some more bakery items instead.

This was my final stockpile of goods: butterscotch chip scone, chocolate croissant, blueberry muffin, pepperoni roll, Cornish pastry and a cookie bar. Verdict each one would finish best in show or close to it in their respective categories. A few highlights from above. The croissant was light, flakey and perfectly balanced in the proportion of chocolate to croissant. Cornish pastry, who in the heck makes these in Ohio? If you have never had one, go here to fix that little problem of yours. Mine had exceptionally buttery and flakey crust with a fine mix of spiced and seasoned meat and vegetables inside. As Jimmy Fallon might say…So Good, So Good.


And let me back track to the pepperoni roll. While Omega Bakery is still my favorite place to get this West Virginia staple, Tyler’s comes a close second. One bonus on the roll I tried was a strip of charred cheese about the length of a dollar bill and the thickness of my little finger attached to the bottom and never removed after it came from the oven.

Based on the baked goods, I have no doubt that the wood-fired pizzas will not disappoint me when I do get back to try them. One more thing gave me hope. Having gained the confidence of the apprentice I was allowed to get a close up look of the wood fired oven. Take a look. Doesn’t that give you hope and a warm feeling inside?


Tyler's Pizzeria & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Posted in bakery, desserts, pizza | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant – Revisited

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 31, 2013


It has been over six years since I wrote about Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant. However, It has not been 6 years since I have eaten there or even six weeks. I am also happy to report that not much has changed in six years, and that is a very good thing.

Many people do not know that Columbus Brewing Company and CBC Restaurant have different owners. Eric Bean has been brewer and owner of the Brewery for quite some time now. While the two business share a roof and a name, they are very different entities. The restaurant continues to feature and serve Columbus Brewing Company brews as well as to make the beers active ingredients in some recipes. As the Brewery has continued to expand as a business, the restaurants CBC offerings have contracted a bit. If you are a fan of CBC’s Bohdi (Double IPA) the restaurant is still one of the best places to find this award-winning beer but they also run out fairly frequently. However, there is no need to fear, the restaurant does a fine job of sourcing guest beers into their line-up with a strong focus on local breweries such as Actual Brewing Company.

As for food, Brian Cook is still in the kitchen which is good news for me and some of my favorite dishes. I think CBC Restaurant has some of the best nachos in town and if you are dining with mixed company (vegetarians and carnivores) they do a fine job of deconstructing their nachos to meet everyone’s tastes when needed. The Cuban Burrito with a mix of meats, chips and plantains remains nearly the same as the version I raved about years ago. Another favorite of mine is the beer cheese soup which is typically available in the evening is a perfect starter for a fall or evening meal. Desserts are top notch as well (insider tip: sign up for the restaurant e-mail list for a free dessert of your choice with your next meal). Another dish worth mentioning is the Bye Bye Miss American Pie: a wood-fired pizza with house-made fennel sausage, banana peppers rings, pepperoni and smoked provolone cheese.


The restaurant recently expanded hours to include Sunday Brunch so there are plenty of opportunities to see the depth of the menu the kitchen can push out. I’m happy to report that six years later that this place has retained everything that made it a great dining spot and if anything, has upped their game.

A final side note, I am slightly addicted to the house smoked chipotle sauce found on the nachos and the burrito. The restaurant partners with CaJohn’s to bottle their sauces so you can take them home with you. So there are two types of bottled products originating under the same roof.


Posted in bar, beer, pizza, restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Iaconos (Kenny Road) Pizza Buffet

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 9, 2013


In my high school days, we were frequent flyers of the Iaconos pizza buffet. If memory serves me, I think it was all we could eat for $6. While, I never forgot about Iaconos, I did forget about the buffet in college and afterwards.

As the years went by the general concept of pizza buffet downgraded significantly – equating with low quality pies and mass-produced mediocrity. Strangely although I love a true value meal I had forgotten about the Iacanos pizza buffet. During my temporary exile from Clintonville, I have required a centrally located base of operations for business meetings, so on a whim, I popped into Iaconos to meet with a client. I had forgotten how much I like Iacono’s and it was a bit of a homecoming as well bringing back memories of good friends and good times.

The pizza buffet is a great value. For $8.75 you get unlimited trips to the salad bar, plenty of pizza, soup and a bottomless fountain drink. I think we all have low expectations for salad bars today. The Iacono’s salad bar does not have any surprises, it is stocked with the basics of what we expect in a Midwestern buffet bar: peas, carrots, cottage cheese, macaroni salad, potato salad, pudding, sunflower seeds, a multitude of dressings including a tasty homemade Italian house dressing, and more things that I have forgotten. And while what I have listed are standards, we often don’t expect them to be good. The peas are fresh and still have a pop to them. The carrots are freshly cut. The potato salad tastes good. The soup choices change daily. There are typically two pizzas available throughout the afternoon.

On my visits I have always observed staff asking arriving guests what their pizza preferences are and adding those requests to the pizzas coming out next. Shawn, the afternoon manager, greets guests and makes an effort to get to know repeat customers by name. And the pizza is as good as I remember it. Iacono’s pizza making history dates back to 1953. The Iacano family was among the founding pioneers of Columbus pizza. The crust has a nice “crackery” crunch and the sauce to cheese ratio is finely balanced. I always have a little lower expectation for buffet pizzas but what I have sampled to date has been on par with any dine in or carry out pizza.

Other things I have discovered about Iaconos since I found my way back to being a regular customer almost everything is made in-house from scratch – the dough, the sauce, meatballs, sausage, lasagna, most of the dressings and so on. The cheese is hand grated. It is the little things that add up to a big difference.

If you have low expectations of a pizza buffet – prepare to raise them with a trip to Iacanos. The buffet is offered weekly Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm.

Iacono's on Urbanspoon

Posted in Columbus, Columbus style pizza, pizza | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

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

Closed Sundays
Monday to Thursday 10 am to 11 pm
Friday to Saturday 10 am to 11 pm

The Original Leonardo's on Urbanspoon

Posted in desserts, pizza | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »


Posted by cmh gourmand on June 23, 2013

To begin, insert sarcastic, obscure cultural reference below in the form of a satirical song:

Grove City is the place for me.
Suburban Sprawl is the lifestyle for me.
Strip Malls spread out so far and wide
Keep Columbus, just give me that Grovetucky corporate chain pride

(Sung to the tune of Green Acres)


I have made some effort to discover the great hidden gems of Grove City. I have largely failed. However as a general statement, downtown Grove City and “old town” has some character. What happened to the rest of Grove City is nothing that has not happened in every suburban subdivision and population center in the country – massive growth fueled by strip malls and corporate chain restaurants that could be ripped from one part of the country and placed anywhere else with no one knowing the difference. My search for a spot of note has been often futile, sometimes comical and always enlightening. That is, until I tried Tristanos.

Tristano’s is an unlikely restaurant in an unlikely place. Located the distance of a line drive from downtown Grove City, on a residential street that looks to be from the early 1900’s, you will spy a large, greenish house at the corner of Columbus Street and Arbutus Ave. that has seen some better days. On closer look, the house has several picnic tables and high top tables on the porch/patio and just a trace of a neon sign. There is a wooden sign that looks like it has been there decades (but can’t have been there prior to 2006) posted in the yard listing the place as Tristano’s. Hmm, places that look like a dive are often the diamonds in the rough I dream of. Walking through the door, I had a good feeling that my quest for more than mediocre was about to end.


The old home that houses Tristano’s is a little worn around the edges. If you take out the family feel of the local awards on the walls, the place looks a lot like a college frat / flop house. The bar / host / servers station / command headquarters is made out of plywood and is framed by an unused hearth. Don’t let this dissuade your from continuing. It my case this only encouraged me, places like this don’t worry too much about the aesthetics so they can focus on the food. The pizza styles here as well as some of the sandwiches have a Chicago influence. The inside tables are simple with indestructible checkered nylon/plastic table coverings and generic chairs. A corner nook offers a few board games and children’s books for entertainment. For the adult clientage, there is a small selection of craft beers including a Tristano’s Lager I believe is made by Elevator Brewing. A small selection of wines are showcased in what may have been a living room long ago (right next to the parlor side room converted to a prep kitchen). Yes – all of these were good signs. The sights and smells in my first five minutes through the door only confirmed my gut that this place had what I was looking for – great food.

kitchen prep

Many of you have not been properly schooled in Chicago Style Pizza(s) ((there are two distinct styles)) nor have you had the opportunity to manhandle a true Italian Beef Sandwich. I have. I am confident that any Chicago native would give a nod of approval to any of the Chicago styled foods streaming out of Tristano’s kitchen. Because I care about you, my readers, on my first trip I ordered a deep dish pizza, a regular thin crust pizza and an Italian Beef sandwich. All were good. All were authentic. As a person who once ate 13 Italian Beef sandwiches in one day throughout Chicago, I can state with assurance that the Tristano’s interpretation would hold its own against top five I faced down in the Windy City.

italian beef

There are three critical elements that are needed to create a proper Italian Beef. Bread, meat and au jus. I am not sure where Tristano’s sourced their bun, but they chose well, it has the density needed to hold the beef and au jus in instead of giving way to the table. The outer crust is crunchy, the inside is a bit chewy. The beef has been slow cooked for an extended time in au jus with the slices of beef piled on generously. The au jus is seasoned with plenty of garlic and other spices. A well sourced, spicy giardiniera is served on the side.

Now on to the thin crust version. This is not some lame ass, paper-thin Columbus style pizza, this crust is thick enough to support the weight of the toppings, the cheese and the sauce. The crust turns up toward the sky and thickens at the end to provide an ample handle for slice eating as well as a nice crunch and snap for the final bite. The specialty pizza I ordered needed to have stout crust, The Screamin’ Tristano includes: Roast Beef, Capicola, Sausage, Meatballs, Crushed Red Pepper, Jalapeno and Giardiniero Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes and Romano Cheese. I skipped the onions and tomatoes…which was a good move because I don’t know where they would have fit. This is an exceptional pizza especially if you need to clean out your sinuses. The sausage and meatballs are made in-house. The sausage is a bit spicy but in the way that pleased my palate very much. All of these flavors worked well together, so well that my additional investigation of the menu has been slowed by my need to always get one of these pizzas when I return for a meal. My only suggestion to the kitchen for the thin crust versions I have tried is to add a bit more sauce and add just a bit more garlic and oregano to the base.

deep dish pizza

I ordered the small deep dish pizza. I was skeptical about this one because usually a circumference less than 14 inches on a deep dish pizza does not bode well. I look forward to trying the larger versions of the pie because I am happy to report that Tristano’s deep dish easily places in the triumvirate of Chicago style pizza in Columbus (with Meister’s and Wholly Joe’s). The Tristano’s deep dish has a thick, braided crust at the ends. The inside is compressed with thick layers of cheese, five to six layers of pepperoni, a sauce with thick, tomato-filled chunks and a dough that is as chewy as the thin crust is crunchy. The cheese is the most cheese filled version of any Chicago style pizza I have tried anywhere. I have no complaints about the cheese but as with the thin crust pizza I would have liked a little more sauce with a little more kick to it. If I have to choose between the thin and deep dish pies, I would lean towards the thin but would be happy with either. I suggest you eat the thin crust on site because it loses a bit of flavor and resilience with the passage of time. I gave both the next day, cold pizza test and both passed my rigorous review.

deep dish porn

One note of caution: I have read some reviews whining that the pepperoni is too spicy. This was also a minor concern/observation of the designated diner. I liked it quite a bit, but you may want to consider if you want to risk the spice factor for your first pie experience. Another note of caution, Tristano’s serves desserts and they look really good, but so far I have only had room to split a part of a cannoli with my party. Tristano’s is not the only restaurant in Grove City but I can say, that is the only one I will willing make an effort to go to.


Tristano's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Posted in pizza, restaurants, Sub Dude | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Quickbyte: Be it Pi or Meister’s Bar, this Pizza is Pleasing

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 30, 2013

pizza pizza

Pizza has been on my mind for a couple of decades now but deeply calling to my senses for the last year. I have thought long on this. My favorite pizza is……Adriaticos. I can say there may be others that are the result of better ingredients, finer craftmanship or better pedigree, but Adriatico’s is the pizza that I crave. Pizza is the penultimate comfort food and to me that means that factoring out all other elements – a serving will deliver unto you….peace of mind and satisfy your desire without compromise.

There are several other pizzas I place highly as well: Bono, Rossi, Harvest, Hounddogs…..but the pie pictured above has been tempting me to name it as my alternate favorite comfort food pizza. The place, is under the radar. It might even be off the grid. Buried in the back of a bar, that is tucked into a corner of town that does not really have an identity there is a small kitchen the size of tool shed that crafts pizza that is unlike any other in Columbus.

Some may refer to the pizza as Chicago Style…. In the spirit of Windy City Pie – I say Aye. To the letter of the definition and practice of the style I would say….closer to nay. We could debate this to the end of time but I would choose not to because it would limit my time to eat this pizza.

I have been stalking this place for almost year and have yet to experience anything that would lead me to find fault with this creation. It is both simple and complex at the same time. It pleases the eye and the palette. The aroma is alluring. Options include pizza, deep dish pizza, cheese breads and subs. Simple menu, complex flavors. I have sampled the deep dish most often. The addictive qualities it triggers in me should be monitored by food scientists and people more learned than I. If there is a pizza Rehab I won’t go, go, go.


The deep dish approach works in reverse order to the typical laying of pizza. Bread – followed by cheese, then toppings, then sauce. Lots of sauce – usually a half-inch or so. This sweet and spicy tomato mash is infused with strong dumpings, not dashes, of herbs and spices. The crust end, or butt, or ring, whatever you might call it is crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and about three inches high. The crust at the base is shy of an inch. I struggle to complete three slices. I said…I STRUGGLE TO COMPLETE THREE SLICES. Has anyone ever seen me fail to consume pizza with reckless abandon? Never. This is not such a bad thing, because the great hidden quality of this pie is that it ages well. Three hours from serving, it is even better. The next day, even better than that. The cheese and sauce solidify and the crust holds it’s own against the metamorphosis. Any good pie, in my eyes, should be good the next day. This pizza is better. That is a rare.

If I was to engage in optimal strategy I would order two pizzas and a small side of extra sauce. I would choose one pizza for instant gratification. I would eat a slice or two at Meister’s Bar while it cooled. Then I would drive them home, to eat a slice or two more in the comfort and safety of my home. I might share some with my trusted inner circle or like Gollum, I might guard my precious pie, watching for someone who might……. (sorry, a bit of a decompensation there). I would dip some of the crust rings in the extra sauce until I passed out. The next morning, I would consume what was left with renewed vigor.

The advantage of day two is that the pizza had congealed so that is can be eaten by the slice by hand instead of having to cut it with fork and knife while it is still hot. Gratification is instant instead of delayed by civilized use of dining utensils.

Where can you find my this precious….pizza pie? It is located at a place that some call Pi, in the back of Meister’s Bar. The bar is a suitable place for dining, if it comes to that. The beer selection is good and the patrons are quite accustomed to people staring longingly at their pizzas.

Meister’s Bar
1168 Chambers Rd
(Near Kenny Road, Near the 5XNW, Near Bono Pizza, Near Sparano’s Pizza, Near perfect)

Meister's Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, pizza | 2 Comments »

Points for Pies & Pints

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 29, 2012

There is no shortage of pizza joints here in the capital city. Long ago, I read a report which indicated there were more pizza restaurants per capita in Columbus than any city in the nation. Go Figure. I have never heard anyone in Columbus say “Dude, we have way too many great pizza places.”

We also have a fair number of places that pair pizza pies with beer – Mellow Mushroom, Yellow Brick Pizza and Dewey’s are three places that come to mind in less than .05 seconds. I have never heard anyone say “Dude, we have way too many great places that serve beer and pizza.” Our craft beer culture is growing in Columbus and true beer nerds will tell you that we only have a select number of places that really do well in their scrutiny of beer selection. Places that come in mind in over 5 seconds are……Bodega.

So considering the above, when word started to circulate that Columbus was getting a place called Pies and Pints the initial thought of most was……”meh”. I thought otherwise. As a person that tracks food service trends the way other track stocks or OSU Football stats, I have been watching Pies and Pints for several years. Another critical factor was that one Michael Beaumont, a well-known stalwart of the Columbus Food Hipster scene as well as the producer of Foodcast has frequently mentioned Pies and Pints as a highlight of his trips to Charleston, West Virginia.

I was not the only one watching Pies and Pints, Rob Lindeman a former CEO of Max & Erma’s had his roving eyes on the business as well and put a team together to buy and expand the brand. And where do people test market and launch a new chain…….Columbus, of course. As goes Columbus, so go the nation. Pies and Pints opened in 2003. There are two locations in West Virginia (Fayetteville and Charleston). Founders David Bailey and Kimberly Shingledecker are still part of the ownership group and continue to operate the Fayetteville location.

Pies and Pints received a lot of local press in the last two months and rightly so. The company has done a good job of promoting the opening of their third location which is the first in Ohio and part of a multiple unit expansion for Columbus and the region. The Columbus Pies and Pints opened at Worthington Place (known by us old timers as Worthington Square Mall) in early November. The restaurant is an important anchor for a mall that is trying to relaunch and regain its glory days of the 1980s when it was a thriving retail destination. Pies and Pints will definitely draw more people to the area.

I was invited to a sneak peek a few weeks ago and I had an opportunity to sample several of the signature dishes of the restaurant. So let’s begin with the pies. They are good. They are good enough to get the attention of the Food Network. If you feel the Food Network ignores the capital city, then think about the chances of little ol’ Charleston grabbing the attention of a coastally focused trend starting network (this is my blog and I can make up words if I choose). The main accolade attracting pizza is the Grape Pie (featuring red grapes, gorgonzola cheese and fresh rosemary). Grapes? Yes, while this caused hesitation with anyone I mentioned this too, the flavors work together. More mentally accessible is the Cuban Pork Pie (known to a few as the Swint Slayer): Marinated pulled pork, caramelized onions, pineapple, jalapenos, feta, cilantro and crème fraiche. I think the description is enough to establish that the pizza is worth trying.

Meandering back to the start of this culinary exposition, another new pizza place, even one of the seemingly rare, better than average purveyors, really is not much to get really excited about. So let us now segue to the second part of the restaurant name and a true reason to get excited…..Pints.

Pictured below (poorly but proudly) is Pies and Pints secret weapon.

The man above is Mr. Ryan Heasting also known as the Pies and Pints Beer Czar. He also sports a fancy title: Certified Cicerone. What is a Cicerone? It is a trained beer guide. Ryan takes his beer seriously. He is shuttling between the three Pies and Pints locations training staff, selecting beers and setting the bar very high for the bar and the staff behind it. Every server is required to take Cicerone training and must attend a monthly tasting and training session. The initial beer selections were impressive even though Ryan is just getting started. According to the Dining Duder – “this beer list is really good”. The Dining duder is not one to show great emotion but irrational exuberance was displayed while the beers were discussed with Ryan elaborating on how he was going the grow the beer menu at Pies and Pints, why it was important to do so and how he was going to do it. We liked Ryan, we think he is cool. The beer list will continue change and for those that are interested in exploring the world of beer, especially regional craft brews, this is the place to go. (Note to Ryan: You were supposed to e-mail me about connecting you with some Southern Ohio Brewers).

The Final Verdict: Pizza Good. Beer Selection, very good, soon to be great. Much, much better than “meh”. The tag line for the restaurant is “Get Some”. I would say….get some. Welcome to Columbus Pies and Pints.

Pies & Pints
7227 North High Street

Pies and Pints on Urbanspoon

Posted in beer, pizza | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »


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