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What are your 12 Eateries and Drinkeries for Covid Christmas?

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 13, 2020

On the first day of Covid, Corona gave to us…. the equivalent of a tactical nuclear strike to our local food and beverage industry.

I can still recall the early days of March vividly – everything became very surreal super-fast. I remember sitting at the bar of Rockmill Tavern talking to the manager about what the future might bring. We had just cancelled our Brewery District Walking tour for the foreseeable future, and called off our guide training for the day.  I was hanging out to pass out historic beer bottles to my team as a thank you for their work the previous year. When I left, and looked out at Front Street and across the Brewery District to an empty neighborhood I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach.  That feeling never left.  At the time, we hoped that things would be better by summer and PPE would keep some places going until then. Well, you know the story from there.

This time of year is typically the bread and butter season for restaurants – holiday parties, family gatherings, corporate gift giving, events, etc. Such is not the case for this December. You have probably heard dire / grim numbers about how many restaurants have closed so far this year, we know at least 100,000 have already closed nationwide. Looking at the end of this year to the first quarter of 2021, reliable data suggests about 30% of existing restaurants will 86 their dreams and shut down. This might be an optimistic estimate, independent local restaurants will see a higher rate than that. Typically January and February are the dead zone of sales. So after a lean year with no icing on the cake in December, the light at the end of the 2021 tunnel is dim until March at the earliest when patio season may return.  Right now our eateries and “drinkeries” are the Tiny Tim of local businesses and need much more than a lump of coal to persist.  

For our local breweries and distilleries – the glass is not looking one half empty or even an eighth full. The better analogy is trying to scrape enough peanut butter out of the bottom of the jar to make a sandwich. These businesses do best when you visit them on site so they can reap the rewards of selling you pints and cocktails directly instead of the cut they get from retail sales at bars and stores. If you are a local beer fan you know our taprooms are now lightly visited, those with patios have lost that option for the winter and for those that package their product there is a looming shortage of aluminum cans for most except the the large players like Budweiser.  Bars like St. James Tavern and Little Rock have shut down until Covid goes away.  A few breweries and taprooms are very likely to make their last call in early 2021. 

If what you have read here so far and elsewhere seems dire, I have bad news for you, it is worse that what you have seen in the media. The bulk of my friends are brewers, distillers, taproom bartenders, restaurant owners, and such. In my day to day interactions with them the situation is greater that what we see on the surface. Salaries have been slashed, rent renegotiated or unpaid, staff laid off, any corner that can be cut, was slashed months ago, bills are piling up, and many are thinking long and hard about their future not knowing what next year brings. For many what the ledgers look like at the end of this month will determine their path forward. These folks are my extended family and I feel like a war time medic without a medical kit. Most are putting on a good face and going day by day however the hope of a last minute PPE or other stimulus funding funneling down the chimney for a last minute save is long gone.  Stimulus tends to go to big business and rarely trickles down to a small business.  In my life-time we have bailed out Savings and Loans, the Auto Industry and Big Banks – all of these businesses made bad decisions in good times and did not have to pay the price for their greed.  Our Mom and Pop businesses were hit hard by a once in a hundred years pandemic that has knocked them to the ground.  They don’t have the lobbying power to get the help they need.  

So what can we do? Money is tight for many of us, so much so that today one on four children in Columbus is not sure where their next meal will come from. We can still do something. If you don’t have the deep pockets to do carry out every day there are still ways to contribute. You can like social media posts and share them with your network. If you forgot to write a glowing review of your favorite spot, now is the time to do it. If you are still stumped for holidays gifts – give the gift of gift certificates. If you have an old gift certificate from a local, independent restaurant consider “losing it” and make not using it a gift to the restaurant when you order without using it. When you can, tip well.  While many have shifted to delivery services for their meals keep in mind that delivery costs more that what you pay in fees, most delivery services charge the restaurant as well, often that fee is most of their profit – they would rather sell you a meal and break even than have you take your business somewhere else and not come back.  So when you can, and where a business does a good job of safe / contactless pick up, – go get your order and get out of the house. 

Small businesses do matter.  I wish I could eloquently pitch to you the gravity of the situation in the style of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life….  it is these small businesses that are taking the hit and (“Mr. Potters of Columbus”) these restaurants and other businesses I’m talking about… “they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community”.  These are the business that support little league teams, that give a starving artist a place to work, that add character to our neighborhoods and tend to buy local from farmers, suppliers and etc. 

For your twelve days of Covid Christmas pick a different restaurant, brewery or distillery to support each of your twelve days in any way you can.  Even sharing this post can help, if you want to share this to twelve people even better. 

If you are stumped in filling in your list of twelve shoot me an e-mail because I have hundreds more suggestions I have not covered here, these are the first twelve that came to my mind in no particular order. 

Barley’s

Was one of the original micro breweries in town. If you are a beer person in Central Ohio you have hoisted a beer at Barleys.  Covid hit Barley’s harder than most.  Their location, directly across from the main entrance of the convention center was a boon since the center opened….but conventions are gone.  Riots scared others away from Downtown.  The brewpub is running on skeleton crew with long time manager Jason cooking, cleaning, hauling out spent grain and much more seven days per week.  The food and beer have always been good.  The business did a great job redoing their space to be socially distant and they do a fine job on curbside pick up.  If none of this calls you to action, them do it for Angelo, dang it!  

Smokehouse Brewing

Lenny Kolada at Smokehouse Brewing had guided the business through over twenty fives years of highs and lows. This year is different.  This year is the flatline on an EKG looking for that first bump up.  His son Alex juggled brewing and kitchen duties for months.  If you want a perspective of life on the frontlines check out the restaurant’s Instagram account Smokeandbrew for a day by day take – as I type. this is Day 275.  The wings are good, the beer is great in person or in a growler and they have a gift card special through the end of December. 

451 Spirits 

Chad at 451 has a very different take on just about everything.  His spirits are unique and carefully crafted. This little gem is hidden behind a United Dairy Farmers, in a former car wash building, in Clintonville and if all that makes sense to you and you have not been to 451, what is your problem? They (Chad) does a great job on curbside pickup.  And just before Thanksgiving Chad broke ( as in really shattered) his right arm requiring a massive surgery….and his is still distilling away.  Buying some of his spirits in the holiday spirit would give him some cheer. 

Rockmill Tavern 

Rockmill Tavern is fighting the good fight in the Brewery District.  In fact, they are about the last food business standing in their section of the neighborhood.  They do a good job with their online ordering system and curbside pick up is easy via Liberty Street. Matt Barbee and the Rockmill team have more than just Covid to contend with. The Brewery District was on an upswing going into 2020 with plenty of new businesses and energy in the area. Covid took the steam of that economic engine.  Rockmill is also in between a rock and a hard place with the road construction and other projects churning around it.  It is worth the effort to order from Rockmill and they have some killer beer to boot. 

Echo Spirits

Timing has frequently been against the gang at Echo Spirits but they aways press on. They opened their bar to the public on December 10th. The bar offers several unique and flavorful cocktails. Like our other local distillers they quickly shifted to making sanitizer when Covid kicked in. They would like you to drop in so they don’t get kicked to the curb. The tagline of Echo Spirits is know your distiller so -> HERE <- you go.

TAT Ristorante

The Corrova family has operated TAT Ristorante since 1929. The location has changed over the decades but not the family that runs it. Jimmy Corrova has been a fixture at the restaurant since he was 8 years old. The restaurant is his pride and joy but due to health problems and protocols he has not been at TAT since March. One good reason to crush the corona virus is to get Jimmy Corrova back in his favorite booth to greet guests when they start to pour through the doors again. In the meantime, they do have distanced dine in service and do a great job on curbside pick up. Their food is very good and their pizza is among my favorite in the city. Let’s help them sustain to 2029 so they can ring in their first century of business with a bang.

Gatto’s Pizza

Gatto’s is not the oldest pizzeria in town, but it is really close. It is the oldest pizza place in the same location run by the same family since 1952. They make their own sausage and they have made some changes for 2020 – Gatto’s takes credit cards, engages in social media and for those outside of Clintonville you can order via Doordash and Grubhub (but please just go pick it up).

Preston’s

A lot of people think Preston’s makes the best burger in town and they are right. However, many more have never tried Preston’s and that needs to change. I love Preston’s but I LOVE the guy that crafted the concept, Mr. Matt Heaggans. I have followed his career since the day he came back to Columbus and I can tell you no one is as obsessed with getting everything “just right” than Matt. This is a tough time to open a new location and the North Market is not as busy as it once was but for the sake of an excellent burger, we need to treat Preston’s like a national treasure so we can keep eating their tasty burgers, chicken sandwiches and even more the special dinners created for pick up that are just now starting to come from Matt’s spell book of recipes.

Columbus Food Adventures Trust Fall Dinners and Gift Baskets

What do you do when your award winning food tour company can’t do (many) tours for the foreseeable future? You pivot as fast as you can to meal delivery with a twist. The company’s Trustfall dinners deliver a hearty meal for two from restaurant the diners have probably never heard of. You place your trust in them that they will select a meal that you will enjoy. In the process, you avoid the mundane rut of eating the same euro-centric food day after day. In the process Columbus Food Adventures has helped support 60+ local businesses by selling food and gaining exposure to new customers. Their themed gift baskets do the same – showcasing the best foods of the city.

Ray Ray’s

Everyone knows Ray Ray’s…..well almost everyone but that was not always the case. No so long ago, in parking lot in Clintonville no one knew Ray Ray’s BBQ. Jamie “Ray Ray” Anderson is not a man of many words but he can let his food do the talking. Jamie is passionate about his craft, so much so that he raises his own hogs. Chef Bill Glover came on board this fall. The two have known each other for about a decade and together they have showcased the best of Columbus to the James Beard crowd. Let’s keep this dynamic duo together by keeping this empire going so we can all have nice things AC (After Covid).

Lavash Cafe

Nasir Latif is no stranger to the restaurant business and in the 1980’s he brought one of the first ethnic restaurants to Columbus. He came back to Columbus to bring us Lavash Cafe in Clintonville. The location does an excellent job with curbside pick up. Even more importantly the menu is authentic, the quality is exceptional and price is reasonable. Lavash is a type of bread common to the MiddleEastern region of the world and the lavash and pita breads mades in house are worth a trip on their own.

Hounddogs (Pizza for the People)

The hallowed halls of Hounddogs have been quieted by covid but the iconic Old North Columbus hangout still offers pick up and delivery of their beloved pizzas both earlier and later in the day than most pizza purveyors. On my last visit I saw signs of interior construction / redesign in the works which could indicate that owner and craftsman Jeff Stewart is working on some distanced solutions to get people back inside.

These are twelve of countless local restaurants, breweries and the like you can support and we wrap up the year and try to regift it to the trash can. If you want to jump on this band wagon – share this with your friends. If you are a social media user consider tagging you works in this task with #My12RestaurantsofCovid (sorry everyone else – breweries, distilleries, farmers markets, The Hills and Weilands, there just is so long a hashtag can be).

For some more name dropping here are twelve more places you can rotate in if you are stumped for twelve of your own: Endeavor Brewing, Lineage Brewing, Iaconos Pizza, Teritas Pizza, Emelio’s Pizza, Bexley Pizza Plus, Mama Mimi’s Pizza, Ange’s Pizza, Studio 35, Punk Pigs, Portia’s Diner and Hisham’s Food Truck.

These are tough times. Do what you can, when you can. If you can be kind to someone please make that choice. This pandemic is a war and we can only win it if we stick together (at a distance).

Posted in Behind the Counter, Food For Thought, Gastronomic Stimulus | Leave a Comment »

Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History -> On Sale TODAY! – (and backstory of the writing the book)

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 9, 2020

Here we go! In December of 1950, the first pizzeria in Columbus opened. Seventy years later – the story of pizza in Columbus is here.

Today is the day. My book, Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History is officially released to the world…… to buy, purchase, gift, re-gift, barter, etc.

If you have already purchased the book, thank you. I’m told Amazon is a bit backed up, but you should get your copy soon.

If you don’t have a book – they should start to appear in large bookstores – like Barnes and Noble this week. You could purchase the book on Amazon. online. If you want more money going to a non mega corporation you can order directly from the publisher History Press / Arcadia Publishing.

I’d also ask you to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc. I won’t make a lot of dough no matter how many books are sold but please consider sharing this link and let’s hope the book sells like Preston’s Burgers. Here are a few reasons why selling books is important to me.

Reason 1: There was a lot of skepticism that pizza in Columbus rates a full book – a large volume of sales would be a very good – “I told you so!”

Reason 2: I have been blogging since 2006. To the best of my knowledge I am the last of the O.G. food bloggers that is still blogging at my original site – which is where you are. I’ve also stayed true the to original concept of a blog – a personal web log. I have not monetized the site. I have not weaponized CMH Gourmand by going for click bait of negative reviews, etc. In my opinion, most importantly this has always been a food first site not a place to build my brand, stroke my ego or try (and surely fail) at any type of cult of personality. If this post gets a lot of exposure I will finally cross the 1 million views mark for this blog – fourteen years and a few months after posting my first post. Blogs are no longer the darling of your spare time in a world where you are tempted by so many images and bright shiny things. Reading beyond the first few sentences seems like a forgotten skill nowadays. Blog traffic in general had nosed dived over the last five years, even for really good blogs that post multiple times per week. etc. It would be nice to wrap up 2020 on a strong note and hit the million view mark.

Reason 3: The most important reason has nothing to do with me. Mom and Pop Pizza shops that serve what I call Columbus Style pizza are an endangered species of business. For many, but unfortunately not all, Covid has increased their business, it a few lucky cases, two times more traffic than normal. However more than a handful of independent pizzerias are looking at their accounts and wondering if they can keep the doors open in 2021.

Independent Pizzerias have stiff competition from chain/macro-pizzerias that have the deep pockets to ride out the Corona Virus. They can bring on more staff, saturate the market with coupons, pay for advertising and offer free delivery. In the book I detail the reasons why many shops may not make it to the third or fourth generation. I truly want people reading this book to make a conscious effort to support or discover their local mom and pop pizza shop.

As with anything I have done in my life I have analyzed, rethought, dissected and otherwise outlined things I might have done better or wish had played out differently in the course of writing this book. I will share some of these musings below.

Interviews: Throughout my writing career, I have never found it a challenge to get someone to talk about their restaurant. When I had my business, I would gladly accept interview requests from anyone knowing that press is free advertising. The one exception to this rule turned out to be pizzeria owners. For many I contacted you would have thought I was this kid from Better Off Dead. Calls – don’t work. E-mails – nope. Dropping in on the business on a slow day and at an off peak time….zilch. Mailing a letter, yes it happened. NO INTERVIEW FOR YOU. I did not get a return to sender but no reply. One person received a free copy of the book Columbus Italians, which comes from the same publisher – to provide a sense that this was a serious endeavor. Negatory. One business that I have a long relationship with never responded to any requests. Another person missed our planned interview three times. A large local pizza enterprise which was contacted several times sent me one low quality image and told me to read the owners book. This was truly a chase.

On the flip side some were more than generous with their time. Rich Folk from Massey’s pizza was always quick to get back to me with questions, images, and etc. He set up an interview with the Pallone brothers, the semi-retired owners of Massey’s which was a blast for us all. One of the things that Jimmy Corrova of TAT has learned from his almost 90 years in the business is hospitality. He could not have been more helpful. His daughters were gracious when we were in the doing a photo shoot during a lunch rush. When all was done I brought my photographer lunch only to find out that Jimmy comped the bill – needless to say our server received a very good tip. The Panzera / Lombardi family, especially Nick Panzera were very helpful and all it cost me was a copy of the 1969 yellow pages listings for hotels in Columbus. The extended Angeletti of Ange’s Pizza were helpful and very supportive cheerleaders for telling the story of pizza in Columbus.

Brock, the general manager of Tommy’s in Dublin was able to connect me with some helpful contacts and information from the Iacono family and long time employees. Jeff Aufdencamp of Mama Mimi’s was my first interview and has continued to be a supporter. Not to give away a surprise but we are working on a project readers may enjoy. Brad Rocco of Bexley Pizza Plus – who I would call the Dean of Pizza in Columbus, was generous with his time and remains a vocal supporter. Tom Iannarino of Terita’s Pizza was the first person I interviewed that I cold called. If you have not had Terita’s Pizza you should try it, it is worth the effort. There are many more to mention and for those that are not listed – thanks.

The two interviews I wanted the most, I was destined not to have. Richie DiPaolo was regarded by many to be THE pizza historian of Columbus. I can never fill his shoes and I wish I would have had the forethought interviewed him for an article I wrote about Columbus Pizza years ago, just before he passed away. The other interview I wished I could have squeezed in was Doral Chenoweth, the Grumpy Gourmet. He was my inspiration and my friend. I followed up on an interview request with him just days before he died, so I missed that deadline. I still miss him.

Leonardo’s Pizza was the first pizzeria to go to up to 9 locations before anyone else. It was a training ground for several pizzerias we enjoy today. I tried, and tried, and tried to get an interview and could not make it happen. I found some information using other sources including auditors records but I did not get the story I wanted. I think that is loss for us all.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Library: Libraries are the arsenals of democracy and we need them now more than ever. In my case, I was one trip shy of completing all of my research for the book. My planned trip to get some more images from 1963 to 1975 was cancelled by Covid, so I had to do without.

Photographs: Plan A was to have the magnificent Jodi Miller shot some of my key photos for the book starting in February of 2020. A new baby in the household and Covid put the kibosh on that. We did get the photograph I wanted the most for this book, the mural explaining the history of the TAT Airline at TAT Ristorante. It was an almost impossible shot, but she got it. She also comped me an older shot she had of pizza at the Italian Festival. That photograph inspired a section of the book I had not planned on. In the end, I had enough photographs to get the book to print from my blog archives, friends and a few favors called in. At one point if I had just a few more high quality color images I could have had a “centerfold” of color photos in the center. That did not happen and that is OK.

There were a photos and images that did not make it into the book due to size, clarity, and etc. There is one photo I really wanted to have in the last chapter but I missed the deadline – I have it posted below. Dante’s during Covid.

Here are a few others I would have liked to have seen in the book.

Terita’s Pizza Man
Jimmy Massey’s Drive In circa 1958 – courtesy Whitehall Historical Society

Go forth and tell your friends and let’s sell a bunch of books to keep Columbus Pizza on the culinary map!

You can buy from the publisher Arcadia Publishing / History Press

I’ll be posting other places where you can buy the book on my Instagram Account @CbusPizzaHistory Vendors include book shops, pizzerias and The Ohio Taproom.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, food, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 15 Comments »

UDF – United Dairy Farmers serves UDF – Ultimate Donut Fans! (The Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 22, 2020

One downside of the Ohio Donut Trail (for readers) has been that many of the places I have written about are off the beaten path, hard to find and sometimes have quirky hours. Fans of the Ohio Donut Trail will be happy with this new addition, because a UDF is easy to find throughout Ohio and they all have very convenient hours.

United Dairy Farmers (UDF) started in 1939 in Norwood, Ohio at the time it was an innovative concept. This was a place where people could pick up milk on the go for less than the cost of having it delivered. Over the years, the company grew, locations expanded to close to 200 in three states and the range of products offered increased exponentially including the award winning Homemade Brand Ice Cream. In 2019, UDF started their own bakery with a product line including donuts. The donuts debuted in November of 2019 and consumers found they were definitely different – most are square!

Most people in Ohio are familiar with United Dairy Farmers. I have a long history with UDF, the first ice cream I recall eating came from a UDF in Clintonville. I recently wrote about some of my favorite food things and one was UDF Homemade Brand Ice Cream. I was contacted the next day by UDF thanking me for picking their Ice Cream as my favorite. I was asked if I had tried THEIR donuts. I said no so they offered to send me some samples and I said YES!

They took the delivery very seriously. UDF makes donuts for most of their locations at a new state of the art production facility / bakery they constructed in 2019. The site includes a bakery proofer made in Germany that required a flatbed semi to deliver it to its new home in suburban Cincinnati. Delivering donuts to me was much easier but I will say I was impressed. The head of their Central Ohio distribution center delivered them to me personally after calling to make sure I was home. The donuts were freshly baked that morning and I had my samples by early afternoon. My entire experience made me feel like I was dealing with a small family business instead of a moderately sized regional business empire.

I love donuts. My son LOVES donuts. My wife likes most donuts. I was hoping for a box but I received four! UDF makes thirteen varieties of donuts. I did not receive samples of each type, but I did have an opportunity to try most of their top sellers. My family and I took the responsibility of taste testing very seriously, that is after my impatient son and patient spouse observed the first directive of food writing – no one eats until the photos are finished. It was almost a photo finish for our favorite. The Sprinkle donut was exceptionally good, while that was my son’s favorite and my number two both my wife and I were smitten by the glazed croissant. Some people call them doughsants, others cronuts, we just call them delicious. We were both devastated when my wife’s dog (Stella the Destroyer) ate 1/2 of one. The dog still lives with us but is on triple secret probation. I can certainly understand her desire to steal. I am typically a cake donut eater but in this batch I was pleased to find I really enjoyed their yeast donuts as well. Also very noteworthy, our few remaining donuts still tasted good the next day and the day after that. In my experience many donuts tend to have a shelf life of about one day, these have some longevity to them which is good because I can’t see myself getting less than a dozen at a time.

Another endorsement for these donuts, I was happy to pay money for them the next time I was at a UDF. Unfortunately, there was only one glazed croissant left and yes, it was amazingly good. Thanks UDF! If you are an Ultimate Donut Fan you will want to give these a try.

Posted in donuts, Ohio Donut Trail, Product Review | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Pizza Tour Confidential

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 8, 2020

Pizza Tour(or) Stories

Columbus Brew Adventures merged with Columbus Food Adventures at the beginning of this year. It was win win for everyone, then Covid. I’m still a guide emeritus when tours resume but it will be a while before some of the tours come back. The pizza tour I created called Pitchers and Pizza had a final run at the end of 2019. One of the sites has closed for good, so that version of the tour as it was operated will never return. I do have a couple routes in mind for the future but a lot needs to happen for me to guide a new version of the pizza tour. I usually enjoyed the diverse groups of people that joined me on my Pitchers and Pizza Tour from 2013 to 2019. There were a few experiences that led me to question my profession. I can now tell the untold Tour(or) stories of the tour.

The scariest moment in tour operation occurred in 2018. A mentally disturbed gentleman screamed about the dangers of pepperoni as I was talking about the history of Late Night Slice with my guests. He would not disengage from me or my group and his voice got louder and louder and his proximity to my face became closer and closer. I used every mental health trick in my book to get him to disengage from us but none of them worked. Eventually, I gave up. As I was trying to escort my tour guests out of Ledo’s the bar staff had to step in and throw the man out just before we made it out the door.

My favorite story involves Meisters. I showed up one day about 10 minutes before the tour which is late for me. A few of my guests had already arrived. I noticed the kitchen was dark and that is when “E” came out to see me. He had come in for his shift to find the oven was broken. He thought someone had called me (nope). He was waiting around just in case I came in. By this time most of my guests had showed up. At this point he said he did not want to leave me hanging so if I could find him an oven, he could make the pizza for my group. I spent about a minute racking my mind about what to do. I then made a call. Iacanos was our second stop and the manager Chris was a stand up guy. I explained the situation and he said E could come to cook his pizza on their ovens….if he could get a slice. The deal was done. I told E where to go and who to talk to, then I stalled to give him time to cook his pizza. I had about 30 minutes to kill so I covered my normal content at Meisters then took the guests in to see the small kitchen and talked about pizza peels. When we arrived at Iaconos, we had Meisters and Iacono’s pizza waiting for us. E made two pizzas in case there was an issue with the ovens. There was not, so we had double the normal amount of Meisters minus a slice which ensured everyone could take some home.

Another Meisters story involves the Cleveland Browns. Meister’s has long been a Browns Backers Bar. This typically meant a good sized crowd on Sunday afternoons and I would have to come early to help clean up the Bird’s Nest where we started the tour. The crowd kept staying later and later and seemed to get drunker too, so I kept pushing back the start time of the tour. In 2018, the Browns were having a good season and the place was now packed to capacity. One Sunday, I was threatened by a couple of the fans in front of our guests which did not make the best impression but I asked my customers to stick it out. A few weeks later, I was dreading going to Meisters. I do not follow sports but that morning I decided to check on the game. It was a playoff game, the first the Browns had in a long time. Initially it was to start at 1 pm and would have a TV blackout but as I read more, it turned out the TV black out was cancelled and the time had been changed due to fan protests……too shortly before our tour start time. I had to change my plans quickly. I contacted all of my guests and told them we would still meet at Meisters but outside instead of inside and we would end the tour there.

When I pulled up the Brew Adventures van to start the tour – all of my guests had beat me there and a few looked terrified. The visual at Meister’s looked a lot like a scene from Lord of the Flies. The place was beyond packed and there were no parking spots on the length of the street. Two of my guests had to park at Kroger, almost one half mile away. I assured my guests that everything would be OK by the time we returned. Ledo’s was our second stop for the night. As I watched the game there, it appeared that it might go into overtime and the Browns might win. I was terrified of the vision of what Meister’s might look like if the Browns won. I was even more terrified of an overtime option that would place the game as still going on when we were to arrive at Meisters. I have never hoped for the Browns to lose but I did that night. At Houndodgs I snuck away to watch the game and with a few seconds left, it looked like the game might go into overtime. I decided to stall as long as I could. As we were leaving, the Browns lost in the last few seconds and no overtime happened. I still took my time getting to Meisters. When we arrived it was still busy so I asked my guests to wait outside while I checked out our area. I found one person semi- conscious in a chair and crushed PBR cans at a depth of two cans covering the entire floor of the Birds Nest. It took me ten minutes to partially clean up the area before I could lead my guests in. E saved a pizza just for my group – all of the food had been wiped out long beforehand. I vowed never to run the tour during a Browns game again.

My last best story involves Late Night Slice. In January of 2015 a few hours before tour time, I received an email from the manager of Clintonville Late Night Slice. He wondered if anyone had told me that they were having their all company holiday party that night therefore all of the locations were closed. Nope. I had just over two hours to figure out my game plan. I could not cancel because most of my guests were coming from out of town and were already on the road. My wife saw the wheels spinning in my head and suggested I sub in Adriaticos, one of our favorites and the pizza we served as the late night snack at our wedding. Initially I said no, because they would be too busy and did not have craft beer which was a part of the tour. After considering all of my other options, I determined that Adriaticos was my only possibility. I also figured that If I called they would just say no. So I went in person to beg. I also needed to be on site to figure out where I could park a 14 passenger van on a crowded campus. I explained the concept of the tour and how much I would pay. The manager thought it was a neat idea. But he said no. When we saw the look on my face he elaborated, “next Sunday is one of our busiest days of the year, that is when all the students come back”. I smiled. I told him, I was looking to arrive in just a few hours….today. The manager said that would be perfect because this particular Sunday was probably the slowest day of the year.. So for one time only, the tour featured Adriaticos – with cans of Seventh Son and Four String to take home since I did not have a craft beer to sample at Adriaticos. Mission accomplished.

Posted in Food For Thought, pizza | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Columbus Style Pizza Not Your Thing? Try These Other Regional Styles Inside 270

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 1, 2020

Columbus has changed a lot over the last twenty years. Franklin and Delaware counties are among the fastest growing in the country. Today, many residents are transplants to our city. This may come as a surprise to some of you but there are some among us that do not like Columbus style pizza – thin, cut into squares and piled with pepperoni. There are others that do have an affinity for our preferred pizza pie but want to expand their horizons while staying in place this summer and fall. If you can’t travel to the style of pizza, I’ll tell you where you can find it here in Columbus.

New York Style Pizza

The first pizzeria in the United States was most likely Lombardi’s in New York City opening in 1904. Over the years, New York style pizza became defined as a pizza with the thin, floppy crust with a thick, dense and chewy crust ring and high gluten flour. Can cut into big triangle slices. Most New York transplants assume a good version of this style is not be be had in the capital city. They are mistaken. Here is where you can find bona fide New York slices or pies.

Paulie Gee’s

The Paulie Gee’s in the short north is the first westward expansion of Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn. Terry Gibbs crafts authentic NYC style pies with high end ingredients and some of his own variations as well.

Borgata Pizza

Borgata Pizza now has two locations. In the early days, it was a little known spot on the Northeast side of Columbus. Today, even expat-New Yorkers make an effort to find their way to the doors of either Borgata.

Sarafino’s
This long time North Market fixture continues to please the taste buds of even the more hard core slice eater. Grab a slice while you support other North Market merchants on your next shopping trip.

Late Night Slice

Unicorn (formerly Slut Sauce) need I say more?


Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit Style pizza is definitely different. The origins of this style go back to 1946 at a place called Buddy’s Rendezvous (still open today as Buddy’s Pizza). This style has some relationship to Sicilian style pizza – it is rectangular in shape, thick like focaccia bread and originally baked in drip and parts pans used by automotive dealerships. It is also typical to char the ends of the crust to make it extra chewy and crunchy.

Paulie Gee’s

The aforementioned Paulie G’s also makes incredibly good, albeit pricey, Detroit style Pizza. The quality of the ingredients justify the price but $20 for six slices is hard to swallow on a regular basis.

Jet’s

Yes, I am mentioning a chain. Jet’s Pizza makes a respectable Detroit style pizza and I have heard many local foodies quietly admit that they have a hankering for the Turbo Crust at Jet’s.


Sicilian

Adriaticos

Adriaticos’s makes three types of pizza, the most beloved is their Sicilian Pizza in the form of a Buckeye Pizza. The Buckeye is a large 18 x 24 sheet of Sicilian style pizza that can feed 10 – 12 or more people with ease. It is offered at a bargain price on Mondays and Tuesdays.


Chicago Style

Chicago style pizza has origins going back to 1943. Ike Sewell had a vision to make pizza a family meal and as thick as a pie so it could be eaten with a knife and fork. The guy back in the kitchen figuring out how to make this new style work was John Malnati. Ike’s place changed names a few years later to Pizzeria Uno. Lou Malnati’s took his fathers know how and recipes to start a chain of his own. Chicago style pizza is thick. It is cooked at lower temperatures for a longer period of time, typically about 40 minutes. The order of ingredients is typically different that other styles – sauce on top, then cheese, then toppings resting on the dough in that order.

Yellow Brick Pizza – Tristano’s Chicago Stuffed Pizza

Tristano’s Pizza in Grove City closed in 2016. Before the end, Yellow Brick apprenticed with Lou Tristano to learn how to make his version of Chicago style pizza. I considered Tristano’s among the best in Columbus. Lou made a good pie. He started working in his family’s Chicago area pizzeria before high school. The Yellow Brick version is about 94% as good as his, I will take that any day.

Giordano’s Pizza
Yes, the legendary Giordano’s pizza has a location in the Columbus area located near Polaris. I like their salads more than their pizzas. They are good but something is lost in the move to Columbus.

Meister’s Pizza

Meister’s Pizza is hard to find, tucked in the back corner of Meister’s Bar but it is worth the effort to find.

Massey’s Pizza
Massey’s does a respectable version of Chicago style pizza which I need to try again.


Rhode Island Style Pizza

Typically served in strips – this pizza sometimes features a sauce with a kick. It has roots in what is called Tomato Pie.

Yellow Brick

Yellow Brick has Rhode Island roots and inspiration but not quite a true to style Rhode Island Pie.


New Haven style Apizza

New Haven style pizza goes back to the 1920’s at a place called Frank Pepe’s. This is a thin crust pizza, coming out of a coal fired oven. Traditionally this is served as sauce with some pecorino romano sprinkled on. If you want mozzerella you need to ask for it (this is similar to the early pizzas in Columbus). White Clam Pizza is a signature style at Frank Pepe’s which was adopted by other pizzerias in the area. It is white style pizza (no red sauce) with littleneck clams. Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s Apizza are the most famous of the shops. I went to both in one day. I like Frank Pepe’s better.

Taft’s

Oddly, you can find a good version of this style of pizza in Franklinton, at Taft’s Ale House which is based in Cincinnati.


Steubenville / Ohio Valley Style Pizza

DiCarlo’s

Steubenville style pizza, also called Ohio Valley Pizza, originated in the 1945 in Steubenville by the DiCarlo family. It is a thick crust, rectangle shaped pizza that has a layer of sauce and a dusting of cheese when in comes out of the oven. Cheese is then dumped on the hot pie with the original concept being that it will melt by the time the customer gets home. In the old days this was not always the case. Today DiCarlo’s has a Columbus location and you can decide if this style works for you or not.


Cincinnati – not really a style

If are from Cincinnati, you have heard of LaRosa’s Pizza. If you miss it, there is a location in Dublin.


Let me know what I missed.

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , , , | 15 Comments »

The Perfect Summer of Covid Gift?

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 20, 2020

My guess is you are still living in some sort of stay in place lifestyle. You may be using spaces differently, spending a lot more time with fewer people and trying to multi-purpose any room you can to have some sense of variety. That is what I am doing.

I receive a multitude of press releases and one caught my eye recently. It was for a company called 30 Watt. They now offer Capski, a self adhering wall mounted bottle opener you can take anywhere. The back of the bottle opener uses a special technology (think of a post it note on steroids) that allows it to stick on many “shiny” surfaces.

Two full disclosures: 1) I was sent a free Capski to try out (if I do not like a product, I don’t write about it but I do send feedback). 2) CMH Gourmand is a now a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for this site to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. I have never done this before but wanted to see how and if this works. If you click on Amazon links in this post it could put money in my pocket. If you buy this product from Amazon, even better.

30 Watt is already well known for their Sudski Shower Beer Holder and Joeski Shower Coffee Holder.

The Capski is a perfect gift for people that are constantly changing their minds about where things should go. This could work well for those that do not want to commit to screwing something into their walls or perhaps someone that is in the go all the time that needs a bottle opener that requires minimal contact and is easy to wipe down.

Of course you can find the Capski on Amazon.com and have it just in time for your next socially distanced cook out or as a belated Father’s Day gift.

I liked the packaging of the product – with a strategically placed “Beer Me” located on the back tab. The product can be placed in locations that would be helpful to have a bottle opener including refrigerators, metal tool boxes, a grill (not sure if the heat will make it fall off, I’ll find out soon) and more.

The instructions for this product are straightforward and located on the removable and reusable cover on the back side.

If you get your own Capski let me know the most unique spot you used it.

#StaySafe this summer

Posted in Food For Thought, Gastronomic Stimulus, Product Review | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

TOP TEN Top Ten Columbus Lists: These are a few of my favorite food things……

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 14, 2020

Many Top Ten lists are based on a criteria of one person’s opinion of what is the best or a poll for the masses that often has an aggregate of mediocre. In the world of food and drink – the best is always subjective and personal and variable. Best does not always mean the finest execution, or ingredients, or the finest person behind the counter. My Top 10 is based on what I crave. Like music, the most technically perfect singer or a master of an instrument is not always the one with the most awards or the most money. A pop star strikes a cord with people based on much more than skill or craft.

When Columbus Alive, Columbus Underground, 614 Magazine and etc., run a best of poll the internet trolls come out to complain about which the “best of” are listed. In the case of these polls the term favorite would be better served than best. Best implies quality which can be objective in the world of food and drink, but there is still a subjective component to the decisions process. For instance when best brewery is listed, the winner is more often the place that people have heard of or where they like to hang out instead of the place that most accurately brews beer that is true to style or would win the highest rankings from trained beer judges. In the case of Mexican restaurants, more often than not a chain scores the “best of” win. Objectively and subjectively a chain Mexican restaurant could not be the best in Columbus but they get the win because more people have dined at a chain than one of our great authentic Mexican restaurants in town. Condado is not the best Mexican Restaurant in town, nor Chipotle.

When I was leading brewery tours (pre-covid) people would always ask me what the best brewery was. I would respond with my typical response. “Most of them are my friends so where I go and what I drink depends on my mood, budget and what style had me most intrigued at the time”. The same question came up when I was running my pizza tour, I’d throw out a top ten instead of an answer to the best pizza in town.

So after a long time of ducking the question of what my favorites are…..here is my top ten top ten.

Ice Cream

Ice cream was my first food obsession. When Graeter’s had their yearly T-Shirt promotion I always earned my shirt early. I still have all of my shirts in storage. I toured the United Dairy Farmers Ice Cream plant in Cincinnati – it was heavenly. I was given two table mats. One side explaining how ice cream is made and the other side detailing how milk is processed. I had these framed and still have them today. When Denise’s was open in Clintonville, I spent a day making ice cream with Stan, the owner so I could get the story right. My first featured article in Ohio Magazine was about the best ice cream spots in Ohio. Last, but not least, my first job was at Knight’s Ice Cream in Clintonville. I worked there for two years in high school and saved up to pay for 1/2 of my 1979 Camaro! So yes, I do love ice cream and I know enough about it to objectively know what is needed to made a quality ice cream.

Top Ten – Ice Cream

1) Homemade Brand Ice Cream – favorite flavors: Coconut Almond Chip and Peanut Butter Chip.

Some may be shocked by this choice, in my case, the tipping point is the price to value ratio. United Dairy Farmers – the makers of Homemade Brand, regularly run a buy one, get one promotion which usually translates to $1.75 per pint – that is a bargain considering the quality of ingredient in Homemade Brand.

2) Graeters – favorite flavors: Coconut Chip, Buckeye, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Chocolate Coconut Almond Chip.

3) Taggart’s Ice Cream, Canton Ohio – favorite flavor – Chocolate Pecan

4) Mitchell’s Ice Cream (Cleveland)

5) Mitchell’s Ice Cream (San Francisco)

6) Handel’s Ice Cream (Youngstown / Powell)

7) Honey Hut Ice Cream (Cleveland)

8) Jeni’s Ice Cream

9) Mardi Gras Ice Cream

10) Johnson’s Ice Cream


Top Ten Pizza Joints

(OK a disclaimer here – these are not listed in exact order – my favorite depends on my mood but these are all my top ten)

1) Adriatico’s – both the Sicilian and New York Style (always with extra sauce)

2) Hounddogs – Smokin’ Joes style. The taco pizza is a recent favorite

3) Iacono’s – specifically in Buffet form. It is not likely the buffet will come back anytime soon but that is a price to value decision. One of my favorite simple pizza’s is cheese only at Iacono’s. They sprinkle a little Romano on top when it comes out of the oven.

4) Tommy’s – Tommy’s last name is Iacono and these two pizza places are connected. The founder of Iaconos was Tommy’s son. However, these two pizzas are very different.

5) Pizza House – in addition to pizza, I really love their open faced meatball sandwich.

6) Cheese Board – Berkley, California

7) Zackary’s – Berkley, California

8) Bexley Pizza Plus

9) Meister’s

10) (TIE) Both RIP – Tristano’s and Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta

Addendum (11) Punch Pizza – Minneapolis



Top Ten Restaurants I Miss:

1) Galaxy Cafe

2) Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta

3) Tapatio

4) Niki’s (Greek)

5) Cancun (best Mole Enchiladas ever)

6) Dagwoodz

7) Tristano’s

8) Kahiki (not so much for the food but for the atmosphere)

9) Alana’s

10) Daddy-O’s – specifically double batter fries at 1 am


Top Ten Donuts in Ohio

Followers of the Ohio Donut Trail take note.

1) Donald’s Donuts – Zanesville

2) DK Diner – Grandview

3) Family Donut Shoppe – Londonderry

4) Bill’s Donuts – Centerville

5) Jack Frost Donuts – Cleveland

6) Brewnuts – Cleveland

7) Holtman’s Donuts – Cincinnati

8) The Original Crispie Creme Donuts – Chillicothe

9) Buckeye Donuts

10) Auddinos Bakery (Home of the doughsant / cronut)


Top Ten Foods I can not enjoy life without

1) Cheese – of all types. A few favorites: Any Blue Cheese from New Zealand, King Island from Australia, Cowgirl Creamery – San Francisco, Pearl Valley – Ohio

2) Ice cream (see above)

3) Pizza (see above)

4) Pattycake Bakery Tollhouse cookie

5) Eggs Rolls with house sauce from The Rice Bowl

6) Almonds and Cashews

7) Peanut Butter – chunky

8) Killer Brownies – Dorothy Lane Market

9) Dark Chocolate

10) Hot Dogs – ideally from O’Betty’s in Athens


Top Ten Breweries

(OK, please note beer snobs and the trolls from Columbus Craft Beer Consortium – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts so in addition to beer I am including – ambiance, customer service, etc. Other than #1, the rest are not in specific ranked order.

1) Little Fish – Athens.

2) Barley’s – Angelo! The Pre-game for my wedding and the co-creators of Tobias!

3) Seventh Son – Where I had my wedding and co creators of Tobias.

4) Restoration Brew Worx – Frank!

5) Smokehouse – Lenny!

6) Sideswipe – Famous Craig and Brewer Stew!

7) New Glarus

8) Three Floyds

9) Granville Brewing

10) Tie: Pretentious Barrel House – it should not work but it does / Endeavor Brewing

True disclaimers, there are so many great breweries in Columbus, it is so hard to limit to less than 25.


Top Ten Best Food Trips

If I only has ten days to live, would teleport to each of these cities for my final meals.

1) Berkley

2) Austin

3) Athens (Ohio)

4) Chicago

5) Cleveland

6) Bend, Oregon

7) Yarra Valley, Australia – pick up a bottle of Yering Station Fortified Shiraz

8) Melbourne, Australia

9) Cinque Terre, Italy

10) Columbus – don’t knock our city, this is an incredible place to eat.


Top Ten Places I need to get to in Columbus (not in exact order)

There are so many great places to try in Columbus. The great hidden treasures are the many immigrant kitchens serving incredible food in Columbus. If you are not adventuresome enough to test these out, I would like to suggest you take a leap of faith and try a Trust Fall Dinner from my pals Columbus Food Adventures – see some videos -> HERE

1) Yemeni Restaurant

2) Hoyo’s Kitchen

3) Jiu Thai

4) Huong Vietnamese

5) Addis Restaurant

6) Dabakh Restaurant

7) Afra Grill

8) El Arepazo

9) Poong Mei

10) Mediterranean Food Imports


Top Ten Places I am eating from During Covid / Stay at Home

Some places are much more stay at safe than others, and places that do not make an effort to create good social distancing will not get my business. All of these are pick up locations.

Other than the first place, these are not in exact order.

1) At home – my wife is a great cook and we are eating about 95% of our meals in house.

2) Iaconos Pizza (Kenny Road)

3) Lavash

4) Fibonacci’s Pizza – at Studio 35

5) Gallos Kitchen

6) Neighbors Deli

7) Smokehouse Brewing

8) Hounddogs Pizza

9) Pho Asian Noodle House

10) Taco Bell (yes it happened) – just once so far.


Top Ten Places I want to eat at when Covid is over.

1) Rockmill Tavern

2) El Arepazo – Brewery District

3) Ambrose and Eve

4) Gallos Kitchen (our carry our was good, I’d like to see how in house goes)

5) Wolf’s Ridge

6) Iaconos Pizza Buffet

7) Amal Indian Restaurant Buffet

8) Studio 35 – Fibonacci’s Pizza

9) Caleb and Robin’s house – our old neighbors from Oakland Park Avenue – we have missed our friends and Griffin cried when he could not play with his pals Violet and Landon when they did a drive by this week.

10) O’Betty’s – Athens Ohio – best hot dogs ever

Those are ten of my Top Tens. I’d love to hear about your favorites, especially places that are doing a good job for pick up or delivery in Columbus.

Be Well and eat even better.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, culinary knowledge, donuts, Food For Thought | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Top 13 Independent Columbus Pizzerias to Support During Covid (and After)!

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 21, 2020

Let’s just say Covid and the Ides of Covid have been a trying time. Many of my friends own and/or work in local restaurants, breweries and distilleries. The stories of their grit and determination to keep going are amazing. It is expected a large percentage of restaurants may not come back when we return to whatever the new normal becomes. There is one sector of food service that has seen a glimmer of “Okayness” during Covid – PIZZA!

Although pizza sales have slumped 8% this year, that is nothing compared to double digits in other food industry sectors except grocery stores. Whereas other food businesses are laying off staff, the big pizza players such as Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s are hiring thousands of staff to meet increased demand for delivery. It is great that jobs are created, so many people need a paycheck. And I would say so many people need pizza, however, the chains will survive Covid or not, our around the corner shops, may not.

This is a crucial time for our local mom and pop pizza shops. For the last two decades the number of independent pizzerias has rapidly declined due to fierce competition from corporate chains. In Columbus, the former Pizza Capital of the USA (true fact in the 1990’s), the decline of independent pizzerias has had a more shallow curve than most other cities, but is still significant. During the heyday of Columbus Pizza, there were more pizzerias per capita here than anywhere in the country, today, Columbus does not even place in the top fifty. The end of 2019 saw several old school Columbus pizzerias close including the original Minelli’s on Sullivant. The closing trend was expected to continue during 2020.

Before Covid, many of our local independent pizzerias were struggling to keep their doors open. A bevy of factors contribute to the teetering fate of mom and pop pizza shops: fierce competition in the pizza industry, a greater variety of food choices that can be picked up and delivered, more late night food options, the high price of quality ingredients and more. The biggest hit to the continuation of independent shops has been a lack of desire of third and fourth generation children to take over the family business. Families today are typically smaller than their first generation pie slingers which means – less family to work the business to continue the legacy and cut down on payroll. A profitable business and strong local support might change a few minds about shutting off their pizza ovens. Covid can slow the decline of independent shops and each of you can do something to help with that, order from a neighborhood pizzeria.

My primary research tool on Columbus pizza consumption is Instagram, which seems to show a lot of pizza consumption from local shops. Keep it up, support your neighborhood shop and try to add at least one new spot to your list – ideally one per week, but once per month would be OK.

Here is a list of favorites (not in exact order). And there are more than 13 that are list worthy.

Tommy’s

Iaconos

Adriaticos

Hounddogs

Meisters (hours may be very limited)

Pizza House

Little Sicily

Enricos

Dantes

Josies (The Bottoms)

Rubinos

Panzeras

Gattos

Posted in pizza | Tagged: , | 22 Comments »

TAT: Talk of the Town, Ninety Years and Counting

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 3, 2020

The story of TAT Ristorante begins in 1929 in the former Flytown neighborhood of Columbus. The address was 409 West Goodale Street. The name itself is directly related to a historic moment in Columbus history. Pete and Philomena Carrova were looking for a name for their new restaurant. Prior to opening the doors to the public, a historic event occurred at the city’s airport, the Columbus Municipal Hangar (CMH) on the east site. On July 9th of 1929, the first transcontinental flights in the United States were launched. Passengers started their journey in New York via train, the first stop was Columbus where train passengers were transferred to a waiting Ford Tri-Motor aircraft to fly them to their next destination. In the course of 48 hours, a person could travel from New York to Los Angeles. It was an amazing feat for the era and the talk of the town that Columbus was a part of it. The name of this new airline was Transcontinental Air Transport or T-A-T. Legend says that Pete Corrova would watch planes from Transcontinental Air Transport flying into and out from the airport and decided to use the initials he saw on the planes as the name of the restaurant. Another legend suggests the once officials from T-A-T came by to ask about the use of the name and Pete replied it stood for “take any table”. The airline did not last long and faded from memory quickly and we do know that Pete’s son Jimmy Corrova started to tell customers that TAT did indeed stand for take any table. Today. The current home for TAT features a wonderful mural by local artist Carl Weisenberger which depicts the history of TAT..the airline in a series of images.

“Progress” in the form of new highways, cut up the Flytown neighborhood in the early 1950’s and forced TAT to move. Pete and Philomena opened the new location on the growing east side at 3280 E. Main St at South Hampton Road (it remained there until 1965). The couple continued to serve food that reflected Pete’s Sicilian (Ficara) roots and the recipes Philomena brought from Naples…and of course pizza. In 1955 (or 1954), Jimmy Corrova and his wife, Dolores, opened a second TAT at East Broad Street and James Road. In 1962 the family added a location at Livingston Avenue and Beechwood Road. This was followed by a pizza focused location on the west side, the TAT Pizza Carry Out at 3858 Sullivant Ave (which became Minelli’s Restaurant & Pizza Carry Out in 1967). During the brief tenure as a TAT, the west side location was very busy with Jimmy Corrova recalling they used “five to six delivery wagons and sold 600 pizzas per night on Friday and Saturday”. After the death of patriarch Pete, followed by Jimmy having a heart attack, the family decided to merge the two remaining east side TAT’s in 1980 which remains TAT’s location today, 1210 South James Road (at Livingston Avenue).

As the oldest continuously owned family restaurant in Columbus with over ninety years of service, a plethora of memories and stories have accumulated. Maintaining a tradition followed by most of the original pizzerias and many Italian restaurants in town, recipes are not written down. Kitchen staff (or family members) are shown how to make something and then they follow suit. Before Jimmy had heart surgery in the 1980’s, he made sure that video tapes were made showing him creating all of the essential recipes for the kitchen.

Corrova started working at TAT when he was seven, when he was nine he stood on a crate to run the cash register. Today his wife, Dolores is the general manager and his brother Anthony is the maitre d’. Defying generations of Sicilian tradition of leaving everything to the first born son, his daughters Michelle (back of the house / kitchen) and Marianne (front of the house) are ready to take over the family business when Jimmy decides to give up the reins.

A favorite story of Jimmy Corrova involves his David vs. Goliath fight with several big businesses in his cease and desist lawsuit involving the use of the the term, Poor Boy sandwiches in Ohio. At the time, several companies including Kroger were selling frozen Poor Boy sandwiches locally. A barely adult Jimmy decided to bring a lawsuit against these companies including the local grocery store chain. Shortly after word got out about what he was planning to do, he was asked to meet with “a few people” at Romeo’s Pizzeria. When he arrived, the place was full of various Italian community leaders as well as powerful Democratic and Republican lawmakers. He was very strongly “encouraged” to stop his legal fight so as to not stir up the pot. He was told the suit would destroy the family business and be bad for the Italian-American community. Afterward, he went to church where he “received a message from Heaven” that he would win the case. When he asked his lawyer how much he should sue for he was told $100,000. He recalls thinking that was a lot of 0’s (zeros). He did win the case after six years and TAT still owns the Poor Boy Trademark to this day. Jimmy believes the headline in the Citizen Journal (local newspaper of the era) was “Judge Slices Up Sandwich Attorneys” on the day he won the suit.

TAT is known for having many employees who have worked front and back of house for decades as well a countless regular customers that span the generations. Many customers have a favorite booth and/or server. One booth even has a plaque dedicated to a long time customer who passed away, now the booth is reserved for her forever. TAT puts the old, into Old School in every aspect one can imagine. This family business has survived the Great Depression, countless recessions, treads, fads and an endless stream of new competition by not changing a thing. The only thing that has changed at TAT is their style of pizza served which has evolved from their original thicker crust interpretation with American cheese to the classic Columbus style today with just a few tweaks since the 1950’s.

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

Panzera’s Pizza: A Story of Persistence and Pluck

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 19, 2020

Panzeras Pizza

The origin of Panzera’s Pizza reads a lot like a Horatio Agler rags to riches tale. The Panzera family immigrated to the Grandview area in 1955 just before Nick Panzera observed his fifth birthday in his new home country. They arrived from the Abruzzo / Abruzzi section of Italy speaking little English and immediately set themselves to work. Nick, started working at Tedeschi Italian Bakery (at Third Ave. and Doten) in Grandview. Initially he was bagging bread but over time he took on many other roles. Nick and some of his brothers would sometimes work at nearby Leonardo’s Pizza as well. When Nick was 12, Tedeschi Bakery closed so he and brothers were out of a job in the case of his brothers, one of their jobs). In late 1964, Nick and brother Phillip with the help of many family members decided to run the bakery space as a pizzeria and called it Panzeras. It was a small operation open seven days per week with one oven and dough mixed by hand….managed and operated by 13 year old Nick Panzera.

One of the keys to making this work was one of Nick’s teachers, George Sotiris Georgas. As Nick was getting ready to open the pizzeria, George kept asking him questions about what items would be on the menu and how much Nick was planning to charge for each specialty offered. Nick was surprised by a stack of menus given to him by George who make the on the schools mimeograph machine as a surprise for opening day! George also knew that Nick was working late nights at the pizzeria so he arranged for Nick to have a “job” in the school book room which allowed Nick to sleep and/or study the first two periods of the day. The first $5 sale at Panzera’s Pizza was from George and it was framed on the wall for years.

In 1966, older brother and business partner Phillip was working at the nearby quarry but it was laying off employees. He came to Nick and said “I’m moving”. Having just moved to a new house, Nick was confused and asked Phillip why he would so move again so soon, to which Phillip explained he was not moving to another house, he was moving to California to find work. At this stage, Nick was 15 and in high school and didn’t feel he could run the business on his own. He considered putting the business up for sale but after a less than desirable offer he decided to figure out how to make it work. He decided he would start advertising but knew before he could start marketing the business he needed to upgrade everything in the pizzeria so he could increase his production volume. Nick worked with Stan Becker a salesman at Wasserstrom to order $10,000 of equipment: another oven, a mixer, slicer, double door refrigerator, pots, pans etc., everything needed to allow a few people to make a more pizzas in less time. The price tag for these upgrades was high so an owner was needed to sign on the bottomline. Nick was 15 so Stan told him he was too young to sign the contract. Nick replied to Becker that his dad would sign it but Stan knew his dad did not speak English. So Nick countered that he would read the contract to his dad. Stan was a bit wary of that. In the end, Nick signed the contract with his dad’s name while Stan looked the other way.

After the new equipment was in place, Nick worked with a customer to print 10,000 menus including coupons. Then Nick loaded up a car to drive his nieces and nephews around the Grandview neighborhoods dropping them off at one end of the block and picking them up at the other side to deliver fliers throughout the area. People started calling in orders and dropping in the first day of flier delivery leading to some very busy days. Phillip came home to visit shortly thereafter and was amazed at the stacks of pizzas waiting to be picked up in the shop.

Nick got married in 1969. He started buying rental properties in the area to expand diversify his income. Many of the pizzeria’s customers were police officers and they would often say “Nick you should be a cop”, so when Nick turned 21 (1972) he applied for the police academy and was accepted. Eventually Nick’s wife told him he had to give up at least one business so he decided to sell the shop to Fred Lombardi and his wife (Nick’s sister) in 1976. Fred had worked at Panzera’s (and Leonardo’s Pizza) for years including managing the shop since Nick started working as a police officer. (Nick was once called Panzera’s Pizza in response to a robbery call items stolen included the frame dollar bill from the first sale at Panzera’s).

Panzera’s Pizza moved a few times since opening in 1964, in 1983, Fred Lombardi moved the shop to the present location at Grandview and Third Avenues. Today, although Fred is “retired”, which seems to mean he is working what most would consider a normal work week Fred remains a fixture in the kitchen. Fred is still at Panzera’s making dough, sauce and preppy pizzas. Many of the extended family have worked at the shop over the decades. The recipes are all Panzera family recipes with no changes since 1964. None of the recipes is written down all are passed along by one person showing and expecting the other person to continue doing. Panzera’s still makes their dough, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and many other Italian specilaities from scratch. Fred passed on the pizza peel of day to day operations to his son Carlo many years ago and today guests can often find Fred, Carlo and (grandson) Andy kneading and tossing the dough behind the counter.

A non pizza menu item that has been popular since the 1980’s is the Monster Sub which is a fusion of a Italian sub and meatball sub wedded between two buns. Another thing customers can count on at Panzera’s is Nick dropping in several times per week (when he is not visiting brother Paul at Paul’s Pantry just around the corner). You will find a lot of important things at Panzera’s that are not on the regular menu: three generations of family that are proud of their pizza, connected to their neighborhood and their customers in a way that few businesses can compete against. All of this because a 13 year old needed a job and the extended Panzera/Lombardi family always helped each other out to keep the family business going. That alone, is worth a visit, the pizza is a bonus.

Historical side dish:

Phillip Panzera came home from California to visit the pizzeria shortly after Nick expanded the kitchen operation and started his marketing blitz. While Phillip was walking in, he noticed a man walking out of the nearby insurance agency, which was a new neighbor to Panzera’s. At the same time, the insurance agent in question did a double take noticing Phillip as well. Each sensed they knew each other and after a lot of conversational sleuthing figured out they had met in Italy, during World War II (over twenty years before) when the jeep the insurance agent was riding in picked up a hitchhiking Phillip on a dirt road far from Grandview, Ohio and the United States.

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