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Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History -> On Sale TODAY! – (and backstory of 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.

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

  1. Barb Yanoshek said

    Arcadia Publishing does not ship to Alaska and Amazon Prime shipping will take (they said) 3 to 4 months. I’ll try Barnes and Noble.
    Barb Yanoshek, Anchorage, Alaska (originally Columbus, Ohio)

    • Hi Barb, Sorry to hear that. Here is the Barnes and Noble Link if you have not checked it out. I really appreciate your interest.

      The Barnes and Noble at Lennox does not have it yet. For locals looking to buy in town – check out my Instagram feed @CbusPizzaHistory and I’ll post locations as they come in. I do expect The Ohio Taproom to have books sometime this week.

      Also I checked Amazon this evening and this is what is currently posted for them.

      Arrives: Dec 12 – Jan 15

      Fastest delivery: Dec 6 – Jan 7

      I am checking with Arcadia Publishing on their delivery time (I ordered from them last Thursday and received my book of books on Saturday). I’ll confirm that here as soon as I can.

    • Jeff Burrow said

      Barb, I can order one and send to you. Jeff

    • Jeff Burrow said

      Barb, Better yet, Incan stop in Ohio Tap Room and pick a couple up – and enjoy a couple brews!

  2. philip casa said




  3. billbabbitt said

    Jim. I’m excited to hear your book is now available. I’ll head over to the Ohio Taproom to get a few copies. I’ll buy you a beer if you autograph them for me!

    • Thanks Bill. We are long overdue for a beer. You are in luck – I dropped on long enough to sign the copies they have on display. Grab an Ohio Pop while you are there too.

  4. Tippy O’Brien said

    Jim, Thank you for a great history of Columbus pizza. We have enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately, we have moved from Columbus to the great pizza wasteland of North Carolina.

    • Hi Tippy,

      My pleasure. Massey’s and some other places do ship nationwide. For your million dollar idea open a Columbus style place in NC and make a fortune just selling to Ohio ex-pats. There is a place that is a mirror of Tommy’s in Florida and it makes a fortune.

    • Missing My Piece of the Cbus Pie said

      I second that – cannot find Columbus style pizza in NC! Have traveled with Tommy’s and Rotolo’s by car and air! We do have a few Donato’s but they always taste and look like cardboard. Fortunately my family is in Naples, so we visit The Crust whenever there as the closest thing to home!

  5. Bill, the pizza fanatic said

    Great book! Since I came upon your site a few years ago my son and I have started doing pizza tours when we return to Columbus each year, using your articles as a guide. Now we both (two copies for Christmas!) have a checklist to carry with us. I’m amazed at how many of the very early pizzerias are still around. Hopefully we’ll be able to get back to our tours soon! Thank you for documenting this history!

    • Thanks Bill (and Son)! of the roughly 60 pizzerias listed in the book over 50 are still open. Many do a great job on carry out. If you have not tried TAT – I strongly suggest you try them – they do a great job for curbside pick up.

    • bobnotbob said

      We absolutely will. Usually we stop at Tommy’s on our way into town from Georgia. I’ll have to do more mapping to catch some of the other joints as we arrive. Usually we can hit 6-8 places in a four-day visit. We try to visit as many new ones as possible.

    • Bill said

      I finally got to visit TAT a couple weeks ago. Terrific original style pizza and the atmosphere is as old-school as I expected. I also got to speak to Marianne for a minute. Will bring my son to TAT on next trip to OH. Thanks for the suggestion and your bio on this great restaurant!

    • My pleasure. Thank you for supporting TAT!

  6. Allie Taylor said

    Jim– I purchased this book today, actually I purchased three copies. I got word from my uncle that Jim Gillilan is mentioned in the “Tommy’s Pizza” section of the book. Jim is my grandpa, as you know he ran the Tommy’s on Hamilton and Livingston. My entire family has grown up in the pizza business and I have very many fond memories of working in the pizza shop making subs, stealing cheese, and dodging the swinging open oven doors. I can remember how the inside of the pizza shop looked like I was just there yesterday, including the infamous JFK picture hanging on the back wall. My uncle is the owner of Joe’s Pizza which is the same shop that was the East Broad Tommy’s. My grandpa spoke fondly about many of the pizza restaurants mentioned in your book. Thank you for sharing this work with the world, it has brightened the season.

    • Thank you so much Allie. I would have liked to have more about Joe’s in the book but Covid got in the way. I am looking to do a blog post on them in 2021 so I might check back with you for some connections. Have a wonderful and pizza filled 2021.

  7. Scott Walden said

    Hi Jim – Sorry I am a little late (OK, way late) to the party, but discovered your book on the Pizza Connoisseurs of Columbus Facebook page. I want to purchase the book but have two questions, 1) I pretty much only do Kindle these days, will I miss a lot of photographs on the Kindle version vs the paperback that Amazon is selling? 2) Did you write much about the local chains that were once mom and pops, e.g., Donatos, Masseys, Flyers, Ange’s, etc.? 3) And on a related topic, is it safe to assume the “large local pizza enterprise which was contacted several times sent me one low quality image and told me to read the owners book” was Donatos and the book was by Jim Grote’s daughter Jane? Or would you rather not say? If so that is too bad because Jim Grote would have been a great interview. I worked for him from 1970-1982. Anyways, I look forward to reading your book and now your blog. Thanks – Scott

    • Hi Scott. Thanks for your interest.

      1) I have not seen the kindle version of the book. At the time of this response there is a $2 difference in price between versions. I have not have any feedback on the photos or lack there of in Kindle. There are about 50 images in the book and there are all black and white. If you are able to get a Kindle preview of the book – I’d try that. Let me know the outcome.

      2) The book does have some of the mom and pop to chains – Massey’s, Donatos, Flyers, and Ange’s.

      3) Yes – it was Donato’s. So disappointing. I have met Jim before and knew he would have good stories. He grew up and / or worked with many of the people who had passed away that I wish I could have interviewed. You would have been a great person to talk to. That period of time 1970 to 1982 was the pivot point of Columbus Pizza and I was not able to get the depth of information I wanted. In the end I had to settle to not let the quest for a perfect book be the enemy of a good book. I wanted to get the book out in time to support the local shops. If had waited for those missing pieces much longer I would have not been able to publish.

    • Scott Walden said

      Thanks for the quick reply. I will let you know about the Kindle version. What would have been really cool if we had known about your book is that Grote still loves to get together with us original Thurman Ave store mangers from time to time. We usually meet at Planks a couple times a year and tell the same old stories. You would have also got to meet friends of mine who were there in the 60s, guys who retired after 50 years with company.

      About 7-8 years ago me and a couple other guys put together a reunion for employees who just worked at the original Thurman Ave location in the 60s, 70s, & 80s. We had over 100 people show up from as far away as Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona. These were people who worked there in high school and college and showed up on their own dime. We thought that Grote would make a token appearance at the event but instead he loved it and stayed there all day. He even had commemorative coins made for each person there.

      The 70s was a special time at Donatos and we all knew we were working towards something special. It didn’t matter that we were making $1.50 an hour, we had pride in what we did and would wait around after work on a Friday night to see if we did another “record night”. You could not replicate today the type of culture Grote had back then.

      One other thing, Grote had a special relationship with vendors like DiPaolo’s, Thurn Meats, Falter’s Ham, etc. We could be low on cheese on a Friday night and Grote could call Ritchie and they would deliver cases of provolone at 9pm…now that is service. It saddens me somewhat how Donatos product has changed over the years. I still think it is the best chain pizza, but it certainly is not the same as when we made dough fresh each day in each store, got buns from a small local mom and pop bakery, and went to Grote’s parents house to pick up homemade sausage and meatballs from Ma and Pa Grote. I guess that is the nature of the beast when you have that many locations.

      Thanks for allowing me to reminisce.

    • What a bummer, I would like to have been a fly on the wall at that reunion. DiPaolo’s – now RDP – still has that level of service with customers. A few years ago during a major power outage, they worked with customers without power to store their supplies so they would not have to watch it spoil. They also do a lot to support pizza at the Italian Festival. Their sales guys have been working long hours to source product for their customers – especially during the shortages of March, April and May.

    • Scott Walden said

      Yeah, after I left Donatos I found myself back in the pizza business managing a small shop in Whitehall called Gant’s Pizza. It was owned by my first manager at Donatos Jim Gantner. BTW, there must be 10-20 past and present pizza shops that were spawned from Donatos. SAt Gant’s used Sysco for awhile until RDP (Ritchie, Dick, and Paul) opened and they always took great care of us with both price and service. Anyways, did that gig for 13 years before getting into accounting for the last 18 years of my working life. People would always ask me if I missed the pizza business after being in it for 26 years and I would always say, “yes, but I don’t think I could work with the teenagers today.” It’s just a different mentality and work ethic these days.

  8. JimColumbuz said

    I ate Leonardos as a kid in the 70’s. I have fond memories of always picking the piece with the largest bubble in the crust. Crust doesn’t bubble like that anymore.

    My dad any many of his cousins worked at Leonardos in the 60’s. Many of those cousins of my dads generation took what they learned from Leonardos and went on to open their own Pizza places. Some were better than others (I’m not saying which), but they all had that Columbus flavor.

    • I’d love to speak with any of those shop owners / family members. Leonardos was so important to the growth of pizza in Columbus and the Columbus Style of Pizza. I wish I had more details in the book about Leonardos.

  9. […] CMH Gourmond, aka Jim Ellison, has been blogging about food in Columbus for a very long time. With that expertise, you can trust that you’re going to learn something you didn’t know about Columbus-style pizza in his book, Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History.Available at Arcadia Publishing | $10.99 […]

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