CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘Best Pizza in Columbus’ Category

Sparanos: The Secret of San Margherita & Home of the Heavy Duty Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 30, 2017

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Until just a few months ago I had limited experience with Sparanos. I think I tried them once when they had a location in Grandview near the old location of Bono Pizza. I recall it being good but the service was apathetic at best. I may have tried a piece at a Pizza Grand Prix back in the day. So while I was aware of Sparanos my memories gave me no incentive to seek it out. I knew they once had a location on Hague Ave which another pizzeria took over but closed less than a year later. They seemed to have some history but I could not find out much about them.

A few months ago, I received a call from Smokehouse Brewing letting me know their power was out. Since I had a tour scheduled there in a few hours, this caused some significant trepidation. As I formulated some back up plans I called the guests only to find out one had a birthday that day and several were on the Interstate in the middle of a three-hour drive to get to Columbus just for the tour. The show MUST go on. I contacted Craig at Sideswipe Brewing to ask for a favor. Could he open an hour early for me and did he know a pizza place that delivered to his brewery. He had a few but mentioned that customers really seemed to like Sparanos. So that made my plan.

I called in the order, prepped my guide and joined to the group at Sideswipe to pay for the pizza and make sure all went well. While I did not have a chance to try the pizza it looked great. The guide said the group loved it and wanted more information on where they could find a location for more. This boded well so when I had a planned substitution for Smokehouse the following month, I decided to try the same plan again. However, my professional code of conduct dictated that I throughly sample Sparanos if I was going to intentionally feature them with Sideswipe.

On my first reach mission, I had a hard time finding the Sparano’s. It is tucked in the middle of a bargain built retail strip with a bar on one side, a gaming store on the other and minimal signage. It would be easy to drive by and never know it was there.

I tried a Meatball Sub and a medium pizza with pepperoni. Both exceeded expectations. The meatball sub featured very good (fresh, flavorful, probably house made) meatballs, tasty sauce and a perfectly toasted and fresh bun. The pizza was well-balanced. What caught my attention was the crust. The dough was cooked just right in the base and had just enough crispness in the outer crust ring.

As I was waiting for the order above, I noticed the place was pretty spartan, five or six small two top tables lining the edge of the kitchen. The walls displayed multiple 1st, 2nd and 3rd place banners for wins at Slice of Columbus competitions spanning over ten years. So it seemed other people liked this place too.

A delivery for a side project took me back to the same part of town the next week so I figured I would give Sparano’s another try on the fly. I was in a rush so I ordered a Heavy Duty Pizza instead of a Heavy Meat Pizza. The Heavy Duty is pepperoni, sausage, ham, mushrooms, onion, green peppers, banana peppers and extra cheese. Sparano’s is pretty serious about the Heavy Duty, they trademarked the term. The Heavy Meat (what I meant to order) is Pepperoni, ham, ground beef, sausage and extra cheese. So the two are not that different unless you are me. I hate green peppers and onions and I hate them the most when they are on a pizza.

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Having figured out my mess up after the pick up, I was mildly despondent. However, the sub I ordered cheered me up quickly. The Michael Angelo is Sparano’s special recipe sub and as my quick consumption confirmed it is also a work of art. I was not able to break the code of the special recipe but the sub had a great bun (once again), fresh ingredients and a lot of meat. Based on this one eating, I’m firmly convinced this sub is a firm tie for first with Susie’s Sub Shop as the best sub in town.

Now back to the Heavy Duty and the travails of my tasting preferences. I’m not sure how Sparano’s cooked the Heavy Duty but I suspect it is a two part process. It was incredibly easy for me to pick the onions and green peppers off of the pizza. They were barely integrated into the cheese, in most cases they just had a sear to them like something shish kabobed instead of the typical wilted vegetables that are so integrated into cheese that the cheese looses flavor as it merges withe the (wretched) flavor of green peppers and onions. Like playing doctor in the game operation I was able to remove the offending toppings with surgical precision and enjoy the my lightened version of the Heavy Duty. What really stood out to me among the remaining toppings was the sausage. It is perfectly cooked, neither over nor under done, had a balanced amount of spice and is loaded on in moderately bite sized pieces. I look forward to trying the Heavy Meat next time.

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On my way home from the second trip I took a different way home. I notice that Johnnie’s is almost right across the street from Sparano’s! And just over the train tracks and around the corner is Casa di Pizza. All three of these spots are located within a small section of town known as San Margherita. This area has a lot of history to offer and three great places to eat.

The proximity of these three businesses creates a great hobbit style triple lunch opportunity which in my case would be Sparano’s Michael Angelo sub with a 10 Inch Heavy Meat Pizza, a Johnnie’s Roast Beef sandwich and some ribs from Casa di Pizza all to consume at my leisure on top of Shrum Adena Mound. That would make for a great afternoon and a wonderful extended meal.

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Sparano's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, pizza, Sub Dude | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Yellow Brick’s “Tristanos” Deep Dish Pizza Test Drive

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 15, 2017

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There is no shortage of pizza options in Columbus but there is an absolute dearth of deep dish pizza of any quality grade. In the past I opined that only three were worth mentioning: Meister’s, Wholly Joe’s and Tristanos. As much as I love Meister’s, I had a very slight preference for Tristanos. Last year word came out that Lou Tristano had finally sold his business. It was long overdue, Lou makes great food but is/was a threat to himself and his employees operating a food based business.

I was sad to lose Lou and in my opinion (whether deep dish or not), one of the best pizza makers in Central Ohio. I then saw hints of a salvage operation by Yellow Brick Pizza to learn some of his Chicago based secrets of Lou before he passed the pizza peel to others. Facebook showed traces of Lou teaching Yellow Brickers how to make some of his recipes and by report the learning curve was looking good.

I don’t know when or if Yellow Brick may open a Grove City satellite in Tristanos old spot but when I saw they were offering Tristano’s Deep Dish as a special in Old Town East I knew I had an obligation to observe, investigate and act. I also think highly of Yellow Brick so I believed the Tristano’s legacy to be in good hands.

A few things you should consider before you do your own research. You can not pre-order this pizza. It will take at least 40 minutes to make – more if the place is remotely busy and a two topping Deep Dish pizza will knock you back $31.18.

The waiting is not such a bad thing, because it means someone is making it right. In order to be to objective as possible, I asked two research assistants to try a slice with me (after I fed them other pizza so hunger pangs would not influence their thoughts).

My crack team included Matt Prime. This was his opinion:

Rated it a solid 4 (on a scale of 5) noting: good crust and sauce that really complimented the spice in the sausage and a great cheese to toppings ratio. Easily one of the best Chicago pies I’ve had in Columbus in recent memory.

Also in the team was Mister Doctor who opined: Good pie Jefe.

I also brought a slice home to Mrs. Gourmand, while my two on site research assistants had never tried Tristanos, Mrs. Gourmand shared every Tristanos experience with me during my brief exile in Grove City. Her opinion was that it was good but she could detect significant differences in the sauce. Mrs. Gourmand is Italian and makes superior sauce. She also has an olfactory sense unparalleled by any other human. She can smell things that even my dog would miss. If she sniffed this out as not quite the original I will accept that as gospel.

Yellow Brick Tristanos Deep Dish Pizza

Now for my assessment. The visual presentation of the deep dish was on par with Tristanos. The slices were thick and pie like. There was a signature recurring twist in the crust ring and a foldover filled with a trace of cheese in the crust as it rises from the bottom to the top. The pepperoni were laid out in thick rows between the crust and the cheese. The pie was significantly cheesy with evidence of such presented below.

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Assessing flavor, taste, etc., based on a pizza recipe I had not had sampled in almost a year is tough but based on my memory I’d say the Yellow Brick interpretation of Tristanos is about 91% on target. Mulling over the experience for 24 hours, I believe part of the difference I noted was due to the toppings I chose. Lou made his own sausage which added a trace of spice to the mix that I doubt could be replicated by anyone else.

I also tried a slice of pizza the next day using the time-tested cold pizza test. That slice was also assessed be a very good pizza.

In recap, using subjective and objective methods as well as a team of tasters, I proclaim the Yellow Brick Tristano’s Deep Dish Pizza one of the top three of its type in Central Ohio.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, pizza | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Yellow Brick Pizza and the Old Towne East Eating Intersection

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 10, 2016

Welcome to Olde Town

Checking over my list of favorite pizza places, I noticed I had not written about Yellow Brick Pizza. My apologies. Yellow Brick is an Old Towne East Icon part of the Oak Street Boom, which unfortunately has not spread farther out. Opening in 2009, the place quickly established itself as a hot spot with good pizza and a craft beer collection with depth and breadth. The pizza is described as East Coat style with Rhode Island influences since one of the owners worked in a few Rhode Island pizza shops. The dough is hand stretched with a medium thickness to the crust and a signature thick dough ring. For the non-traditional eater in your life, Yellow Brick offers plenty of gluten and vegan friendly options for pizzas including gluten-free crust, vegan cheese and Textured Vegetable Protein sausage. Wondering about Rhode Island Red Sauce? It is featured on a few of the pizza options to give the sauce a bit of heat and kick. The specialty pizzas offer a wide variety of combinations many of which stretch the genre of traditional pizza toppings to great effect.

Yellow Brick Slice

Most pizza places offer a few mundane salads as an afterthought, not the case for Yellow Brick, I have found each of their salads to be exceptional. My favorite salad there and probably my favorite salad in Columbus is described below.

Kale Salad

All of the ingredients in this salad compliment and contrast well with each other providing a mix for flavors, textures and crunchiness. The red peppers in the salad are not just slices that have a bit of marinated flavor as well. Even my bean avoidant wife was happy to gobble down a few bites.

Add in some Arcade Super Awesome upstairs in the evening for extra distraction and Yellow Brick is well worth a planned night out on the town.

Yellow Brick Info

Yellow Brick Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Speaking of town, this block on Oak Street in Old Towne is a mini entertainment district. Starting with the business that started things off – one of my favorite spots Angry Baker

Angry Baker

Old Towne Tavern also offers good food and selection of local and regional craft beers.

Old Town Tavern

And perhaps a new location will mean a bit of a rebirth for Camelot Cellars and an option for non beer drinkers on the block.

Camalot

Posted in beer, Best Pizza in Columbus, pizza, vegan friendly, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Buffet Battle: Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 27, 2016

pizza buffet

The Buffet Battle Series begins with Pizza. Each buffet listed is available Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm or close to it.

Three buffets were tested rigorously and these are the results. Ratings are on a 5 point scale. Since Pizza is the primary food at each spot, it gets an added criteria for this installment of the series.

Ange’s Pizza
Beechwold Center
4511 N High St
614 784-9000

Ange’s has a long history in Columbus dating back to 1953 and it might surprise readers in that there are 8 locations. I’m not sure if all locations offer a buffet or if there are differences in buffets at the different sites. If there are let me know.

The buffet here is fairly barebones – one or two pizzas, a cut up stromboli and a small metal bowl with a salad mix and packets of salad dressing on the side. Staff interaction is minimal. The eating area is small and cafeteria like with minimal seating and devoid of any atmosphere or character. The buffet also includes a beverage via styrofoam cup. The sign says the buffet is $7.49 after tax the total price is $8.03.


Value 3.75
Quality 3.75
Quantity 3.5
Pizza Grade 4
Kid friendly Quotient 2.75


This location is hard to find buried behind a Panera in a strip mall that is hard to enter and exit. This seems to effect the number of people who try the buffet and thus may effect the volume of items offered and subdue any staff excitement about the buffet.

Massey’s Pizza
BEECHCROFT/RT. 161
1951 E. Dublin-Granville Rd.
614 888-0022

Massey’s is also a long time player in Columbus pizza, the original owners were among a small group of early pizza pioneers in Columbus. Massey’s grew into a large empire which collapsed and has been rebuilding in the last decade. I was surprised to see there are eleven local locations as well as one in South Carolina. This is one of the oldest Massey’s locations and is smaller and more austere than most of the new sites.

This buffet included a variety of pizzas, a pasta dish (spaghetti), a mixed salad, a pasta salad, small slices of subs all served via styrofoam plate with a beverage in a styrofoam cup for 7.99. Here you pay first when entering and then eat away. Although the site is busy with carry out orders the staff do make an effort to keep the food stations filled.

The eating area is low on ambiance with several small beat up tables and chairs. It is also noisy from a TV and the acoustics of an old building. My favorite items were the small sections of bite size cut subs, perfectly cooked with great flavor, I went back more often for these than the pizza.


Value 4.25
Quality 4.25
Quantity 4.5
Pizza Grade 4.5
Kid friendly Quotient 2.5


Iacono’s Pizza and Restaurant
4452 Kenny Rd Columbus
614 451-0234

While Massey’s tag line is the Cadillac of pizzas, Iacono’s has earned that moniker for their buffet. Two years ago it was $8.75, until 6 weeks ago it was $9.75 now that we are firmly in 2016 it is now $10.77. That price may scare off some but the value is hard to beat. The buffet features a full salad bar including a variety of house made dressings, cottage cheese, pudding, macaroni salad, potato salad and bacon bits, home made soup, two to three full pizzas which are typically served in half styles so a total of 6 varieties are usually available. The staff often ask what type of pizza you like and typically you will see that as a new selection while you are eating. A dessert pizza (a mix of apples and cinnamon). A beverage is included and staff are aggressive in making sure your cup is not half empty. The space is large with many tables and some half booth / table seating along one wall. There are several high chairs available and if you need to find a place far from the madding crowd, you can find it. The in house music is not overly loud and typically features the best of the 1970’s.


Value 4
Quality 4.75
Quantity 5
Pizza Grade 4.75
Kid friendly Quotient 5


While this buffet is the most expensive, you definitely get what you pay for and for this the whole is as great as the sum of the parts….and the pizza.

And thus ends the first Buffet Battle, Iaconos wins.

(Note: I added another spot to this list August 2016 -> Morone’s

(Note: I did try Verdi. Their buffet is horrible so the only thing to mention about that buffet is don’t waste your time, it is a rip off for 10.21 although billed as $7.75. Thumbs down on value, quality, quantity and pizza grade.)

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, Buffet Battle, pizza | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hounddogs Three Degree Pizza: Revisited, Reviewed….Revived

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 28, 2015

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Reviewing the extensive archives of CMH Gourmand, I find a few references to Hounddogs but nothing extensive. Of course there is a brief listing in the Slice of CMH section of the blog and back in 2012, there was the Nerd Night Clintonville Pizza Challenge, but that is it. That is an oversight on my part so I’m going to fix that.

I have always been a fan of Hounddogs but I have become even more of a loyalist over the last year. I lead a tour of four of the best pizza places on the city with Hounddogs as one of the stops. There is a big change of perspective when one shifts from a fan to a pizza docent focusing on what is great about a place. Over the past year, I have learned much more about a business I have patronized for over 20 years and it spite of that, I still feel I have more layers to peel off of the onion that is this pizza place.

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Ultimately, what makes Hounddogs stand out from the pack is variety. It starts with the crust, there are three to choose from: Thin crust, Smokin Joe’s style (a thick garlic butter crust right paired with a mild, sweet sauce) and a Gluten free crust. All are good, but the people (Hounddogs is “pizza for the people”) go with Smokin’ Joe’s style 70% of the time.

Then there is the sauce, well, make that sauces, the five choices: pesto, Joe’s (mild, sweet), regular, spicy, and howlin’ hot. There are also some interesting speciality pizzas to choose from in case all of the options available make creating your own, overwhelming. Three speciality pies that pop out to me are: The hot mama, pesto pie and BBQ chicken. The hot mama combines smoked, sliced Cajun hot links, ham and bacon with sauerkraut. Yes, sauerkraut, think of this as a Reuben with pizza sauce and it works. The pesto pie is a vegetarian pie that is a carnivore’s delight. There are mounds of provolone, mozzarella, tomatoes, black olives and feta cheese over pesto sauce on thin crust. The BBQ Chicken pizza begins with a spicy garlic BBQ sauce with chicken, red onions, bacon and cheddar cheese.

I could go on, but then I would be giving the tour away for free. There are so many stories in the place from the murals on the wall to the beer cans collections in the bar. There is a lot to look at in between bites. However two recent changes are true game changers for the business. First, the iconic black limo that was used for deliveries was finally sent the the scrap year after sitting in the back lot for years. It could not be repaired and they need the parking spaces. The good news is the Hounddog mounted on top was removed and may appear on another classic car for delivery in the future.

Most importantly, 24/7 service has ended. Hounddogs made a name for itself and kept it by being a 24 hour pizza place since 1992. That changed January of 2015. I have posted a photo of the new hours below. While the place has always been a destination for an eclectic mix of guests, the new hours and other changes have made it a destination for families over the last year or so. If you have not visited here since college or before 4 am, you may want to drop in and reacquaint yourself with pizza for the people.

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Hounddog's Three Degree Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Little Sicily’s: Pizza Worth The Drive

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 29, 2013

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The far east side is a bit of a wasteland when it comes to destination dining. There is no lack of choices, there are plenty of chains to choose from but nothing exceptional comes to mind when I mentally walk through my options for that quadrant of town. Years ago, I had friends who lived in Pickerington and the far, far east end of Broad Street. One was in town for the holidays and when we were looking at options to meet up, he suggested Little Sicily’s Pizza.

I had forgotten about this place. In days past, Little Sicily’s was consistently in my top ten list. I had their pizza countless times as carry out while visiting friends. I’d never dined in before and it had been years so I was ready to rediscover the place. Little Sicily’s is tucked in a very modest building near the intersection of Brice and Refugee Roads. It was so busy, I was unable to find parking and had to get creative to secure a suitable spot nearby. The inside is as unassuming as the outside, there are a few simple tables, some nick knacks on the walls with a few TV’s mixed in. All of the customers were long time regulars who the servers knew by name.

The menu is streamlined with a few choices: pizzas, sandwiches, salads, spaghetti with meatballs and lasagna. The only surprise on the menu was a gluten-free crust option. I wish I could elaborate more about the food but the only combination I have ever had is a large pizza with pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese. The extra cheese option makes for some serious thickness and weight. The sausage is thick and chunky. The pepperoni’s are liberally applied on top and sometimes layered on top of each other 2 to 3 slices deep. The crust and sauce are non-descript but serve as a suitable delivery method for the toppings.

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Little Sicily’s has been an institution in Brice since 1975 and exceeds the expectations of a typical neighborhood pizza joint. I typically avoid the Brice Road area with a vengeance but if I was within 15 minutes of Little Sicily’s, I would be strongly tempted to call in an order. The tagline on the menu is “The Pizza Worth The Drive” and from my observations, it looks like a lot of people make that choice.

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Little Sicily’s Pizza
2965 Brice Road
Brice, OH
614 868 1937

Little Sicily's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, food, pizza | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »