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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: , , | 8 Comments »

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 »

Gattos: Columbus Pizza, Clintonville Icon

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 13, 2019

Gattos Pizza was founded in 1952 by brothers Jimmy and Joe Gatto. It is the oldest continuously operated pizzeria in Columbus by that, meaning the same family at the exact same location for almost seventy years. Without an ounce of exaggeration, you can not create a place like this anymore. There are a few pizza shops that have a slightly longer history but the Gattos are among our founding families of pizza.

Mounted on the wall, is a large black and white photo showing the view out Gatto’s front window taken shortly after the business opened. Today, looking hard at the photo one will see little has changed from that opening day in 1952. The original vulcan gas oven was replaced by two newer models to increase production and the business started taking credit cards in June of 2019 otherwise you could still be in the 1950s. The majority of the employees over the years have been Gatto children, cousins and close friends which has continued a persistent family atmosphere to the pizzeria.

The founding Gattos grew up in Flytown, the Italian part of Columbus that is largely the Short North today. Joe’s family was living on the south side (near the original Donatos would begin in the 1960’s) when the pizza shop opened. “It was Uncle Jimmy’s idea and they chose Clintonville because the north side was growing” per Vince Gatto, a second generation Gatto who runs the shop today. Jimmy had experience working in bars and the family as a whole had a lot of restaurant experience.

Vince started working at Gattos when he was 10, wiping pans and rolling dough. He took the bus from the south side to Clintonville every Friday and Saturday to work until he was old enough to drive. Vince, his brother Joe (Joe Gatto II) and a cousin, Bill Fulcher (whose mother was a Gatto) bought the business from Joe and Jimmy in 1983 after years of working in the shop. At the time all three had full time jobs so they divided up days and responsibilities to keep the Gattos going. Vince took over many of the operational duties of Gattos in 1993 when he was one of 50,000 employees laid off from Sears on the same day. Today (2019) Joe II is no longer at Gattos and Don comes in once per week.

Vince says there are too many stories to tell from being a family run business in the same neighborhood for almost seventy years however a one day does stand out. In the early 2000’s a hurricane force storm stuck Columbus and especially Clintonville very hard causing the area to lose power for an extended period of time. Vince had the day off which he had started with a memorable day of golf with friends. He decided to check on Gattos because of the storm. When he called in he was told that they were getting ready to close the store because the power was out. Vince told the employee on the other end of the phone to “stay open and keep answering the phone” and he would be right there. He spent the rest of the day rolling dough by hand (like the old days) and prepping pizza which they could still cook out of their gas ovens. It ended up being one of their busiest days ever since no one else was open. By the end of the day, they had little product left which was great since they had no working refrigeration.

A great Gatto’s tradition is the annual “Sausage Party” which started in the late 1990’s. Every year, during the third week of December a collection of friends, family and long time customers gather to spend a day making Gatto’s sausage, often up to three hundred to four hundred pounds. Everyone takes some home to serve for the holidays.

The sausage recipe hails from Sicily and was handed down to the pizza shop by Vince’s grandfather. As is often the case of Italian and Sicilian sausage recipes, the mix has a hearty dose of fennel which is the common denominator for the handful of long time Columbus pizza purveyors who still make their own sausage. When asked why he continues this labor intensive endeavor, Vince responded he has tasted other commercial sausage over the years but never found anything he thought tastes better. Another unique property of the sausage used on their pizza is cutting it into rectangular slices instead placing on the cheese as crumbles.

Gatto’s also makes its own dough from scratch as well as meatballs, sauce and the only salad dressing they offer, Italian. It is a hands on, labor intensive business following a model no new pizzeria would follow. Today the challenges of continuing the legacy are changing eating preferences, more competition, less available parking and nearby demographic of grad students and new residents who do not have the same tradition of going to Gatto’s by default. Those that have not discovered Gattos’s are missing out on good food and time capsule experience. Those that grew up with Gattos would benefit with a pizza to rediscover the shop and to confirm that nothing has changed over the decades.


And a here is a bit to connect the dots.

Pizza Community

Joe Gatto (founder of Gattos) and Romeo Sirij (who started the first pizzeria in Columbus) were best friends since their Flytown days and continued to be frequent visitors to each other’s businesses and homes throughout their lives. Tommy Iacono (Tommy’s Pizza) and Joe Gatto (Senior) were also great friends who saw each other almost daily when they retired and frequently played golf together for decades. A binding part of the original Columbus pizza community was that most of the shop owners from the 1950’s and 1960’s as well as their suppliers grew up together in the same tight knit neighborhood, attended the same churches and frequented the Italian American Golf Club (based at the Riveria Country Club for decades) when they could find a day off. They may not have worked together but they did enjoy playing together.

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

Adriaticos OSU Campus (2.0) Carries on the Legacy of Great Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 7, 2019

I have some history with Adriaticos, almost anyone that attended The Ohio State University or worked at the OSU Medical Center does as well. When rumors started to circulate that the original building of Adriaticos was going to be demolished and the future of Adriaticos, at least on campus was uncertain there was some community despair. As one of my favorite pizzas I experienced some trepidation. A scenario involving an off campus location offered some positives such as less traffic and parking challenges but morally, I had some struggles knowing a relocation of that nature would steal an important source of sustenance from OSU students and decrease the productivity and morale of medical center staff by a minimum of 11%. An off campus location would compromise the character of the place. I’m not sure what magic staffing formula owner Greg Fortney uses to recruit and retain staff but the attitude and service provided by the largely college aged staff has always been top notch. Moving off campus would have compromised that equation. When it was later announced that a location had been secured just around the corner, there was much rejoicing.

However, I still had worries. Many restaurants lose a element of je ne sais quoi when moving to a new location. Such is not the case here. The original Adriaticos could never be recreated but the new location preserved as much as it could. First, the new Adriaticos is just a few hundred feet from the original spot. Salvaged from internment in a landfill, the original front door is mounted in a place of honor situated between the bathrooms in the new location.

The original location offered cramped, bare bones seating often surrounded by stacked boxes of supplies and ingredients, the new location offers plenty of seating. A larger kitchen allows for an expanded menu but no change in the flavor or quality of the pizza. There is an expanded beverage selection, especially on the craft beer side of the menu, which means no settling for a bottle of Bud Light. There is a bar with plenty of TV screens (a bane for me but I’d like the place to stay profitable). On a final note, and what I am most excited about, is a full case of well crafted gelatos, filling a former desert like dearth of dessert options.

Parking nearby for picking up a pizza was never easy in the past but the worst case scenario was having to pay a quarter at a meter nearby if you could not get one of a handful of designated spaces. Today the new location offers a handful of additional parking spots but most conveniently, guests with pick up orders can park in the loading zone directly in front of the entrance which makes access to Adriaticos that much easier. Adriaticos has more than survived the transition to the new location, it is thriving more than ever without losing any of the qualities that made it a great pizza parlor.

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

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 research 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 noticed 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

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 »