CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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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.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, food, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 22 Comments »

TAT: Talk of the Town, Ninety Years and Counting

Posted by CMH Gourmand on March 3, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Panzera’s Pizza: A Story of Persistence and Pluck

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 19, 2020

Panzeras Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historical side dish:

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

Posted in Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Enrico’s Pizza & Restaurant since 1988: An Immigrant Story

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 30, 2019

Regular or even infrequent visitors at Enrico’s, are often on a first name basis with Tiziana who runs the front of the house of this small, modest restaurant tucked in a strip development on the border of Dublin. She and her family commuted a long way to start their business, they are all first generation Italian immigrants to central Ohio. They settled in Grandview in 1968. Tiziana’s mother, Angelina, worked as a seamstress and Ottavio, her father, found work in construction. Both parents liked to cook so when Tiziana’s uncle opened Dante’s Pizza in Clintonville in 1973 it was only natural that they would lend a hand. Her mother’s brother, Joe Apollino, had arrived several years earlier and learned the pizza business working a variety of positions at Leonardo’s, an iconic Columbus pizzeria chain.

All of the family members worked at Dantes at different times over the years. The family, now including Tiziana’s husband Rick, decided to open Enrico’s in March of 1988. (Guess where Rick met his wife…..while working at Dante’s). The restaurant started as a largely scratch kitchen and has remained that way since day one. They make their own dough, sauce, pastas (especially beloved ravioli’s), house salad dressing, meatballs and sausage. One thing they do that few shops still practice is grinding their cheese from blocks of provolone instead of using shredded cheese. They have not changed a menu item since opening in 1988 and if they did “our customers would tell us.” It has always been a word of mouth business, they do not advertise and don’t offer coupons. Enrico’s has a loyal base of regular customers who plan in advance for the two times per year the business closes for a week for vacation. Tiziana says one of the best aspects of running the business is watching families grow up with Enricos by seeing customers bring their children and then seeing the next generation of children grow up and bring their own children in. Special orders are not uncommon with some customers asking for their pizza “extra crispy”, or triangle cut, or with all the pepperoni on top. Long time customers are familiar seeing Tiziana by the front counter greeting customers while “mom and pop” are in the back in their kitchen whites cooking away. Where does the name Enrico come from? The restaurant is named for one of Tiziana’s cousins from Abruzzo. They have visited each other in their respective home cities many times over the years. Maybe one day one of Enrico’s children will continue the tradition of coming to Columbus, starting a pizza place and naming it in honor of a relative.

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Dante’s Pizza Serving Clintonville Since 1973

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 1, 2019

Joe Apollonio immigrated to Columbus from the Abruzzo region of Italy at age 14. He spoke little English and started working and going to school as soon as he arrived after settling in with relatives in Grandview. His first job was as a dishwasher at Romeo’s Pizzeria (5th and North Star) which was the first pizzeria in Columbus. This was also his first exposure to pepperoni, a very American invention, but he grew to like it over time. Joe worked with Romeo Sirij, one of the founders. Romeo had grown up on the east coast and brought what he had learned about pizzerias when he moved to Columbus as young man. A friend of Joe’s from school, Paul Panzera, told him about an opening at Leonardo’s Pizza so he started working there (the original location at West 1st in Grandview) and moved up the ranks. As Joe’s English language skills improved and as Leonardo’s continued to grow into the largest independent pizza chain in Columbus he was asked to be a manager at the Worthington Leonardo’s and then the Kenny Road location. Joe could not have asked for a better foundation and apprenticeship in Columbus style pizza.

As he was starting a new family he needed more income and wanted more control over his work hours so by pooling funds from his brother, sister and other family members he opened Dante’s Pizza in March of 1973. The location had been home to several restaurants over the prior years. The previous business had some struggles and had lost favor with the community so Joe knew he would need a different name and would need to very quickly establish the quality of his menu. He named the restaurant after his brother, Dante. At the start, most of the labor was via family members including his niece Tizianna who now owns Enrico’s Pizza. Many of the employees feel like family with at least two, Shirley and Pat, there for over thirty years.

Little has changed since Dante’s opened in 1973. Transactions are still cash and check only. The decor and layout are functional. Pick up customers can watch their pizza being assembled and cooked through the glass countertop. Dine in guests have about a dozen four top tables to choose from and it is not uncommon for all or most of them to get pushed together to serve a soccer team or large family. The pizza dough is made fresh daily. The pizza and spaghetti sauces are made in house as well as the signature Italian dressing and many other items. The sausage is made locally using a recipe Joe has used for decades and it remains a favorite topping for long time customers. After two heart attacks and an open heart surgery Joe is still coming in early to prep the business for the day, start sauces, knead dough and deal with deliveries but now he is typically gone before the first customers come through the door.

As is the case for most “old school” pizza shop owners Joe was a regular at The American Italian Golf Club at the (closed) Riviera Country Club and often played with the Gatto’s who own a nearby pizzeria. Joe has enjoyed seeing several generations of Clintonville families returning year after year and watching their kids become adult customers who bring their own children in. Joe foresees no changes at Dante’s. It will remain a cash business. Additional traffic from delivery services is too complicated to consider for this small pizzeria tucked in a corner spot within a busy shopping plaza. Dante’s will remain a time capsule of the 1970’s and that is the way everyone likes it.

Most important for my slice of history, Dante’s was the source for the very first slice (square that is) of pizza I consumed as a young four year old in Clintonville. I vividly recall eating this very tentatively sitting on the landing that divided the staircase from the first floor to the second floor. I do not know why I choose this for my dining spot. I do recall being unsure, almost wary of pizza…..that did not last long. As I grew up, Dante’s pizza was a frequent feature on Friday nights in our household and in fourth grade, at the newly created Clintonville Academy (the original location which is Wildflower Cafe today, we would have Dante’s Pizza for lunch in a shared art space, multi-purpose room, play area either once per week or once per month (my memory is hazy with the years). It was here I first learned the utility of sharing square slices and the importance of trying to avoid the smaller corner pieces for my pizza allotment among the group. It is interesting how one food can imprint in a person’s mind in such a strong manner but such is the case with pizza.

Dante’s Pizza
3586 Indianola Ave.
Clintonville
614-268-5090
(Bring cash!)

Posted in Columbus style pizza, culinary knowledge, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Iaconos (Kenny Road) Pizza Buffet

Posted by CMH Gourmand on December 9, 2013


IMG_2708

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

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

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

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

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

If you have low expectations of a pizza buffet – prepare to raise them with a trip to Iacanos. The buffet is offered weekly Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm.
IMG_2704

Iacono's on Urbanspoon

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Pizza Grand Prix Six: The Final Cut?

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 10, 2010


Pizza Grand Prix 6
Saturday November 6th
6 pm to 8 pm
Wild Goose Creative
2491 Summit Street
SoHud/Old(e) North Columbus


Updated details and developments will be posted on – Columbus Underground and/or look for updates on Twitter @CMHGourmand.

Wild Goose Creative, Columbus Underground and CMH Gourmand join forces again for round six of Pizza Grand Prix. This edition will offer the usual assortment of the best pizzas from Columbus. We will also see a repeat of the judged homemade pizza competition. The baker of the best homemade pizza pie wins an apron from Made by Amy D. There will also be prizes from Red Gold Tomatoes for all entries. Homemade pizzas will be judged on Taste, Appearance, Crust and Creativity.

Our esteemed judges for the Homemade Pizza Competition are:

Mike Hinze – Pizza Slayer /14 Inches of Love Pizza blog
Dave Treneff – Pizza Slayer /14 Inches of Love Pizza blog
Dave Scarpetti – from Webercam and the Grand Champion of the PGP V homemade pizza contest
Jeff Aufdencamp – from Mama Mimi’s Take and Bake Pizza

Contestants for the homemade pizza competition should contact me at: CMHGourmand@earthlink.net by November 5th for additional details and should to plan to show up at Wild Goose Creative by 5:45 pm on Pizza Day.

For those that would rather take instead of bake a pizza…

Pizza Grand Prix is a giant pizza potluck. The price of admission (for two) is a medium or large pizza from your favorite pizza shop. Bring a pizza to share then spend the rest of the night trying pizzas from all over town. For those that missed PGP I – V, see the links below for history and background.

Pizza Grand Prix V

Pizza Grand Prix IV

The Story of Webercam Pizza on the Grill

The day after Pizza Grand Prix III

Pizza Grand Prix III on Columbus Underground

If you are looking for suggestions on a pizza pie to port to this party – I have some options for you: CMH Gourmand Pizza Picks. We can expect a variety of toppings and styles. There is a section reserved for vegetarian pizzas. No one goes home hungry. People are encouraged to take leftovers home at the end (bring your own tupperware for when last call is made at 7:59 PM) because we don’t want any precious pizza going to the dumpster.

I think this is among the best low cost events in town and others agree – PIzza Grand Prix was voted best Columbus Underground event in 2009. I hope you have an opportunity to go. Wild Goose Creative is a great partner and the perfect venue for this pizzapalooza. The diversity of pizza selections can not be beat, you can expect some phenomenal pies. If time and circumstances allow pizza judge Dave may whip out a few pizzas from his modified Weber grill – no promises yet – but if it happens – you do want to be there.

This event is:
BYOB – Bring Your Own Beer
BYOW – Bring Your Own Wine or Water
BYOP – Bring Your Own Pop
and is open to all ages.

So the subtitle of this post is “Final Cut”. Pizza Grand Prix has always exceeded my expectations. But like any franchise or series of sequels, I wonder how long a good thing can sustain itself. I worry that this could become the next Police Academy 7 or Halloween 17 so we may pull the plug on PGP while on top instead of melting down over time. We will see what happens.

Posted in Columbus style pizza, events, pizza | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Pizza Grand Prix Post Script

Posted by CMH Gourmand on March 8, 2009

The Pizza Grand Prix III had a great turnout. During a Saturday of way too many choices (good weather, Gallery Hop, The Fitness Expo and etc), 60 plus people came to dine on a plethora of pizza pies.

This is what we ate or tried to (pizza place and topping) in order of appearance:

Zach and Mary’s Venison is for Lovers Pizza x2
Hounddogs – Meat Lovers
Hounddogs – Veggie Pizza
Portofinos II – Pepperoni
Mellow Mushroom – Bacon
Dewey’s – Southwest BBQ Chicken
Dewey’s – Wild Mushroom
Dewey’s – ?
Dewey’s – ?
Dewey’s – ?
Cafe Daniella – Bianca
Cafe Daniella – Mahgerita
Bono to Gone – San Rolando
Bono to Gone – Pesto, Tomato, Basil
Catfish Biff’s
Gatto’s – Sausage and Onion
Mellow Mushroom – ?
Adriatico’s – Cheese
Yosick’s (yes the German Village Chocolatier) – Vegetarian
Yosicks’s – ?
Rockmaster Mike’s Bacon Baccahanalia 1.0 (Homemade)
Rockmaster Mike’s Bacon Baccahanalia 2.0
Rotolo’s – Tomato and Garlic
Cowtown – Mediterranean
Rotolo’s – Sausage
Massey’s – Pepperoni
Pizza Primo – Supreme
Rubino’s – Pepperoni
Stoned Pizza – Cheese
Stoned Pizza – Pepperoni
Stoned Pizza – Pickles and Pepperoni
Surly Girl Saloon – Surly Girl Pizza x2
Surly Girl Saloon – Chuckwagon (a breakfast pizza) x3
(Delivered by Amy from SGS)
Panzera’s Pizza – Pepperoni, Mushroom, Onions, Sausage, Banana Peppers x2
High Beck Tavern – Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, BBQ sauce x2
Northstar Cafe – High Street Veggie x2
Hounddogs – Olives and Feta, Smokin Joe’s Style (Spicy)
Fabian’s – Chicken Rustica
Mama Mimi’s – BBQ Sauce, Pepperoni, Bacon
Belleria – Sausage, Pepperoni, Green Peppers, Onion
DiCarlos – Pepperoni
Enrico’s – Pepperoni, Sausage, Mushroom, Peppers
Angie’s Pizza – Pepperoni

A few pizzas may have have been missed coming through the door at the beginning. I am not sure how many Bono Pizzas arrived. Few pizzas lingered around for long. My official count was 50 pizzas from 27 places. My highest headcount of the night was 62 pizza eating souls although many people came and left during the night. We raised $51 for the Haiku Help Fund.

We made a run at voting this year. However, I should mention some disclaimers. Pizza comes in at various times during the night. Few people could have tried all 50 odd pizzas, it all depends on when one arrives and how quickly a pizza gets eaten. In the case of Bono – those pizzas lasted 8 minutes and were sampled by about 10 people at the most. Our inaugural categories:

Best of Grand Prix
Winner: Dewey’s Buffalo Chicken
Runner Up: High Beck Smokehouse Combo

Best Homemade
Winner: Rockmaster Mike’s Bacon Baccahanalia

Best Topping Combo
Winner: Mama Mimi’s BBQ Bacon
Runner Up: Surly Girl Blue Cheese Cranberry

Best Vegetarian
Winner: Northstar High Street Veggie

The best comment in the voting cards – “Hounddogs Feta and Olives Soooo F**king Good!”

A trend I noticed among the winners … bacon. Bacon is still the new black in Columbus. My favorite was the Hi Beck Smokehouse combo – Brisket, Pulled Pork, BBQ sauce – so “fraking” good. It arrived later in the evening, a few more votes and it would have won two categories.

Taking Pizza to the Next Level: Pizza Box Jenga

Taking Pizza to the Next Level, Pizza Box Jenga

Thanks to: Everyone that came, Wild Goose Creative for hosting as well as setting up and tearing down, Dewey’s for donating some pizzas, Surly Girl for donating and delivering pizzas, the Hounddogs delivery guy I forgot to tip because I was multi-tasking, Bill from Bono for making pizzas just for us, Walker Evans and anyone I missed.

For those of you that missed it, listen live – Columbus Foodcast Episode 35

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

Pizza Grand Prix III, March 7th 6pm – 8pm, Admission is FREE!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 28, 2009

Scene from PGP II

Scene from PGP II

Who: Everyone
What: Bring a Pizza and/or eat pizza
When: March 7th, 6 PM to 8 PM
Where: Wild Goose Creative – 2491 Summit Street – Baja Clintonville
Why: Expand your Columbus pizza knowledge and sample pizzas you did not know about
How: Buy a pizza or make a pizza. If you can not purloin a pie drop by anyway but make a small donation to the Haiku Help Fund
Web: Here – CMH Gourmand and Columbus Underground

To keep track of what is going on for this Gran Prix – check out the current Columbus Underground post – Columbus Underground PGP III

When I was growing up in Columbus every March there was an event a the fairgrounds called Extravaganza. The commerial always ended with a cheesy announcer voice shrieking “ADMISSION IS FREE”. Well – admission is free to PGP but the only cheese we offer is on the pizza.

And for a taste of past Pizza Grand Prix events – see below.

Pizza Grand Prix Uno

Pizza Grand Prix Dos

Come out and join us. When you know you are coming – post here or on Columbus Underground so we can track a rough headcount.

We will have a few freebies, a lot of pizza, drinks are BYOB and this time we will have voting in place to so everyone can support their favorites of the night.

Here is the drill – we expect to have twenty plus types of pizza – the volume depends on how many people show up and what time people walk through the door.

We have napkins, plates, red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese and a pizza cutter. Sample to your hearts content and perhaps your stomachs regret. All are welcome to bring tupperware to take some pizza to go when we wind things down after 8 PM.

Voting will be in these categories:
Best of Grand Prix
Best Homemade
Best Topping Combo
Best Vegetarian

There will be a prize for the best homemade pizza as determined by voting.

We do ask that you ask to have your pizza cut in squares – aka – tavern cut – this helps with the process of pizza sharing. If you are bringing a pizza from your favorite pizza place – bring some extra menus with you – so other people can support your favorite dough slinger in the future. If you are stumped on where to get a pizza from (could this be?) check out my slice of CMH link at the top of the blog.

Hope to see you there – PGP has been one of the favorite Columbus Underground events and Wild Goose Creative is a wonderful place to host a community event.

BE THERE, BE THERE, BE THERE!

Note: More info to come during the week – I have been hampered by haphazard wireless connection crowded coffee shop internet access so posts have been delayed and rushed.

Posted in Clintonville, Columbus style pizza, events, kid friendly dining, pizza | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Triangles and Squares – Columbus Pizza

Posted by CMH Gourmand on September 9, 2006

Slice of Columbus will be on September 13th at the LC Pavilion, in the Arena District. This event was known as the Pizza Challenge during the first sixteen years of existence and was at Victory’s for many years. This competition allows people to try pizza from about 20 or more different local pizza slingers. The proceeds go to benefit Children’s Hospital. I went to 5 or 6 of these in the past. It is worth going but now I have a better alternative. My friends and I do our own pizza “buffet” every year. Each person brings a type of pizza from a different place and with 30+ plus people – we have a lot of variety. Below is a list of the pizzas I would suggest you consider if your decide to do the same. This list is based on my favorite pizzas from my own eating adventures – but supported by empty pizza boxes at the yearly Hoffman Pizza Buffet Party and People’s Choice awards at the event formerly known as the Pizza Challenge.

Adriaticos

Bexley / Gahanna Pizza Plus

Catalfinos

Flying Pizza – New York Style

Hounddog’s Three Degree Pizza – Go with Smokin Joe’s Style (Spicy sauce – garlic crust)

Iacanos

Mama Mimi’s Take and BakePrimo Vegetarian (roasted garlic sauce, zucchini, spinach, artichoke hearts, roma tomatoes, chopped onions, and mushrooms) (( I usually replace the romas and onions with sun dried tomatoes and scallions.))

Northstar Cafe – Flat bread Pizza

Pizza House – Meatball

Portofino’s – Giant 30 inch pizza (49 slices) $23 for one topping. The 24 inch is only $18.

The Rossi – a simple cheese pizza – to go is not an option – but on a slow night, when the hipsters are not around – heaven.

Rotolos – (feels like a pound of cheese in each slice)

Whole WorldHerb and Guacamole or Oregon Apple (apple sauce, apples, raisins, provolone and sunflower seeds)

And a quick note about pizza style – there are several recognized styles of pizza – Neopolitan, New York, Chicago, New Haven, and California. There is a good argument that there is a Columbus style. Columbus style pizza is thin crust that is cut into squares. People from both coasts get angry when they encounter this style. The best local examples of this style are found at Massey’s and Donatos.

If you want to learn more about pizza styles – click below

Pizza Today – June 2006 – Regional Pizza Styles 

Posted in Columbus, Columbus style pizza, food, pizza, restaurants | 4 Comments »