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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


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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.
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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 »