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Columbus Style Pizza Not Your Thing? Try These Other Regional Styles Inside 270

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 1, 2020

Columbus has changed a lot over the last twenty years. Franklin and Delaware counties are among the fastest growing in the country. Today, many residents are transplants to our city. This may come as a surprise to some of you but there are some among us that do not like Columbus style pizza – thin, cut into squares and piled with pepperoni. There are others that do have an affinity for our preferred pizza pie but want to expand their horizons while staying in place this summer and fall. If you can’t travel to the style of pizza, I’ll tell you where you can find it here in Columbus.

New York Style Pizza

The first pizzeria in the United States was most likely Lombardi’s in New York City opening in 1904. Over the years, New York style pizza became defined as a pizza with the thin, floppy crust with a thick, dense and chewy crust ring and high gluten flour. Can cut into big triangle slices. Most New York transplants assume a good version of this style is not be be had in the capital city. They are mistaken. Here is where you can find bona fide New York slices or pies.

Paulie Gee’s

The Paulie Gee’s in the short north is the first westward expansion of Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn. Terry Gibbs crafts authentic NYC style pies with high end ingredients and some of his own variations as well.

Borgata Pizza

Borgata Pizza now has two locations. In the early days, it was a little known spot on the Northeast side of Columbus. Today, even expat-New Yorkers make an effort to find their way to the doors of either Borgata.

Sarafino’s
This long time North Market fixture continues to please the taste buds of even the more hard core slice eater. Grab a slice while you support other North Market merchants on your next shopping trip.

Late Night Slice

Unicorn (formerly Slut Sauce) need I say more?


Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit Style pizza is definitely different. The origins of this style go back to 1946 at a place called Buddy’s Rendezvous (still open today as Buddy’s Pizza). This style has some relationship to Sicilian style pizza – it is rectangular in shape, thick like focaccia bread and originally baked in drip and parts pans used by automotive dealerships. It is also typical to char the ends of the crust to make it extra chewy and crunchy.

Paulie Gee’s

The aforementioned Paulie G’s also makes incredibly good, albeit pricey, Detroit style Pizza. The quality of the ingredients justify the price but $20 for six slices is hard to swallow on a regular basis.

Jet’s

Yes, I am mentioning a chain. Jet’s Pizza makes a respectable Detroit style pizza and I have heard many local foodies quietly admit that they have a hankering for the Turbo Crust at Jet’s.


Sicilian

Adriaticos

Adriaticos’s makes three types of pizza, the most beloved is their Sicilian Pizza in the form of a Buckeye Pizza. The Buckeye is a large 18 x 24 sheet of Sicilian style pizza that can feed 10 – 12 or more people with ease. It is offered at a bargain price on Mondays and Tuesdays.


Chicago Style

Chicago style pizza has origins going back to 1943. Ike Sewell had a vision to make pizza a family meal and as thick as a pie so it could be eaten with a knife and fork. The guy back in the kitchen figuring out how to make this new style work was John Malnati. Ike’s place changed names a few years later to Pizzeria Uno. Lou Malnati’s took his fathers know how and recipes to start a chain of his own. Chicago style pizza is thick. It is cooked at lower temperatures for a longer period of time, typically about 40 minutes. The order of ingredients is typically different that other styles – sauce on top, then cheese, then toppings resting on the dough in that order.

Yellow Brick Pizza – Tristano’s Chicago Stuffed Pizza

Tristano’s Pizza in Grove City closed in 2016. Before the end, Yellow Brick apprenticed with Lou Tristano to learn how to make his version of Chicago style pizza. I considered Tristano’s among the best in Columbus. Lou made a good pie. He started working in his family’s Chicago area pizzeria before high school. The Yellow Brick version is about 94% as good as his, I will take that any day.

Giordano’s Pizza
Yes, the legendary Giordano’s pizza has a location in the Columbus area located near Polaris. I like their salads more than their pizzas. They are good but something is lost in the move to Columbus.

Meister’s Pizza

Meister’s Pizza is hard to find, tucked in the back corner of Meister’s Bar but it is worth the effort to find.

Massey’s Pizza
Massey’s does a respectable version of Chicago style pizza which I need to try again.


Rhode Island Style Pizza

Typically served in strips – this pizza sometimes features a sauce with a kick. It has roots in what is called Tomato Pie.

Yellow Brick

Yellow Brick has Rhode Island roots and inspiration but not quite a true to style Rhode Island Pie.


New Haven style Apizza

New Haven style pizza goes back to the 1920’s at a place called Frank Pepe’s. This is a thin crust pizza, coming out of a coal fired oven. Traditionally this is served as sauce with some pecorino romano sprinkled on. If you want mozzerella you need to ask for it (this is similar to the early pizzas in Columbus). White Clam Pizza is a signature style at Frank Pepe’s which was adopted by other pizzerias in the area. It is white style pizza (no red sauce) with littleneck clams. Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s Apizza are the most famous of the shops. I went to both in one day. I like Frank Pepe’s better.

Taft’s

Oddly, you can find a good version of this style of pizza in Franklinton, at Taft’s Ale House which is based in Cincinnati.


Steubenville / Ohio Valley Style Pizza

DiCarlo’s

Steubenville style pizza, also called Ohio Valley Pizza, originated in the 1945 in Steubenville by the DiCarlo family. It is a thick crust, rectangle shaped pizza that has a layer of sauce and a dusting of cheese when in comes out of the oven. Cheese is then dumped on the hot pie with the original concept being that it will melt by the time the customer gets home. In the old days this was not always the case. Today DiCarlo’s has a Columbus location and you can decide if this style works for you or not.


Cincinnati – not really a style

If are from Cincinnati, you have heard of LaRosa’s Pizza. If you miss it, there is a location in Dublin.


Let me know what I missed.

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , , , | 10 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 »

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: , , | Leave a 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 »

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 »

Another Elite Eating Hack: Rockmill Tavern Beet Bahn Mi

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 25, 2019

I did not expect another elite eating hack in 2019. Nor did I expect said hack to present itself at Rockmill Tavern but when serendipity strikes, it should not be dismissed. I would like to say I could take credit for this culinary advancement but, like the other elite hack, this higher plane of consumption was created by another. I can say, I was present for the inspiration and I had the second ever sandwich created with this configuration.

Rockmill Tavern does a fine job with meaty dishes and they have always offered vegetables that your momma would not need to bribe you to eat but over the last year, the kitchen has been very focused on creating destination level dishes which showcase vegetables. Hence, the a new lunch menu addition, the Beet Bahn Mi.

You may be familiar with the famous Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich – the best version I have encountered in Central Ohio is at Mi Li Cafe. Rockmill Tavern took that inspiration and put their own spin on it for their weekday lunch menu. They ditched the meat and replaced it with braised golden beets then add Vietnamese pickles and garlic miso aioli layered between two halves of a wonderful Maitja Breads Ciabatta Hoagie Roll. No one needs to beat me to get me to eat this Beet Mi, it is an excellent sandwich as presented. However, it just so happens that Rockmill Tavern makes an exceptional pork belly and if the place is not too crowded and you ask nicely they will add pork belly to this sandwich. The end result is AMAZING. Now you have another Elite Eating Hack for Rockmill Tavern. Thank you Chris for this gift to humanity. Thank you to Rockmill Tavern for allowing us to eat this.

My other inside tip – always order the pasta special, you will never be disappointed but do make sure you order bread to go with it.

Where to go:
Rockmill Tavern
503 South Front Street
Brewery District, Lunch Time

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The Best Basement Brewing Museum I have ever seen…..

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 8, 2019

Due to a curious chain of events (certainly not the first time for me), I found myself in a brewing museum in a basement. Well, maybe not a true museum but an incredible curated collection of artifacts accumulated by Ed Heller in forty odd years of brewing in Columbus and Central Ohio, mainly at August Wagner Breweries. How does one find himself in such a place? In my case by being a “connectrovert” – finding ways to connect people and opportunities as well as asking the right question at the right time in the right way. The story starts with me in my role as Vice President (and non-resident historian) of the Brewery District Merchants Association. A member had a question about a giant Brewers Alley sign that was in his building. An individual was interested in making a good home for this sign and after asking a few questions to “vet” that it would be a good forever home for a historic sign, agreements were made to transfer custody. In the process of this back and forth, I found out that the mother of the person asking for this sign was the daughter of Ed Heller who was a local brewmaster and she had “a few things” in her basement including a Brewers Year Book from 1950. Without trying to hide my excitement I asked if I could invite myself to see this treasure trove of Breweriana and the deal was done. Well, maybe I put a lot of icing on the non cake that is me, by asking if I could also invite my friend and colleague Curt Schieber the author of “Columbus Beer: Recent Brewing & Deep Roots“.

Flash forward to this morning when Curt and I, two perfect strangers to these very kind people, found ourselves in a nicely finished north side basement looking at relics of the August Wagner Breweries (and other places) and hearing about the long career of Ed Heller. He lived an incredible life. As the oldest of nine children, Ed had to leave school in the 8th grade to find work. Eventually, through a lot of hard work, perseverance and saving a lot of money for the time, he found his way to New York city to earn a prestigious Brewmasters certificate. Being a brewer on the South Side of Columbus would have made him one of the most respected citizens of his era. He lived into his 90’s surviving throat cancer in his late 40’s and being unable to speak and then another cancer, heart attack and more later in life. For many years his family lived in one of the brewers houses on Front Street which in itself created so many memories including going to the brewery on Saturdays so that the brewers could make snowballs out of the melting ice in the brewery for children to play with.

The assortment of photos, signs, glasses, bottles and more in this basement space told more than just the story of a brewer, it tells the story of a important part of life in Columbus during his career. Our hosts Angie and Greg shared so many stories with Curt and I that I lost count. More importantly the four of us connected due to a passion for celebrating and preserving history. Much of what we saw were items that easily could have been discarded or separated over the years but keeping all of this together created a wonderful longitudinal story.

This was truly a treasure trove. Curt, spent three years working on his book but had never seen the majority of what we were looking at and hearing about today so he was thrilled with having access to this hidden history. One thing we collectively lamented on is that most families loose so much of their history and connection to the past by not having someone with an interest to pass it on to the next generation. Increasingly there is no one in the present that wants take on the role of family historian and archivist. Today Curt and I got lucky. I am sharing a few of the many photos I took below.

Posted in beer, culinary knowledge, culinary misadventure | 2 Comments »

Ding Ho, Wor Sue Gai: Columbus Institution & Midwestern Foodway

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 26, 2019

Many moons ago, I came across this interesting article about the origination of Wor Sue Gai / War Su Gai in Columbus. The claim seems credible with a strong probability that the dish started at Far East Restaurant in Bexley sometime in the 1920’s. Two of our oldest Chinese restaurants in town – Wings (1970) and Ding Ho (1956) have connections to that restaurant. The dish is simple – wok fried chicken topped with chopped almonds or peanuts depending on the restaurant and era, covered with gravy and served on a bed of lettuce. My memories of Columbus Chinese food of the 20th century recall this dish vividly anywhere we dined. Other locales call this Almond Boneless Chicken as described in an article on Eater. There are differences in how this dish is presented, especially in how the gravy is prepared throughout Columbus and elsewhere but the core of the dish remains the same. As I was reading through this research I realized I have never dined at Ding Ho and I figured I should fix that.

Ding Ho has a long history in the capital city, dating back to 1956. It has been in several locations on the west side. It has been at it’s current location on Phillpi Road since 2008 in what looks to have been a former fast casual restaurant space. The original Ding Ho (which roughly translates to -> the best) started in a converted gas station. During its prime it stayed open late, served the movers and shakers of Columbus such as Mayor Sensenbrenner and offered steaks, chops, sandwiches and more.

Today, Ding Ho might be an easy place for people to dismiss either for the location or for having a traditional, Americanized Chinese menu. For those that have not visited, it is well worth the trip. Even though it is in a newer building, Ding Ho has an old school feel about the space. It is well maintained with plenty of room for dining and even a patio area. Service was friendly and very fast. On my visit I noticed it was well populated with many regulars that the staff knew by name.

Of course I ordered the Wor Sue Gai. I ordered an egg roll. I also opted for the optional bread service – mainly because I was intrigued by this offering. My server just asked if I would like bread…so of course I said yes. I was promptly given a plate with two slices of bread on it and small vat of butter. I was told this has been a tradition since the 1950’s since the menu once included a wide variety of American and Chinese-America comfort foods. Over time, guests would see bread being served with a steak or chops and ask if they could have it with their Chop Suey or Wor Sue Gai, so bread remains an option to this day. My egg roll was good. I really enjoyed the house made sauces readily available at the table to ladle on my egg roll. Both sauces were fresh and complimented the egg roll well.

The Wor Sue Gai was served within a matter of minutes. It was piping hot and had the requisite chicken, gravy, rice, lettuce, crumbled peanuts and in my case scallions/green onions which are optional. All white meat is also optional for this dish. It was exactly what I expected. It might not be an exciting dish for a professional foodie but I felt this was a fine rendition of this traditional dish.

While my expectations were not exceedingly high for this visit or dish, all of my expectations were exceeded. The most important part of the meal was the friendly attitude of the staff and the pride they have for continuing a third and fourth generation small business. That alone justifies a trip to explore this historic dish.

Ding Ho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Elite Eating Hack: Rockmill Tavern Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 18, 2019

The absolute best sandwich in Columbus, among many worthy candidates, is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Rockmill Tavern in the Brewery District. Saying the best of anything food related in this city is a bit daring, in that often a flood of counter arguments and in some cases trolling will ensue. At least I am not declaring the best pizza in Columbus, such audacity would likely get me lynched.

Rockmill Tavern is no stranger to “best of”. It was voted best new restaurant when it opened in the fall of 2016 and has maintained top ten status since. In what may be the most contested best of category in the city, BEST BURGER, Rockmill has generally landed in the number one or two spot along with Preston’s. (I love Preston’s so if I was ever forced to choose between the two burgers I would just eat both and call it a draw).

The Spicy Chicken sandwich is a beautiful work of culinary art. Fried chicken style breading encases a gigantic long slice of chicken bread that extends past the bun at least two to three inches on each pole of the sandwich. It features a generous allotment of spicy (but not too spicy) honey butter. To complement the light heat, a thin layer of urfa mayo is slathered on and a small stack of thinly sliced bread and butter zucchini (not quite pickles but serving that role). Sandwich all of this between a brioche bun, add more butter and when available top with a delicious, buttery, red pepper and the end result is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Take this same basic concept and place on their amazing biscuits and you have essentially the same sandwich in biscuit format known as the Chicken Biscuit when you can get it

Let me cut to the chase to get to the hack, because it is a game changer. This hack was created by a regular customer (once or twice per week) which shared it with bar staff who in turn shared with me.

Elite Eating Hack for Rockmill Tavern Spicy Chicken Sandwich

1) Take the pepper off the top of the bun, remove the stem and place on the chicken.

2) Lift the bun and flip over to make it less messy to eat and to infuse more butter into the chicken.

3) Eat the sandwich. Consider ordering a second.

Suggested pairings: Rockmill Dubbel, Old Mill Rocky or Rockmill Witbier

Please note: The photo in this post is of the Chicken Biscuit Sandwich. It is similar, and equally good, but not exactly the same – however it does accurately show the bun to chicken ratio and basic sandwich configuration and proportions. I did not take a photo of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich because more often than not, I prefer to eat my meal instead of tweet it, I find it is much more satisfying.

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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 »