CMH Gourmand

Eat, Drink, Repeat: Culinary Discovery & Misadventure in Central Ohio

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Archive for the ‘pizza’ Category

Buffet Battle: Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 27, 2016

pizza buffet

The Buffet Battle Series begins with Pizza. Each Buffet is available Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm.

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

While Massey’s tag line is the Cadillac of pizzas, Iacono’s has earned that moniker for their buffet. Two years ago it was $8.75, until 6 weeks ago it was $9.75 now that we are firmly in 2016 it is now $10.75. That price may scare off some but the value is hard to beat. The buffet features a full salad bar including a variety of house made dressings, cottage cheese, pudding, macaroni salad, potato salad and bacon bits, home made soup, two to three full pizzas which are typically served in half styles so a total of 6 varieties are usually available. The staff often ask what type of pizza you like and typically you will see that as a new selection while you are eating. A dessert pizza (a mix of apples and cinnamon). A beverage is included and staff are aggressive in making sure your cup is not half empty. The space is large with many tables and some half booth / table seating along one wall. There are several high chairs available and if you need to find a place far from the madding crowd, you can find it. The in house music is not overly loud and is typically features the best of the 1970’s.


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


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

And thus ends the first Buffet Battle.

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

Hounddogs Hallowed Delivery Icon(s)

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 18, 2016

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4 cars, 3 rockets and 2 dogs make one Iconic Columbus Car
(The story of Houndogs delivery machine)

Chances are even if you have never tried Hounddogs Pizza, you have wondered about the iconic car that delivers “pizza for the people”. In the beginning, or 1997 in this case, this dog star was born as non-traditional marketing. The inspiration came late one night. Owner Jeff Stewart had a vision of a Hounddog strapped to a rocket that he could mount to a classic car he recently acquired. Stewart started the project the next morning.

The original dog was make by a local artist, Mike Foley. Stewart called CCAD to find a sculptor and was eventually referred to a former student. When asked about his credentials, Foley replied “come over to my house on Indianola to see my work.” Stewart found a house filled with sculptures of all sizes and shapes and knew he found the right person to craft his canine.

The first night out was quite memorable, the rocket was sheared off of the dog when it caught on a low hanging parking garage roof. Since then, things have really taken off for the car and the pizza joint.

There have been three rockets over the years. The second was remounted on the original Hounddog and then attached (in order) to: 1971 Cadillac Coupe de Ville (1997 to 2001), 1988 VW Golf (2002-2003), 1985 Cadillac Fleetwood Broughham Limo (2003 – 2013). After a hiatus, a new dog with a new rocket was mounted on a 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood in the summer of 2015. The “new” car is red like the original with diamondback plate mounted on the roof as a base for a hallowed hounddog creating an unforgettable delivery vehicle.

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Bonus stuff below:

It Takes a Village to Craft a Car

Jeff Stewart is not one to toot his own turn, for anything Hounddogs, he is quick to state all accomplishments are a team effort. His team for the mobile delivery service encompasses twenty years of hands on experience. One of his drivers has over a decade of service under his belt. Andy, at Campus Auto has served has ER and surgeon to keep Hounddogs classic cars clunking along since the original rolled onto his lot nearly a of score years ago.

Quick Facts
The first rocket took 15 hours to fabricate. The second took off in just a few hours.

Stewart had a basset hound in college, which was part of the inspiration for the logo and car art, but because of the long hours he put in for the pizza shop, he had to give him up to a friend.

All cars except the Golf have been called into service to run family and friends to the airport, creating a memorable start to many vacations.

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Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, pizza | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Slice of Clintonville: A Serving of Community

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 5, 2015

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Tonight I served as a judge for the second annual Slice of Clintonville, an evening of all you can eat pizzas from the greater Clintonville area. This was the first year for judging so my honorable colleagues and I had the daunting task of tasting and evaluating three to seven types of pizza from each of the following: Ange’s, Bella Pizza, Donatos, Hounddogs, Lucky’s, Mama Mimi’s, Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Pizza House, Sbarro (open 4 days just down the street), Smiths Deli, Villa Nova and Z Pizza. If you are now full from reading that imagine how I feel right now.

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We opted to try to tame that overwhelming variety by getting creative with our criteria. We tasted the standard Pepperoni pie from each place then compared our top three choices among the three judges to determine best in show. Then each of us picked our favorite specialty pizza for an honorable mention. The end result: Pizza House was our winner. Late Night Slice, Hounddogs and Mana Mimi’s got Honorable Mention and Villa Nova received the diversity award for their Taco Pizza. The People’s Choice award went to Mama Mimi’s. It was a good showing by all.

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There are many events in Columbus – typically too many to choose from. Some are too big, some are too small, a few too frequent and a very small number are just right. This is a true community event, at least for me. I was able to judge with Nick from Breakfast with Nick and spend some time with his family. I was able to sample pizza and catch up with friends from Late Night Slice and Hounddogs that I work with on the Pitchers and Pizza Tour and see other that I have known for years serve pizza from their shops and see neighbors I have known, in some cases all my life, enjoy the fruits for these local pizza slingers. And finally a few Clintonville charities were able to show off what they do. It is hard to create an event that truly represents the community but Slice of Clintonville is just that a slice of what the community has to offer. See you next year.

Posted in Clintonville, pizza | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

KDB: Kitchen Den Bar, the bar has been raised.

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 7, 2015

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I loathe Easton. Everything in my essence is pre-disposed to have my skin crawl at the thought of an area dedicated solely to the pursuit of consumer goods in a suburban environment. I have gone to great lengths to avoid the lifestyle zone with a few exceptions. I would go at off-peak hours to visit the Apple Store when it was the only location in town. I made trips to the Container Store on the periphery to appease my inner need to organize, but even that was reluctantly. And the only time I was ever recruited for job was at the Ocean Club, it was an exceptional meal even for a person allergic to fish. As a person that has never been reluctant to visit the rough parts of the city, or the world for a good meal, the aura of Easton was enough to make me hesitant to stuff my face. With that as a background, when I received an invitation to visit KDB, I was game to go. KDB is in the former space of Gameworks. I had been hankering for some good old-fashioned video shot em up action and when a chance to do so to my hearts desire had me on board. My expectations were low. My expectations were exceeded within moments of stepping in.

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The space has been completely redesigned with emphasis given to showcasing all three aspects of the name. Kitchen: these guys are serious about their food. There is a pride in what is on the menu. The pizza/flatbread dough is made in-house. Den: Forget man cave, this space is filled with games grouped together by type: racing, first person shooter, sports, etc. Many of the materials are repurposed. The furniture is set up to be inviting and comfortable with our a frat boy eye for fashion. Bar: Local Craft beer are more than an afterthought here and you will be hard pressed to find a better Bourbon selection in town. To the point that they could change the name to KDBB. And they might add an extra D for decor, this place is not some dark man cave, it is set up to be an inviting bar, a cosy eatery and an arena for the arcade.

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Back to the Kitchen. With the D and the B, the place could slide on the Kitchen component but that did not happen. This is no place to park the kids while you sneak a drink, this is a spot where everyone gets what they want without having to compromise the quality in the food, games or spirits. I tried the flatbread and have it two thumbs up. The crust was perfect and the topping were generous and of very high quality. The wings are not something frozen dumped out of a bag and the options here are more than typical, you can choose dry rubs like old bay or lemon pepper or wet rubs such as the standard buffalo of the off the beaten path spicy sriracha or curry. The whole menu is pub grub on the high-end.

So, and this is a big deal, I’ll be back to Easton for KDB.

KDB Kitchen Den Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in bar, beverages, pizza | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Lake Hope Lodge – Not your typical dining hall

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 7, 2015

For no good reason, when I think about a dining in a state-owned park, cafeteria quality food comes to mind. While that may apply to many dining options with government oversight, such is not the case of the Lake Hope Lodge Restaurant. Lake Hope is a state park located about 20 miles from Athens. I have journeyed there at least once per year since the mid 1990’s and it very quickly became my go to state park (after a fair amount of vetting). While my tent camping days are probably over, my first cabin experience was at Lake Hope and now an “Iron Furnace” Cottage is as close as I get to roughing it. I can’t say we visited the lodge in the center for the park for anything other than picking up keys but I did visit shortly after it burned down around 2005 or 2006. The lodge was rebuilt in 2012 with a lot of attention to detail considered through the construction. The lodge is largely built out of locally sourced wood and stone. The design and decor reflect the history and heritage of the area – with photographs throughout the lodge showcasing the people, places and structures of the Lake Hope area from the 1800’s to the 1950’s. The restaurant in the lodge is privately owned and operated with a result that is both appetizing and appropriate to the current culture of the area.

The proprietor/chefs are Matt Rapposelli and Eric Lee, both highly training chefs with plenty of experience including gigs at Ohio University and operating Big Chimney Bakery among other ventures. The menu reflects the locally sourced focus that residents and visitors to the area prefer. The beef for the burgers comes from the Ohio State farm, chips in the nachos are sourced from local favorite Shagbark Seed and Mill, Raven’s Glen Wines add an Ohio option to the wine list and craft beers include Great Lakes and Elevator Brewing Companies. The meats are smoked on site and pizzas (evening only) come fresh out of the wood-ired oven. The menu is not extensive but is “right sized” to have just enough options with a selection of appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and desserts as well as a non insulting kids menu to provide a good choice for any picky diner.

On our visit we tried the nachos featureing a mountain of Shagbark chips, cheese, smoked pulled pork, lettuce and a more diced tomato de gallo than pico de gallo with a side of sour cream. The nachos were good but they would have benefited from more “goo” either more cheese, a side of BBQ sauce, or something to add some wetness to the dryness (not a bad dry) to the chips and pulled pork.

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I tried the Smoked Turkey, Bacon and Swiss sandwich with: smoked Ohio turkey topped with giant slices of cured bacon and Swiss cheese on freshly made bread. The smoked turkey was exceptional with great flavor and juiciness. The sandwich would have benefited from more and stronger Ohio Swiss cheese. The side of hand cut fries were very good.

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Mrs. Gourmand opted for the Warm Brisket and Bleu salad (opting to sub in cheddar due to her knocked up state) which included: slabs of slow-smoked, Ohio-raised brisket served warm on romaine lettuce with cheese, red onion, carrots and tomato. Mrs. Gourmand and I thought the brisket was very well crafted – tender and flavorful without being overly smoked. CMH Tobias also gave the scraps two paws up when he tried them later. The salad came with a fresh baked roll which could easily be converted to a sandwich bun for some of the brisket.

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For those with challenged digestive systems and eating preferences, the lodge does have a good veggie burger and gluten free pizza crust. For those that like BBQ you can buy all of the meats by the pound to enjoy at home or for a party (or to pretend you are “roughing it” at your cabin.

In addition to very good food, the lodge offers a great view of the lake as well as several good walking trails to allow you to burn off the calories after a meal. The lodge is obviously popular with visitors to the park whose nearest dining options are 15 miles away. But the lodge is liked by locals as well who drive the 40 mile round trip from Uptown Athens and beyond to dine. In fact, I ran into Kelly Sauber (Marietta Brewing, Fifth Element Spirits and West End Cider House Fame) who confirmed that Athens, Meigs and Vinton County residents are more than happy to head to the lodge for a meal.

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Drive time from Columbus is about 1 hour and forty minutes (or 1 hour 29 minutes in my old Subaru which handled SR 278 much better than my current cars). If you are staying overnight and want to explore the area in more culinary depth I can also strongly suggest and endorse the following in Athens: O’Betty’s Hot Dogs, Casa Nueva, Bagel Street Deli, Millers Chicken, Jackie O’s Brewpub, Avalanche Pizza, Purple Chopstix, The Athens Farmers Market and West End Cider House (and yes, I often visit almost all of those places in one day).

Lake Hope Lodge
27331 State Route 278
McArthur, OH 45651
740-596-0601

lakehopelodge.com/menunew

Winter Hours (end April 1st):
Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 11am-8pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am-9pm
Sunday: Brunch Buffet 10am-2pm

For more about the history of the rebuilt lodge and the origins of the restaurant, click -> HERE.

Lake Hope Lodge on Urbanspoon

Posted in Athens, BBQ, Locally Sourced, pizza, restaurants, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hounddogs Three Degree Pizza: Revisited, Reviewed….Revived

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hounddog's Three Degree Pizza on Urbanspoon

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

Roadtrip: Coccia House Ristorante & Pizzeria – Old School in Wooster

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 10, 2015

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As a citizen in good standing of the allied members of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, when Mary MacDonald asked me to moderate a panel on Effective Media Interaction, I said yes. When Mary was marketing director of the North Market and asked me to do anything, I said yes. That is a good habit to follow when Mary is involved. It has never steered me wrong. Now granted, Wooster in the winter might not be every person’s dream but in that it was the first Ohio Craft Brewers Convention paired with the first Ohio Hop Growers Convention how could I avoid standing in the middle of history?

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As is the per usual for me, when I am anywhere new and I have more than one hour for free time, I’m going to explore and see what the area has to offer and find an authentic spot to assimilate with the locals. While encamped at the local watering hole, the Great American Beer Festival awarding JAFB (which stands for Just Another Fucking Brewery – at least that is what I am told) Brewery I decided I had time to go on a food expedition, I had some initial research on where to get food but then I recalled I had an ace up the sleeve. I know Wooster’s Golden Girl, who now resides in Columbus ( she has a Ph.D and is a certified Policy Duder). I texted her to ask where to go and she replied Coccia House Pizza. This was promising because when I mentioned this to Cheryl Harrison, from Drink Up Columbus, who at that moment had allowed me to be part of her entourage, she too had been told Coccia House Pizza. Then, over the next 10 minutes, I saw several JAFB customers walk in with 2-4 boxes of Coccia House pizza. I then checked with the bartender and he too said……Coccia House Pizza. Finally, it was confirmed by one Angelo Signorino Jr. that in in 20 years of trips to Wooster his relatives had steered him to Coccia House many times. At this point, there was only one thing to do – call.

I called in an order for pick up (Coccia was only 1/2 mile away) and was given a one hour pick up time. I arrived 20 minutes early to observe this place in operation and following my standard checklist for likable small town Ohio haunts things looked promising before I even tasted a a slice of pie. Let us review the rankings on the S.C.L.S.T.O.H

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Restaurant located in an old house with multiple additions: Check

Parking lot full before 6 pm on a Thursday in poor weather conditions: Check

Pizza slingers instantly recognize me as a non local because I don’t know what to do when walking through the door: Check

Inside of house converted to restaurant is full of customers who every server knows by name while an endless string of pizza pick ups occur with each pizza slinger knowing each customer by both pizza preference and first name: Check

Photos of customer holding Coccia pizza boxes taken all over the world including places like Papua New Guinea: Check

Place is closed Tuesdays and open for carry out (Pizza, salads and Antipasta only) only on Sunday. Those non standard hours are the “You complete me” of small town haunts: Check.

Old menus and information about a place dating back to 1958 placed in the trophy case: Check

Three generations of ownership: Check

Ships pizzas around the world: Check

There appears to be at least one menu item that is not on the menu but known by all, pepperoni bread: Check

Noted on the menu: homemade bread and butter, anchovies (real) charcoal peppers: Check

Last and not least, with Wooster being just outside the Ohio Valley Pizza belt the place still abides by the rules of all Ohio pizza preferences: Topping on top of the cheese….or below, cheese charred, half-baked or unbaked: Check, Check and Checkmate!

At this point it did not matter what the pizza tasted like, this place was old school in all the right ways and I was glad I was putting money in their pockets to keep things going. During my 15 minutes waiting for my two large pepperoni pizzas I sat on a bench and watched these pizza slingers at work. They ranged from 16 to 22, working as an efficient team of four (one wearing sunglasses). The pizzas had big square slices of cheese on top. Pizzas were assembled in a frenetic yet focused manner. If pizza makers could rock stars these kids would have been the Rolling Stones.

Now on to the pizza. I quickly transported one pizza to JAFB while the other stayed in my car for delivery back to Mrs. Gourmand home in Columbus town. The first thing I noted was the weight of the pizza boxes. They were heavy from a high volume of cheese and a thicker than typical crust. I had one slice at the brewery and instructed the brewers to consume the rest (which is the only time I think they might listen to something I say). My initial response to my first bite, other than…TOOO HOTTT, was hmm. The topping to cheese ratio was proportionally pleasing. I thought the core crust was too crunchy. At this point it was time to head back to Columbus with the other pizza.

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Arriving home 90 minutes later. I found the pizza even more pleasing to my palate. The oil/grease had soaked into the crust making it more malleable for mastication. The rest of the pizza minus my assessment slice was placed on the refrigerator for the next day. The next morning, Mrs. Gourmand texted me to let me know she was very pleased with the sauces because it smelled and tasted like it had fresh tomatoes in it. Mrs. Gourmand is a bit of a hard ass when it comes to sauce so this boded well. I then spent the next two days assessing my pizza one slice at a time. I continued to find the cheese, the level of cheese char at the end of the crust ring, cheese ratios and pepperoni quality to be exceptional. Sometimes I liked the crust a lot and other times I just thought it was OK. The crust is about 3/4 inch thick. On the bottom these is a 3-4 mm thick browned crust and then from there to the top, the crust sometimes had a focacia quality and other times a dense, doughy toughness. The result, I like this pizza a lot but I have my feelings about the crust are still mixed. Not that I don’t like it but I don’t know how to feel about it. Doing some more research, I found the style in practice here is Abruzzi which is not too far from where Mrs. Gourmand’s old world people live, so that explained her satisfaction with the sauce. The only solution I can come to resolve my ambiguous feelings about the crust is to sample more. If you pass near Wooster, check this place out but be prepared for a long wait on the weekends. The wait is worth it and there is a lot to watch while you pass the time.

Coccia House Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in Ohio, pizza, restaurants, Road Trip | Leave a Comment »

Rubinos: A Bexley Classic, My Pizza Pilgrimage

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 1, 2015

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I had never been to Rubinos. Never, ever, although I know a lot about the place and its history. I once had a slice that someone brought to a Pizza Grand Prix. I never walked through the hallowed doors of one of the oldest, most famous pizza places in central Ohio. First: WTF. Second: I can sense the disappointment that you all feel knowing my dark secret now that I have come clean. Reviewing the archives of CMH Gourmand and cross checking with a short list of “classic” Columbus eateries, I’m trying to get my culinary history ducks in a row by visiting the few remaining outliers.

Any lifelong resident of Bexley has a militant love of Rubino’s bordering on obsession. The landmark spot feels out of place and out of step with the times in comparison to its neighbors. It is as older building with an interior that might have been refreshed in the 1970’s. Rubino’s is the type of nondescript joint one would expect to walk in to on the far west side, or near east side or just about anywhere other than downtown Bexley. The demeanor feels more like a diner than a pizzeria. Anyone that walks in knows what they want to order, so there is no need to hand out menus. The menu, mounted on the wall, is famously small – pizza, spaghetti, a pasta dish and salads. Beverages are served in a can and while pasta is served on a plate, if you order pizza, you are presented with a small paper plate. Based on my observations 99.9% of customers are regulars who are largely known by first name and who have clearly made Rubino’s a big part of their family traditions. Anecdotally, Rubino’s most famous customer, Bob Greene, made the spot internationally famous in his reminisces of growing up in Bexley. In research to ready myself for Rubinos I searched for other perspectives and reflections on the place so I could order the quintessential meal. I found this -> post which may be the most detailed pizza post I’ve ever encountered.

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I’ll now offer a few observations on my pizza experience. I would not place Rubino’s in the Columbus Pizza Category. First, and this may be hard for many of you to imagine, Rubinos to TOO thin to meet the criteria for Columbus style. The thickness is about the same as a Wheat Thin with about the same amount of crispness. The quantity of cheese would be considered to be on the light end of the spectrum (our server mentioned that most people order extra cheese). The sauce had a bitterness to it (unlike the characteristic sweetness of most Columbus Style pizzas) that was a little shocking on the first bite. If you weighed one of the 14 inches pies, I doubt it would weigh in over one pound. I ordered sausage on half of our pizza and I would say that this topping is the most memorable of any pizza topping I’ve ever encountered. The sausage is cut in rectangles and is even thinner than the crust – roughly the thickness of 2 sheets of paper. I’ve encountered countless pizzas, in over 50 cities and ten countries in my culinary life and nothing has been as unique as what I ate at Rubinos. This shop is one of the original shops in Central Ohio, opening in 1954. If you are not a Bexley native, do be advised that Rubino’s is not for everyone, including, Mrs. Gourmand who noted this is the first pizza she has had with me that she would never have again. Do come for the history and the tradition and a slice of the past. And to best experience the pizza like a typical Bexley native order your pizza “well done, with extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage” which appears to be what most people order.

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Another thing of note, especially for pizza history buffs, Rubinos uses special paper sleeves for their pizzas, which harkens back to the early days of these cheesy pies. The sleeves are “tented” to allow the heat to flow up from the pizza which is the perfect way to transport a classic pie home. And most importantly, take cash, Rubinos does not take Visa, Discover, Mastercard, American Express, Travelers Checks or barter just greenbacks and hard American currency.

Rubino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

The Challenge of Joseppi’s Mega Meat Challenge

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 24, 2014

Once upon a Thursday dreary, while I waddled bloated and weary,
after many a salty and curious volume of meats galore-
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly in my stomach there was a tapping,
As of something gently, rapping, rapping at my digestive system engorged
Tis too much pizza for two men I muttered, tapping on my laptop, I started to deplore
Quoth the Gourmand “Nevermore.”

Setting the Stage

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I’ve known about the Mega Meat Challenge for about a year. My last attempt at epic eating was a two-time wash out – the Mighty Monolith at Neighbors Deli defeated me twice. I wanted an opportunity for redemption and was waiting for the right opportunity. The Breakfast Grub Guy joined me on the pizza tour I offer with Columbus Brew Adventures and during course of our adventure we started to talk about doing the Mega Meat Challenge. By the end of the tour we committed to team up together to take on the Mega Meat Pizza. I was excited. In fact so excited, I was already pre planning to defeat it a second time with Brian Thornton, from OH! Chips as my wingman for round two. I was not cocky, but I was confident about this challenge. I regularly eat a 14, 15 or 16 inch pizza with minimal effort. Stories that James told assured me that if I could just eat 45% of the pizza, we would be champs.

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The Mega Meat Challenge defined

I met James at the Lincoln Village location of Joseppi’s. We were greeted by the manager Jeff Thompson. He explained that it would take about thirty minutes to prepare our pizza. Jeff shared that on several occasions, he has had people (scoundrels) order the pizza and not show up – considering the time, effort and cash that goes into creating this megalith they now have to make it to order and only after both competitors are in the house.

The pizza is 28 inches in diameter. Unlike other meat lovers pizzas, the ingredients for this pizza are not a scattering of meats but thick layers of Topper pepperoni (made for their Topper pizza – this is the old school, crisp at the edges pepperoni that is harder to find in the pizza biz today), Italian Sausage, ham, ground beef and bacon. It is cut in squares (tavern cut or party cut is the term used in the industry). I counted 8 rows and 58 slices. Jeff was kind enough to bring the pizza out for us to look at periodically as he was putting it together.

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The rules are as follows, the two competitors must:

Sit at the round table near the counter
Stay near the table at all times – they can get up to do a lap around the tap, stretch or get more pop from the soda fountain.
They may not go to the bathroom or leave the building
They have 60 minutes to consume the entire pizza (no knocking meat on the ground or under the table)
Buckets are provided in case one or both lose intestinal integrity (no one has used these to date).
Dipping sauces are provided on request to help slide the slices down the hatch
No one was allowed to sit with us at the table or approach near us while we are in competition mode
The challenge can only attempted Monday to Thursday from 4 to 9 pm.

My mindset at this stage? I was confident but it was clear this was going to be a bit of work. In my notebook, I made this note for the blog post “Two men enter, One pizza leaves.” Jeff shared a few other tidbits about this beast of meats. The Lincoln Village location is the only Joseppi’s currently offering this challenge. Interest waxes and wanes, some weeks 2 or 3 groups will try this challenge and some months not one will try. To date, only one team has succeeded. I have included a photo of them below.

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Winning the challenge offers more than just a boost to self-esteem. The winners get $100 in cash, $150 in Joseppi’s gift cards, two t-shirts and your photo on the wall. That is well worth an hour of my time. The cost if we lost, $50.00. Jeff was a real gentleman about the challenge. He offered a few tips to help with our attempt to consume to heart clogging pie including the suggestion of having containers and ranch and hot dipping sauce nearby to help change-up the relentless taste of pork in our mouths. Jeff did not have to be nice to us, at $50.00 for the pizza he is not making a profit when he serves this monstrosity. He also let the pizza sit in front of us to cool down so that we could eat it at the temperature we desired. Once it was to our liking, we just needed to let him know so he could start the timer. James and I locked eyes after 5 minutes of cool down and gave Jeff the thumbs up.

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Detour
While you wait to hear about the outcome, I am going to digress a bit and share some of what I learned about Joseppi’s. Joseppi’s has been around since 1969 and now has several locations in and near Columbus. The family business is well represented by the third generation of Thompson’s and other family members. Jeff started working in the business the summer of his 12th year. It was his 32nd birthday on the day we came in for the challenge (November 20th). He has cousins and uncles working at many of the locations and is best friend (since he was eight, is the manager for another of the locations). Jeff really committed to the family business after his grandparents (the founders) died in a motorcycle accident, the family as a whole wanted to honor their legacy while making a living. The pizza business has been slow for several years and has just started to bounce back in the past year, so the family really relied on regular customers during the lean times (two were dining near us as they have almost every Thursday for a decade). The shop makes heart-shaped pizzas for Valentines Day and made breast cancer ribbon pizzas for some special customers. If you want to see the 30 inch pizza without committing to eat all of it, you can often see it served during the lunch buffet they offer during the week. I was really impressed by Joseppi’s and the background Jeff shared with me.

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The Meat of the Matter
When James and I began, we started with gusto. I opted to use the corn on the cob approach, pick a row and work my way down right to left. He aimed for a military approach by making a hard drive to the center. We were both happy that the pizza tasted really good. We both observed that it really was a MEGA meat pizza. We started consumption at 7:58 PM. After the first slice the table got really quiet and the atmosphere subdued. I became very focused on my prey, zeroing in on each piece with all of my attention. After the 3rd piece, I decided I needed to make sure I chewed each piece 100 times to ensure I had the room I needed for sweet victory. After the fifth piece, I started to falter in my plan. Originally, I was going to limit my pop consumption to one glass with small sips spaced out at long intervals so as to not overfill with carbonation. But my rate of pizza consumption was slowing as my need for fluids was increasing. At 8:24 PM. I communicated with James for the first time in 20 minutes. He was in the zone as well so I may have startled him. I just said, “I’m getting up.” I rose to do a lap around the table, fill my glass with more Coke and then a returned to my seat. I wrote the following in my notebook: “salt+bacon = salt lick”. At 8:27 PM we had some awkward side talk while I took the photo below.

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I started my next piece and 1/2 way into it I knew I was not going to eat my 45% of the pizza as planned. At the end of that piece, I thought that I would have to throw in the towel. At the end of the thought I glanced at James and could tell by his body language and demeanor that he too was struggling with his will to go on.

After a brief, dejected, conference, we opted to capitulate at 8:38 pm. Shortly after Jeff’s sister (who also works there) came in to the shop, walked by and gave us a look of pity that was painful to behold. She and all present thought we had what it takes to win the Mega Meat Challenge but as you can see from the next photo…..we were not even close. (We only ate two more pieces). #agonyofdefeat

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Reflection, Remorse, Reconstruction and Deconstruction

I don’t like to lose. Like anything in life, if I can’t obtain my goal I obsessively reconstruct the events to determine where I went astray with the intensity of the investigators of the JFK assassination. My first observation and deduction was at the end when I was (shamefully) boxing up our leftovers. Each box had 8 to 10 slices in it. Using a style of pizza dead reckoning, I determined that each of the four boxes weighed 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. Next, I cut one of the pieces in half for a side profile. Take a look below. That is a THICK slice of pizza with a layer of each of the meats. Doing some quick and imprecise math, I estimated this pizza to be about 10 to 12 pounds of meat and dough. In my best food challenge performance to date I consumed 3 pounds of food. Sadly, I think that the Mega Meat Challenge was never meant to be for me. Oddly, I think I could do the challenge if it was cheese only.

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The score: Mega Meat Challenge 1, Gourmand 0

Post Script
The pizza was really good as a cold meal the next day. CMH Tobias was pleased to eat any morsels offered to him. I think if it had been served cold, with the meat and cheese chilled and condensed, I might have consumed more than I did the fateful night but I would have still missed the mark. If you try this – and I think you should, use this tale as an inspiration and to guide your training, but don’t ask me to join you, I might have flashbacks. You can read The Breakfast Grub Guy’s tale of this trial -> HERE.

Joseppi’s Pizza
Lincoln Village location
4764 W Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43228
Tel: (614) 878-7291

Joseppi's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in culinary misadventure, events, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Back to the Basics: Villa Nova

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 1, 2014

Oddly, I’ve never written much about Villa Nova. I checked the Gourmand archives and found this post about “Big Beers” in their bar back in 2006. And a brief mention, while I was exploring the pizza options of Clintonville. For a restaurant that could best be described as a powerhouse of North Columbus that is a major oversight on my part.

For many years, Villa Nova was one of few restaurant options between Clintonville and Worthington. Frank and Donna Colleli started the place in 1978, converting a bar into a restaurant with a bar. As you can see from my linked post above – the bar business never suffered. The family had also operated Franco’s Pizza just down the street (another area icon). The place quickly became a cash cow so Frank sold the business and moved to Florida in 1986. His son John, convinced his Frank come home and buy back the restaurant in 1998. The restaurant has never looked back since then. It is still a family affair with three generations working in the front or back of the house everyday. As for popularity, you can see the parking lot full of cars seven days a week. In fact, the original lot was so full, Villa Nova eventually bought the lot and building next door (Just Pies) and turned it into a large lot just for the overflow traffic.

The formula is, and has always been simple. Offer Italian American Fare that is quick to serve and at a low to medium price point with no surprises. The food is basic, filling and comforting in large portions. Proximity to a large residential neighborhood and a retirement community don’t hurt business either. Of note, should you drop in is the extensive collection of pressure gauges and brass kettles numbering in the 100’s. One of the things that keeps people coming back are the daily specials. One special, which I believe has been a Sunday mainstay for 20 plus years. This was once a 1-4 times a month ritual for me. The only thing that has changed is a very slight change in price the meal is now $10.95 instead of the $8.95 of the early aughts.

I’ll walk you through the Sunday Spaghetti Special.

The special includes: your choice of soup either Italian Wedding or the soup of the day, a basket of bread sticks and a salad with your choice of dressing (I’d suggest the house Italian).

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Then you receive a plate of spaghetti with one meatball and one Italian sausage served with plenty of thick, rich sauce on long, thick noodles.

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And then your meal is topped off with a cup of Spumoni ice cream.

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Villa Nova Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, pizza, restaurants | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

 
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