CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘pizza’ Category

A Tale of Two Cities Pizza Company, Mason

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 19, 2019

While pizza was a possibility for the day, actually any day in our household, Two Cities Pizza was not on our radar because we did not know it existed. The CMH Family was wrapping up a full 24 hours of activity in Cincinnati: (The Duke Energy) Children’s Museum, Gameworks (so CMH Griffin could play his first game of Pac Man), The Hampton Inn in Newport which is a convenient five minute walk to the Newport Aquarium which was our destination for the following day and EnterTrainment Junction (a chance discovery the year before). Of all of those experiences, the one that CMH Griffin enjoyed the most was….the Hampton Inn. In fact, he was very upset when we loaded up the car to leave after the aquarium. He thought we were going back to the hotel and repeated over and over for the next 10 minutes….I want to go to the hotel, I want to go to the hotel…….. When I debriefed him about his love of the hotel the next day he explained that he liked the elevator, the view of the city and the free cookie at the hotel. Consider that a five star review. If you ate going to the aquarium and making a day of it in Cincinnati, I would suggest it as well.

After EnterTrainment Junction (Trains, Trains, Trains, a play area and currently a wonderful exhibit on marbles) we were hungry and wanted to have a good meal after a slightly disappointing trip to a bakery earlier in the day. I did not expect to get a great recommendation from the staff of EnterTrainment Junction (since they have in house food) but we asked the right guy in the toy store there and he suggested Two Cities Pizza and a few other places on Main Street in Mason. I was skeptical about Two Cities, it sounded like a gimmick – a pizza place serving both Chicago and New York City Pizza. However, when we pulled up I was instantly smitten. Two Cities Pizza Company is located in a 1930’s Art Deco building. Old Yellow Cabs which look like they were pulled out of NYC or the Windy City sit awaiting delivery orders. The interior has a great bar set up, plenty of industrial vibes and elements of New York and Chicago intertwined throughout the decor – signs, posters and a restroom area that looks like it was pulled from a subway station. Keeping the two cities motif going, beers from both cities are features in draft and well as select Ohio craft beers.

We started with Bootleg Bread – a mound of fresh dough, baked to be pulled apart with in fist sized chunks. The hard hat sized loaf is infused with garlic, herbs and cheese – both gooey and crispy. It is served with marinara and house made ranch dressing. The ranch was so deliciously dilly (with plenty of fresh dill embedded in the base) CMH Spouse bought a jar to go.

Moving on to the pizza we order a small New York style and a small Chicago style, both with pepperoni. We were playing it safe because we were not very hungry after the bread even though the specialty combinations looked amazing. We were pleased with both of our choices. Getting a personal sized pizza works against the core attributes of a NYC pie. The size of our pizza precluded the distinctive crust ring but everything else was true to style – the dough was dense and chewy with great flavor.

The Chicago style pie was spot on as well. The flaky, almost pastry like dense crust was true to Chicago tradition and featured a chunky tomato sauce with a touch of spice and plenty of depth from top to bottom. Any Windy City Pizza purist would find no fault with this pizza.

Our experience was great across the board. As a trained restaurant mystery shopper, every check box on my list received a check plus. Our service was great. Hearing this was our first trip to Two Cities, the operating manager came to talk to us and shared a treat from the kitchen. We studied the menu selections for future trips. It is my hope that on future trips to Cincinnati, CMH Griffin will say his trip to Two Cities was his favorite part with the Hampton Inn a close second. A dad can always have hope.

Two Cities Pizza Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Posted in Ohio, pizza, Road Trip, Travelfoodalogue | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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 lightly longer history but 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 photo. 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 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. He 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 Siri (who started the first pizzeria in Columbus) were best friends since their Flytown days and continued to frequent be 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.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, Clintonville, culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Pats Donuts & Kreme (& Pizza?!), Lima: Ohio Donut Trail

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 20, 2019

My schedule for 2019 so far can best be described as chaotic with a strong dose of frenetic. That being the case, you will be introduced to another character in the Gourmand Universe. Long time readers are aware of the Grumpy Old Man, CMH Spouse, CMH Griffin and Mr. Suit, we now have the addition of Father of Elation (FOE).

FOE is a doctor and was sent to Lima for a week by his practice. Fortunately he had me to give him some unsolicited suggestions on how to spend his free time (away from his wife and three kids). One of the suggestions FOE did take me up on was Pats Donuts & Kreme. Pat’s has three locations in Lima. One of the locations is open 24/7 and offers pizza in addition to donuts. I knew this could create just enough interest to spur FOE into action so he was sent to do my bidding.

His report was as follows: “Pizza was quite good. Crust just the way I like it, thick and doughy but crisp.” An observation was made about how it is easier to order pizza toppings without a spouse or children present but I will not elaborate on that to keep FOE out of trouble. In regards to the donuts, the report was “…took me back to my childhood and the Holmes County institution Norman’s Bakery. I got a chocolate Creme stick and cinnamon fried cake. High marks for both.”

It should be noted that FOE fell asleep mid report and had to continue his report via text the next day.

Other items of note about Pat’s: 1) FOE did not bring any donuts back for me – so he is on probation for future scouting missions 2) Pat’s has been family owned since 1983. 3) Pat’s serves ice cream, sandwiches and other items in addition to donuts.

Pat’s Donuts & Kreme

If you have been to Pat’s or another Lima donut institution Mello-Creme, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Posted in donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, pizza, Road Trip | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Search for Great Gluten Free Pizza in Columbus….(has ended?)

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 28, 2019

In July of 2018, CMH Spouse and I were tasked with making some dietary changes for CMH Griffin to see if he might benefit from any of them. We were highly motivated to make this work. One of the items limited from his diet is gluten. I love gluten. CMH Spouse LOVES gluten. Griffin was a fan as well. He has a foragers sensibility to food selection and he likes to eat everything, especially most fruits and vegetables but he has very special place in his evolving palate for pasta and pizza. We did a lot of researching and my wife has engaged in a lot of trial and error to find reasonable substitutes for CMH Griffin. Some have been successful, some have been mildly disappointing and more than a few have been dismally horrible. Our great challenge was pizza. We made it our mission to make sure our little man would not miss out on this staple of our diet which is often a key component of our weekly food pyramid. We also needed to make sure we could eat what CMH Griffin has as well, to ensure he was not suffering but to also prevent him from dumbing down his pizza palate.

We were determined to leave no pizza stone unturned in our quest to make sure our child would have access to not just good gluten-free pizza but very good and we dared dream that we might even find great pizza in the process.

We established these criteria to allow us to guide CMH Griffin on this gluten-less journey. Some of these were added later after a lot of trial and more than a bit or error.

1) Will Griffin eat it
2) Will he eat a lot of it
3) Does it taste good to us
4) Is it still edible 4 hours later
5) Is it edible the next day
6) Can you reheat it
7) Can it be eaten cold without regret
8) It can not cost a fortune.

We have not tried every gluten-free pizza out there, but we have tried most. We have not tried every recipe for homemade gluten-free crust, but we did try a few of the best according to the internet. While this is still a work in progress, these are our findings so far – these are presented in order of best to not so much.

The default toppings for CMH Griffin are either ham and pineapple or pepperoni.

1) Iacanos: So far there is no gluten-free pizza that holds a candle to Iacanos. This was a slam dunk the first time we tried it and it has never failed us since. The pizza pie crust/shell is one of the few things they do not make in house. I have not been able to determine who they source their shells from. We do know from observation, they us use high quality cheese and other ingredients including house made sauce. They cook the pizza longer than most other places but not too long. The crust is thinner. The combination of this crust and longer cook time seems to be the key to gluten free pizza success. Iacanos gluten free pizza tastes great later in the day and is still edible 24 hours later.

2) Pizza House We are two for two on this one. Very good. I liked this more than their regular pizza we tried side by side the first time.

3) Donatos: This is a strong third place finisher but still does not come close to Iacanos. Because we can have this delivered to our home, this has become a frequent flier into our kitchen table. I have decided I like the gluten-free version slightly better than the gluten version of Donatos. The crust is not thicker but it seems denser. It seems to have a trace more flavor. It holds up very well to the next day test. CMH Spouse says that because the cheese goes to the edge, the crust is less disappointing. We like this one, probably more than we want to.

4) Kroger: Not Krogers or Kroger’s by the way, Kroger. The frozen, thin gluten-free Kroger brand pizzas are value priced and a frequent emergency lunch for our little man. The sauce is a bit weak, but overall, this one has the best cost to benefit ratio of any pizza we tried. It has earned a strong fourth place ranking.

5) Teritas: Good. Mainly due to the quality of ingredients and a longer cook time. We have only tried this once. If the location was closer, we would have more empirical data.

6) Masseys: The main failing for this was, and it may seem nuts to say this, too much toppings. The toppings to pizza ratio for Massey’s is always above industry average. In the case of a gluten-free pie, it takes away from the pizza by not allowing it to cook evenly especially the crist. This is still a good gluten-free pizza but to better test this one out, next time we will get cheese only.

7) Tarantos: I can’t remember anything about this one except that it was consumed fairly quickly. We need to test this one more.

8) Hounddogs: I am a long time, unapologetic fan of Hounddogs Pizza. The first gluten-free pizza we had here was the best individual gluten-free pizza we have ever had. Unfortunately, we have never been able to get another gluten-free pizza from here that was 75% as good. We see the most inconsistency here. The gluten-free pizzas range from good to OK depending on who is manning the oven. This is a heart breaker we had the best but it appears to have been a fluke.

9) LaRosa’s: This chain does a good job of making sure their gluten-free pizzas have a special prep area, cook sheet, etc, to minimize cross contamination with gluten. We liked this one but we did not love it and we can’t recall why.

10) Mellow Mushroom: Mellow Mushroom gets a lot of points for providing a lot of detail about their gluten-free pizzas – how they make them, where they make them, using a separate kitchen, etc. As for delivery of the product to the table, our service was horrible causing me to complain stridently and the pizza itself, was worse than the worst frozen pizza you have ever tried. I rank this a firm D-. I would give it an F but I did not spit it out.

We still have a few more to try on our list. If you have tried any of the following, let me know your thoughts in the comment section. This is what we are still curious about trying: Pizza House, Marcos, Harvest and Mama Mimi’s.

These are our general complaints about most gluten-free pizzas.

A) They often have a grainy texture

B) After a short period of time, they develop a paste like texture and consistency

C) They have a “nuclear shelf life” measured in minutes and sometimes seconds after they come out of the oven. They get noticeably less appetizing after an hour and often are inedible 4 to 24 hours later, even in the most perfect conditions.

D) They lack gluten


Special Thanks to CMH Spouse and CMH Griffin for persevering in our quest to find a decent gluten-free pizza.

Post Post Script: Friends have strongly suggested trying out the following places, so we will soon: Pies & Pints, Blaze and Goremade

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Terita’s: Serving the North End since 1959

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 8, 2018

How is it possible, having lived on the north end most of my life and for much of that as close as 3.2 miles away….. that I did not hear about Terita’s pizza until 2018? The answer, in 2018 I decided it was important to start researching the surviving pizza parlors of the 1950’s. Terita’s is definitely a survivor.

I did some cyber research on Terita’s which meant reading a lot largely positive Yelp and other reviews. Based on this, I determined I needed to make a field research mission to check out what appeared to be a local institution. Long time customers raved about many things the small shop has to offer, the most common item mentioned was the homemade sausage on the pizza and sandwiches. The Iannarino family has run this shop in the same location since 1959. I still have a bit more research to do but I am pretty sure other than Gatto’s Pizza which has been in the same spot and same family since 1952, Rubino’s (1954) and Tommy’s (if Lane Ave. is an original location), Terita’s is the third or fourth oldest continuous pizza operation in the city. That is pretty incredible for any Cleveland Avenue business.

For my recon mission I order a sausage and pepperoni pizza, a gluten-free pizza with ham and pineapple (I was surprised this was an option) and a sausage sandwich. Upon entering Terita’s I was impressed. In spite of being open over fifty years, this place was clean. The crew working the ovens and prep space were “tight” in how they worked together and professional. My veteran eye can assess a good operation in five minutes or less and Terita’s is clearly “on it”. The inside was fairly spartan to mesh with the bunker like exterior. There was nothing fancy inside and just a few tiny tables for small groups that might want to eat in on the fly. As a first timer, I was not comfortable asking about the deeper meaning of their mascot Gus the Pizza Man, but I am sure I will learn more over time. The staff were friendly and recognized me as a new customer so said they hoped I would be back. I will.

I brought this fare home to CMH Spouse and CMH Griffin. Griffin enjoyed the gluten-free pizza so that was an endorsement since is he has tried most in the city at this point. CMH Spouse gave high praise to the sausage. This is quite an endorsement for numerous reasons. My wife comes from a very Italian family in Northeast Ohio. She still has Italian speaking cousins in the old country. Sauce, meatballs and the like are a big deal with her family so quality and especially quantity are never taken lightly. CMH Spouse has a very fine-tuned sense of smell. It is actually super human. If I have more than 2 ounces of beer, she can smell it the moment I walk through the door. If I ate at an Indian restaurant say two to eight hours before, I don’t have to tell her, she will tell me. She knew I ordered sausage the second I placed the boxes on the table. After trying the sausage on the pizza and the sandwich she proclaimed “It’s just like the sausage in ravs (ravioli) and stromboli. That means it meets both the family standard as well as her personal standard which requires a sausage not be too stinky, it can’t be over or under spiced and the anise percentage should arch low instead of high. So yes, CMH Spouse approval of sausage is a big deal.

So let us discuss the pizza. Our “normal” pizza was Columbus style which means thin crust and tavern or party cut. The sausage was tasty and while I do not know the exact source of their pepperoni, Terita’s uses what most would call “old world style” so it curls a bit at the edges and can serve as a reservoir for pizza grease. We liked this pizza. I’d place it in the top twenty for the city, further research may increase that ranking.

https://cmhgourmand.com/?attachment_id=11905

The sausage sandwich was a real surprise. I think the bun is from Auddino’s. It was fresh and flavorful and toasted just right. The sausage was clearly homemade and thick sliced whole patty form whereas most places use sliced sausage links. The toppings were minimal but that is because the sandwich did not need anything other than the sausage although cheese was a good addition. The one half sandwich that survived the first eating was still exceptionally good the next day.

Teritas Sausage Sandwich close up

So initial results look promising and I think Terita’s is will easily sustain another fifty years or more of service.

Terita's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in pizza, sandwiches | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Pizza in Columbus Podcast with This Week News

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 5, 2018

There are just a few conservational topics one should prep for if moving to Columbus or to better assimilate into our society: 1) How ’bout them Bucks! – you can respond with any affirmative phrase or O H….pause. 2) How about that humidity! – again any affirmative or profanity will suffice. 3) What is your favorite pizza place? To this inquiry I would say, point behind the person then run. You are likely to encounter a highly partisan response. The good people of Columbus are passionate about pizza in general. In the 1990’s Columbus was decreed to be the pizza capital of the USA based on both the number of places serving pizza per capita as well as our frequency of consumption. The first pizza in Columbus is easily tracked back to TAT Ristorante in the 1930’s but the rise of pizzerias as we know them started in 1949 and never looked back. A favorite pizza place will tell you where someone grew up, often if they are a native and almost always what part of town they live in now. Pizza is not a light-hearted topic for casual conversation. This Week News had a few people come together to discuss the best pizza in Columbus and it was no easy matter. You can listen to episode 1 -> here.

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

LaRosa’s Pizza – Greater Cincinnati

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 27, 2018

In some previous posts or ramblings depending on your point of view, I have alluded to an inability to connect with Cincinnati. Oddly, my first ever intentional food only trip was to Cincinnati around 1994 or 1995. During a day trip I went to Camp Washington Chili, Gold Star Chili and LaRosa’s Pizza and a few places I have forgotten. The subsequent year I skirted the suburbs with a trip to tour the United Dairy Farmers Ice Cream Plant and Aglamesis Brothers Ice Cream, both were exceptional. Otherwise future trips were mainly limited to Jungle Jim’s runs. I have watched and studied the growth of LaRosa’s Pizza which has been a southwest Ohio institution for many decades. Even though there is now a location in Dublin, I decided that since CMH Family was in the metro area to visit the Newport Aquarium we might as well give LaRosa’s a visit. Two other deciding points: although we avoid chains in the food education of our son, my wife and I do find the large booths of chains are CMH Griffin friendly (mainly for containment); and we have been experimenting with a Gluten-free diet for the young fella and LaRosa’s has Gluten Free Pizza. We found a LaRosa’s near EnterTrainment Junction (a great family spot) and decided to explore what LaRosa’s had to offer via a late lunch.

I lead a pizza tour and as part of that ask people about their favorite pizza places. Whenever LaRosa’s comes up people always mention the sauce. My vague memories of a pizza consumed over twenty years ago was that the sauce was sweeter than even Columbus style pizzas. This is definitely still the case.

We ordered a regular thin crust pizza Buddy’s Deluxe (named after the owner): pepperoni, sausage, spicy sausage, banana peppers and capocolla ham; a gluten-free Hawaiian Pizza and an order of Rondos – oven-baked blossoms (sheets of balled dough) brushed with garlic-pesto sauce, stuffed with provolone cheese and pepperoni. I’ll start with the last item because it was my favorite. A Rondo is reminiscent of a mini calzone or pepperoni roll. These were light, fresh and filling. A group of six come with a side of sauce. Our server mentioned that (at least in Cincinnati) for about 1 month each year specialty Rondos are available with Montgomery Inn Pulled Pork and other toppings in them. She said these were very popular and sell out fast. These also held up well as next day snacks. Our regular pizza was OK. The toppings were higher end, premium ingredients. The gluten-free pizza was also OK, it is hard to get excited about Gluten Free – but there are some exceptions (a later post) but this was not one of them. Overall, we found the pizza to be better than average but not something to rush back for. If we are near a LaRosa’s in the future, we will come back for more Rondos and try some subs.

However, there were a lot of things that I liked about LaRosa’s and thought they did really well to the point it is worth writing about (I rarely write about a chain). Our service was good and we really liked the gigantic kid friendly table mats with a side of crayons.

Other little things I liked added up to a lot. Each table was well stocked with shakers for Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and oregano. A riser is provided at each table to place your pizza on. The paper napkins are a dense, high-grade of fancy paper napkin which I am sure cost an extra cent or two. Several varieties of locally made Husman’s potato chips are available to buy at the pick up counter. The lobby has a variety of neighborhood and LaRosa’s history posted on the walls. This location, since it was in Mason, had information on the famous, 500,000 Watt WLW radio station. Collectively these small items which show an attention to detail and attempt to localize a chain makes a place that serves average pizza worth mentioning.

LaRosa's Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Arrivederci Adriaticos (1.0)

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 19, 2018

Adriaticos spent much of 2018 in a state of limbo. In the Fall of 2017, The Ohio State University announced a plan to take their building as part of an expansion for the OSU Optometry program but a firm date has not be released to the public other than by September 2018. There were talks of a relocation near the campus but no site was indicated. No new site could ever reflect the character of original Adriaticos which has called this small brick building home since at least 1987, when I first attended Ohio State as a freshman. The University and Adriaticos were committed to finding a spot near the original location. For Adriaticos this would be an opportunity for a larger kitchen and more dining space. For many, but especially south campus dorm students and all of the nursing staff of the OSU Medical Center, Adriaticos was more than just food, it was a public service and in many cases a critical need. By this I mean the Buckeye Pizza Special – a large sheet of pizza that would be a tight fit in Car to Go and can feed 12 or more people with ease and at a low price. Cheap pizza is rarely good, but this a great pizza at a great price.

I only had Adriaticos a few times while I was a student and never on site, it was always too crowded. I can vaguely remember having a few slices of a Buckeye Pizza (really big, square-shaped Sicilian pizza at a party). My budget did not supporting buying a whole pizza so I would just throw in a few bucks when on campus friends ordered it.

I do recall in detail, meeting there with some of my older friends who were back in town for the weekend to visit with other friends in the OSU MBA Program. It was not until the inception of the long running Nerd Night started around 2009 that Adriaticos became a regular fixture in my life and for many years, a weekly fixture. In early 2014, a reliable source told me that Adriaticos was slated to close at the end of the year so the university could use the building. I contacted the owner about the rumor and he strongly denied such a thing as a remote possibility and urged me not to write anything about the rumor so as to not spread panic. I was relieved. That was a good thing because later in 2014, Adriaticos was the featured late night snack for drunk revelers at my wedding in April 2014. It was a mainstay for my wife during pregnancy and continues to be the default emergency meal (with great frequently because it has been one crisis after another since we got hitched) after we moved into our new house and started to raise a pizza loving child.

In early spring 2018, word came out of a new location for Adriaticos. They will be taking over the old Aveda space, just around the corner at 1681 Neil Avenue. The new location is an upgrade in many ways: more dining space, more craft beer selection and a larger kitchen which equals a greater choice of items on the menu. Parking will still be a challenge but that does maintain at least one tradition of the original. The new location is expected to open by the end of summer just in time to serve a new generation of freshmen as they move into the dorms. The old location will close mid summer 2018 so there will be little to no down time for people who need their pizza fix.

In April to ensure CMH Griffin Gourmand had enough original Adriaticos in his DNA I took him for a dine in experience. We both discovered something we did not know. Their bread sticks are amazingly delicious.

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Ezzo Sausage Company – Too Cool for School

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 27, 2018

Ezzo Sausage Company is a pretty big deal. And chances are, you did not even know it existed. While the company was founded in Columbus in 1978, the extended family had experience encasing meats well before that. One of the founders, Bill Ezzo, used his OSU football playing experiences to land accounts and grow the company. The company has experienced many of changes since their origin. The biggest development was just a few years ago, when Ezzo moved into a new state of the art facility. The company has long been considered one of top makers of premium, artisan pepperoni but the new digs have helped them expand and grow to an even higher level. Their products are distributed in over a dozen states and all over the world. A prized pepperoni at most top pizza shops is their GiAntonio brand. In the old days, a person like me could pop into the former plant and try to buy some product, today, you can only get their pepperoni and other products from distributors. Local places that use their “Old World” pepperoni include Iacono’s, Massey’s and many of my top twenty pizza purveyors in Columbus. A lot has changed since the early days of the business. One thing that has not changed which is the key to Ezzo’s longevity in a highly competitive business, is Ezzo has never sacrificed quality.

Earlier this year I became aware of an opportunity to tour the company, so I contacted COO Mitch LeBrasseur and made my pitch to come take a look at the place. He was kind enough to cater to me and a small number of guests. My motley grew of meat heads included a brewery owner, a food truck chef, a local baker, two pizza shop managers and a (mad) scientist. At the end all were very impressed by the operation as well as the depth of knowledge Mitch had to share. The (mad) scientist proclaimed it was “the best day ever”, that is saying a lot.

Here are a few of the things I learned from Mitch. Many of their products are Halal certified and are shipped all over the world. Their all beef pepperoni is very popular in Musilim countries since it is both Halal and really good. Large school districts have been gobbling up their product since it allows them to meet the dietary requirements of students with limitations on eating pork.

There are many things that set Ezzo apart from their many (and much bigger) competitors. Once is a concept called least cost formulation. In a nutshell (although the full story is much more complex), the meat industry is not a matter a dollars but of cents. Meat prices fluctuate like any commodity and as a response, many companies work hard to micromanage their recipes to adjust to what meats are the best value on any given day so that they can maintain a consistent price point of their product. This can have some effects on consistency. Ezzo, does not do this, they stick with their core recipes and adjust pricing quarterly instead of their recipes daily. The end result is their product is several cents per pound more expensive than their competitors but by most objective benchmarks much better in quality and taste. The big benefit for pepperoni purists is a consistent product box per box and pizza per pizza. I also learned more about pink slime that I ever thought I needed to know. The good news, Ezzo does not use pink slime. I also learned an industry trick on hiding pink slime – paprika. I will never look at an ingredient list the same way again. Last (for this post, but definitely not least) pepperoni is a fermented product. It never dawned on me before but learning about the entire process from start to finish made me appreciate a good slice of pepperoni even more. Mitch walked us through the whole plant and taught us about every step in the production of Ezzo’s prized pepperoni.

As a side note, as some of you know I am a tour guide and as a few of that subset know, I run a pizza tour so I was motivated to learn more about one of my talking points. I’ve been on all types of food tours all over the world (a few favorites: Cadbury in New Zealand, Swan Brewing in Australia and Vienna Beef in Chicago) and while the mainstream public might not be as enthused as I was about the depth of information covered by Mitch in his tour, my band ate it up. I thought Mitch gave one of the best tours I’ve been on. A few things stood out about Mitch. First was his focus on customer service even though most of his career has been in the production side of the business. I was also impressed by the loyalty of the group he called his Meat Gypsies, people from companies all over the country that left their jobs and homes to come to Columbus to build this plant with him. If there was ever an all star team for pepperoni production, Ezzo would sweep the series with their group.

Learn more about Ezzo and read a few good articles below:
Ezzo Sausage Company

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