CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘pizza’ Category

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

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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.

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

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

Posted in Behind the Counter, pizza | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Goremade Pizza (A Great Place if You “Get It”)

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 2, 2018

Ultimately any eatery is about food. But a great restaurant, food purveyor, etc., is more than the sum of the parts. A great place has to have great food, that is a given, but it also an extra….. something. For some that je ne sais quoi is a collective approach to service or a favorite server. At others it may be offering something hard to find elsewhere or raising the bar of quality well beyond the bar. And sometimes, it is about the collective community of customers, employees and neighborhood that create something beyond what is on the menu.

I have encountered a few of this type of place, you might even call these a hang outs, in my lifetime. Most of my “hot spots” were in the 1990’s: Galaxy Cafe, Lost Planet Pizza & Pasta, Niki’s, Cancun, Fresno and Dagwoodz. All of these places are just memories now. Today the best example I can think of is Thurns – a place where you can step back in time to get forgotten types of meats and irreplaceable banter and knowledge from three generations of butchers.

I’m adding a new place to this list, Goremade Pizza. Goremade, is a bit of a play on words of Gourmet. Nick the owner, does have a gourmet approach to ingredients but his vision of Goremade goes well beyond what he puts on the plate. Nick the owner and maestro of pizzas has created something at Goremade which exemplifies the concept of a whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

At some subconscious level, Nick has created an atmosphere that provides a Cheers vibe. They may not always remember your name, but they are very glad you came. Conversation flows between those on all sides of the counter. Goremade tends to act as a magnet for people who like to talk about food almost as much as they like to eat it. The conversations don’t just stick to making pizzas, you are as likely to talk about making patios, figuring out how to make charcuterie board with some foraged black walnut or how to connect with the community. Guests hang out as much as they come in to dine. Some might opt to have a drink on the patio after a pizza while others may play a board game at the bar.

Nick offers some standard menu items but to really invest in the full Goremade experience, you should devote at least one half of your order to a leap of faith into the world of culinary exploration and allow him to create something for you. Nick sources from many local farmers as well as some non traditional ingredients for pizza combinations which at the mildest would be described as wildly creative. Exploration is not limited to pizzas. The bar features about one dozen house made infusions often combing concoctions from local distiller 451 Spirits as the base. The cocktails are exciting mixes of flavors including excellent small batch sodas from Forged and Sown. Throughout the food and drink menu the underlying theme to to explore what one can do with flavors, ingredients and ideas. And in the process of exploring, we see what we can collectively learn about our food and ourselves.

But Goremade food is not fully focused on being all artisan and avant-garde, Nick is a craftsman as well. He built out much of what is in the space with materials often sourced from friends and family. The wood-fired oven, which goes by the name of Ferdinand would receive nods of approval from practitioners in New York and Naples alike. The size and shape of the oven limits mass production of pizzas, he can do about two at a time at full speed. However, what is missing in quantity is made up in quality. The oven maintains a steady, consistent temperature without wasting any wood. Nick coaxes out a bit extra from each crust and flavor with his attention to detail or eye for ingredient pairings.

At Goremade, guests can choose their own adventure. You can order, safe, sensible and traditional dishes or take a journey and see where it leads you. Either way you will feel the spirit of the space among of community of people who care about what they eat and who they eat with.

Goremade Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Vick’s Gourmet Pizza, Reynoldsburg

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 21, 2017

Vick’s Gourmet Pizza has a history going back by name to 1961. It also has a pre history with the founders working at CY’s Pizza and 3C Pizza in 1958.

Doug Vickers’ is the current owner of Vicks. His parents, Hollis and Louise, opened the original Vick’s. Doug and his wife Charlotte took it over 36 years ago. Vicks moved to the current location in 2017, just two store front down from the original. Looking at old reviews, the new location is a BIG upgrade in space and atmosphere from the original. The new space is in the former location of Connell Hardware which started as a family business in 1872. The building has a lot of history to it with Vick’s incorporating the best elements of the space create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. There is ample seating as well as a fully stocked bar seating area.

A local institution like Vick’s could get away with cutting a few corners but they don’t. Almost everything is made in house except the desserts. The dough is made fresh and hand tossed. The sauces are slow cooked. There is no sign of skimping on high quality ingredients.

I have sampled two pizzas. The extreme pepperoni which pairs dense layers of spicy and mild pepperoni. I also tried the Greek Pizza which tossed these ingredients together: Artichoke hearts, Black Olives, Sun-dried
Tomatoes wither Feta and Asiago cheeses. The pizza is a few millimeters thicker than the typical Columbus style pizza and the crust edge has a satisfying crunch that is neither to hard or crumbling. I discovered the kitchen uses a very high gluten flour which adds a bit to the density and flavor of the pizza dough.

I was even more impressed with the subs. The meatball sub was one of the best I have sampled. There was plenty of sauce and meatballs on the sandwich. The cheese was thick and dense with just a trace of char on the edges. The sauce was flavorful, well-seasoned and tasted slow cooked. The bun was sturdy and held up to the weight of the meatballs. Doing some deep research, I discovered the sub buns are shipped in from a highly respected bakery in Pittsburgh. The meatballs contain applesauce for moistness and the sauce is cooked with the sausage.

As I was walking out after my first visit, I commended Mr. Vickers on a very good meatball sub. He thanks me and then strongly suggested I try the Italian sub next time because the “capicola is out of this world”. When I tried the Italian sub on my next visit, I found it was perfectly cooked with a nice meat to cheese ratio but not over seasoned or dressed. The bottom bun had a trace of mayo thinly spread along the length to keep the bun from disintegrating from the grease.

I don’t have cause to visit Reynoldsburg in my day to day doings, but Vick’s is well worth the trip if you want subs and grub with a gourmet approach to quality ingredients.

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

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

Bono Pizza (or Jake 2.0)

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 8, 2017

Bono Pizza

(Update: This Bono location is slated to close January 31st 2018 – but the owners are looking for a new location and may run a mobile operation while in limbo).

Bono Pizza has a long, storied history of being found in the most unlikely of places. At the current (Jake 2.0) location, the tradition of improbable places continues. Today’s Bono is hidden in an apartment complex right next to another pizza place (Cowtown Pizza) and a bar. To better understand why this is not unusual new readers will need to go way back in time.

In 2008, I outlined some of the history of Bono and it’s first owner / visionary, Bill Yerkes. Bill is known for many things – some of which I should not put into print but it is indisputable that he is a pizza Picasso. He spent many years in Italy and used that time to perfect the art and craft of making pizza. After a return to central Ohio, he eventually set up near Delaware and developed a strong following. Then he made his way to the Short North where a cult-like following boosted Bono to new heights. After a long hiatus including a creative approach to crowdfunding called Bono Bucks, Bono 3.0 started in part of a convenience store in the Grandview / 5XNW area. This is where current owner Jake Wilch came on board as an apprentice of sorts. Towards the end of the lifespan of Bono 3.0 Jake was the full time owner and Bill faded into the sunset so to say. Mirroring his mentor, there was a bit of a hiatus between Bono 3.0 and 4.0. When the current location launched there were some fears it would sink, but Jake persevered and pizzaed on. Thank goodness.

It is hard to describe the Bono experience to non visitors. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. Bohemian does not fully reflect the spirit of the place but a new term I thought of comes close: Bono-hemian: “having informal and unconventional social habits” but formal training and intense passion in the art of pizza production.

Bono location

Bono features several tables, a giant Pac-man / Galaga combo sit down video game, quick access to the bar next door and other amenities like comic books to keep one occupied. The wood fired pizza oven is located near the rear door out of sight of customers. Jake did not miss a step at Bono (4.0). The pizzas and salads are as good as I remember them from Bonos past and as close to pizzas that I consumed in Naples and other parts of Italy (side note: Naples is a pit) in the past with a few upgrades. The focus on a quality dough and (pizza) peeling a nice bit of char in the bottom crust at Bono is great however the real game changer is Jake does not skimp on the quality of ingredients. Each item showcases the finest quality meats, cheeses and vegetables Jake can source. There are few meals where I savor every morsel of every bite as much as I do at Bono.

Here are a few examples to whet your appetite.

I never met a salad I did not want a second serving of at Bono. Ingredients are always fresh and complement each other. There are never too many items or too few flavors mixed together, they are always the right combination or everything

At one time or another I have sampled every Bono concoction. I’m fairly certain that one evening at the Short North location, I consumed one of every pizza on the menu with the dedicated help of the namesake of the San Rolando Bono pizza. I will take a moment to list out the toppings of a few of my favorites. The previously mentioned San Rolando is one of the simplest of pizzas at Bono: fresh tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage and mozzarella. The Greek Boy features tomato sauce, mozzarella, feta, kalamata olives, spinach and a bit of oregano. Those are just two of the twenty combinations on the menu. Like the secret menu at Chipotle, insiders have special combinations of different pizza types (two or three of the styles fused together in both ingredients and name) that Jake will honor…if you get the “secret” name right.

For the full Bono experience, one must dine in. First, you need a rest after making all of the effort to find the place. Second, you need to soak in the ambiance to fully comprehend what I mean by Bono-hemian, Finally, Bono is often ordered to go, but I find it is never quite as satisfying when it has a chance to cool and an opportunity for some of the smoke and char from the oven to dissipate during the trip by car from Bono to back to your point of origin.

Bono Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Sparanos: The Secret of San Margherita & Home of the Heavy Duty Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 30, 2017

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Until just a few months ago I had limited experience with Sparanos. I think I tried them once when they had a location in Grandview near the old location of Bono Pizza. I recall it being good but the service was apathetic at best. I may have tried a piece at a Pizza Grand Prix back in the day. So while I was aware of Sparanos my memories gave me no incentive to seek it out. I knew they once had a location on Hague Ave which another pizzeria took over but closed less than a year later. They seemed to have some history but I could not find out much about them.

A few months ago, I received a call from Smokehouse Brewing letting me know their power was out. Since I had a tour scheduled there in a few hours, this caused some significant trepidation. As I formulated some back up plans I called the guests only to find out one had a birthday that day and several were on the Interstate in the middle of a three-hour drive to get to Columbus just for the tour. The show MUST go on. I contacted Craig at Sideswipe Brewing to ask for a favor. Could he open an hour early for me and did he know a pizza place that delivered to his brewery. He had a few but mentioned that customers really seemed to like Sparanos. So that made my plan.

I called in the order, prepped my guide and joined to the group at Sideswipe to pay for the pizza and make sure all went well. While I did not have a chance to try the pizza it looked great. The guide said the group loved it and wanted more information on where they could find a location for more. This boded well so when I had a planned substitution for Smokehouse the following month, I decided to try the same plan again. However, my professional code of conduct dictated that I throughly sample Sparanos if I was going to intentionally feature them with Sideswipe.

On my first research mission, I had a hard time finding the Sparano’s. It is tucked in the middle of a bargain built retail strip with a bar on one side, a gaming store on the other and minimal signage. It would be easy to drive by and never know it was there.

I tried a Meatball Sub and a medium pizza with pepperoni. Both exceeded expectations. The meatball sub featured very good (fresh, flavorful, probably house made) meatballs, tasty sauce and a perfectly toasted and fresh bun. The pizza was well-balanced. What caught my attention was the crust. The dough was cooked just right in the base and had just enough crispness in the outer crust ring.

As I was waiting for the order above, I noticed the place was pretty spartan, five or six small two top tables lining the edge of the kitchen. The walls displayed multiple 1st, 2nd and 3rd place banners for wins at Slice of Columbus competitions spanning over ten years. So it seemed other people liked this place too.

A delivery for a side project took me back to the same part of town the next week so I figured I would give Sparano’s another try on the fly. I was in a rush so I ordered a Heavy Duty Pizza instead of a Heavy Meat Pizza. The Heavy Duty is pepperoni, sausage, ham, mushrooms, onion, green peppers, banana peppers and extra cheese. Sparano’s is pretty serious about the Heavy Duty, they trademarked the term. The Heavy Meat (what I meant to order) is Pepperoni, ham, ground beef, sausage and extra cheese. So the two are not that different unless you are me. I hate green peppers and onions and I hate them the most when they are on a pizza.

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Having figured out my mess up after the pick up, I was mildly despondent. However, the sub I ordered cheered me up quickly. The Michael Angelo is Sparano’s special recipe sub and as my quick consumption confirmed it is also a work of art. I was not able to break the code of the special recipe but the sub had a great bun (once again), fresh ingredients and a lot of meat. Based on this one eating, I’m firmly convinced this sub is a firm tie for first with Susie’s Sub Shop as the best sub in town.

Now back to the Heavy Duty and the travails of my tasting preferences. I’m not sure how Sparano’s cooked the Heavy Duty but I suspect it is a two part process. It was incredibly easy for me to pick the onions and green peppers off of the pizza. They were barely integrated into the cheese, in most cases they just had a sear to them like something shish kabobed instead of the typical wilted vegetables that are so integrated into cheese that the cheese looses flavor as it merges withe the (wretched) flavor of green peppers and onions. Like playing doctor in the game operation I was able to remove the offending toppings with surgical precision and enjoy the my lightened version of the Heavy Duty. What really stood out to me among the remaining toppings was the sausage. It is perfectly cooked, neither over nor under done, had a balanced amount of spice and is loaded on in moderately bite sized pieces. I look forward to trying the Heavy Meat next time.

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On my way home from the second trip I took a different way home. I noticed that Johnnie’s is almost right across the street from Sparano’s! And just over the train tracks and around the corner is Casa di Pizza. All three of these spots are located within a small section of town known as San Margherita. This area has a lot of history to offer and three great places to eat.

The proximity of these three businesses creates a great hobbit style triple lunch opportunity which in my case would be Sparano’s Michael Angelo sub with a 10 Inch Heavy Meat Pizza, a Johnnie’s Roast Beef sandwich and some ribs from Casa di Pizza all to consume at my leisure on top of Shrum Adena Mound. That would make for a great afternoon and a wonderful extended meal.

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

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, pizza, Sub Dude | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Yellow Brick’s “Tristanos” Deep Dish Pizza Test Drive

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 15, 2017

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There is no shortage of pizza options in Columbus but there is an absolute dearth of deep dish pizza of any quality grade. In the past I opined that only three were worth mentioning: Meister’s, Wholly Joe’s and Tristanos. As much as I love Meister’s, I had a very slight preference for Tristanos. Last year word came out that Lou Tristano had finally sold his business. It was long overdue, Lou makes great food but is/was a threat to himself and his employees operating a food based business.

I was sad to lose Lou and in my opinion (whether deep dish or not), one of the best pizza makers in Central Ohio. I then saw hints of a salvage operation by Yellow Brick Pizza to learn some of his Chicago based secrets of Lou before he passed the pizza peel to others. Facebook showed traces of Lou teaching Yellow Brickers how to make some of his recipes and by report the learning curve was looking good.

I don’t know when or if Yellow Brick may open a Grove City satellite in Tristanos old spot but when I saw they were offering Tristano’s Deep Dish as a special in Old Town East I knew I had an obligation to observe, investigate and act. I also think highly of Yellow Brick so I believed the Tristano’s legacy to be in good hands.

A few things you should consider before you do your own research. You can not pre-order this pizza. It will take at least 40 minutes to make – more if the place is remotely busy and a two topping Deep Dish pizza will knock you back $31.18.

The waiting is not such a bad thing, because it means someone is making it right. In order to be to objective as possible, I asked two research assistants to try a slice with me (after I fed them other pizza so hunger pangs would not influence their thoughts).

My crack team included Matt Prime. This was his opinion:

Rated it a solid 4 (on a scale of 5) noting: good crust and sauce that really complimented the spice in the sausage and a great cheese to toppings ratio. Easily one of the best Chicago pies I’ve had in Columbus in recent memory.

Also in the team was Mister Doctor who opined: Good pie Jefe.

I also brought a slice home to Mrs. Gourmand, while my two on site research assistants had never tried Tristanos, Mrs. Gourmand shared every Tristanos experience with me during my brief exile in Grove City. Her opinion was that it was good but she could detect significant differences in the sauce. Mrs. Gourmand is Italian and makes superior sauce. She also has an olfactory sense unparalleled by any other human. She can smell things that even my dog would miss. If she sniffed this out as not quite the original I will accept that as gospel.

Yellow Brick Tristanos Deep Dish Pizza

Now for my assessment. The visual presentation of the deep dish was on par with Tristanos. The slices were thick and pie like. There was a signature recurring twist in the crust ring and a foldover filled with a trace of cheese in the crust as it rises from the bottom to the top. The pepperoni were laid out in thick rows between the crust and the cheese. The pie was significantly cheesy with evidence of such presented below.

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Assessing flavor, taste, etc., based on a pizza recipe I had not had sampled in almost a year is tough but based on my memory I’d say the Yellow Brick interpretation of Tristanos is about 91% on target. Mulling over the experience for 24 hours, I believe part of the difference I noted was due to the toppings I chose. Lou made his own sausage which added a trace of spice to the mix that I doubt could be replicated by anyone else.

I also tried a slice of pizza the next day using the time-tested cold pizza test. That slice was also assessed be a very good pizza.

In recap, using subjective and objective methods as well as a team of tasters, I proclaim the Yellow Brick Tristano’s Deep Dish Pizza one of the top three of its type in Central Ohio.

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The Godfather: Massey’s Deep Dish Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 27, 2016

There are not many good deep dish options in Columbus and among those, by my count only three good choices. Unfortunately, that number dropped to two this past summer. Tristano’s was my favorite but the business finally closed and the some of the best pizza in Central Ohio was taken off the table.

A few weeks ago I caught a glimpse of a deep dish pizza at Massey’s on a commercial. It immediately caught my attention adding a glimmer of hope that I might be able to go back to three go to options for deep dish pizza. I do like Massey’s and had a notion that they could pull this off. (Long time readers may recall previous appearances of Massey’s in such memorable posts as Buffet Battle: Pizza and Columbus Pizza History a Slice by Slice account).

Could Massey’s deliver? Well in my case I live too far away from Massey’s so I opted for the pick up option.

When I picked up my order, my hopes were high. There was a very noticeable difference in the weight of the deep dish box vs. the other pizza box I was transporting home.

When I opened the lid, the visual and olfactory indicators were trending upwards.

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Cognitively I had high hopes, believing Massey’s Godfather had potential to knock it out of the park because Massey’s history literally involves the godfathers of Columbus pizza.

Jim and Dan Massey (original family name was Massuci) learned their trade from Romeo Siri. They opened the first pizzeria (by name) in Central Ohio. Guido Casa (also one of the early godfathers of pizza) took over the Massey’s empire in 1962. Massey’s grew through the late 1990’s then stumbled in 1999 closing all locations. Jim and Dave Pallone (cousins of the Casa’s) have been bringing the chain back in the last 15 years maintaining the traditions and techniques of the original godfathers of pizza going back to 1949.

And the verdict? Massey’s tagline is “The Cadillac of Pizzas” but my assessment of the Godfather is this interpretation is more of a Dodge Dart.

The Godfather features Deep Dish crust, Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Mozzarella and Provolone and is only available as a 12” inch pizza. The toppings are generous (as you will find on any Massey’s Pizza). For my pizza, the bottom crust was over baked and I found the crust ring, doughy and a bit undercooked. Sections of the cheese were undercooked as well. This version was a bit light in sauce. The overall product seemed to me to represent more of a pan pizza (which was once the rage….back in the day) in taste and appearance. A Chicago Deep Dish purist would not consider this true to style. Most would probably consider this to be a thick crust pizza with a high crust ring. Another style difference is the order of ingredients. A traditional deep dish pizza typically has sauce on the top, followed by cheese, toppings then crust at the base. Massey’s Godfather follows the traditional layout of toppings on top, then cheese and sauce on top of the crust. Overall on a scale of 5, I’d give this one a 3.3.

While not a bad pizza by any means, I’ll stick with Meisters and Wholly Joe’s for my Central Ohio deep dish needs.

godfather-slice

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Morone’s Italian Villa: Buffet Battle – Pizza (Addendum)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 17, 2016

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This is a late entry to the Buffet Battle – Pizza, Series.

Morone’s Italian Villa
Bethel Centre
1490 Bethel Rd
(614) 457-7444

My connection to Morone’s goes back to my high school days in the area. Morone’s was a little more fancy than the other pizza places in North Columbus, so if you were heading out with a group – Morone’s was a big deal. I recall in high school eating carry out Morone’s Pizza (sausage and pepperoni) at a friend’s house many Saturday nights and looking forward to it week after week. The last time I could recall dining there was 1991? But as fate would have it, I wrote about it in 2007 when I tried their French Fry Pizza at an evening buffet. (I did not figure this out until I got home and started writing this).

The lunch buffet is offered Monday to Friday from 11 am to 2 pm. In addition to pizza, there is a salad bar featuring mixed salad, tomatoes, cheese, three dressings, cottage cheese, chocolate pudding, two pasta salads, cole slaw and a few other things for a total of nine items. There are also two pastas, a soup (that is hard to reach unless you go to the opposite side of the station), and some toasted Italian bread.

The pizza I tried was a bit fluffier, airy and more doughy that most other Columbus pizza places. There was a bit of char of the crust ring which had some crispness. The pepperoni seems like a slightly cheaper grade – but did have the curl I like to look for. The sauce was lightly applied to the dough and seemed a bit generic. The potato pizza I tried was a bit daring and added diversity to the offerings. The price for all of this with a beverage included was $9.69.


(Scale of 1-5)

Value 4
Quality 3.5
Quantity 3.5
Pizza Grade 3.25
Kid friendly Quotient 4


The food, especially the pizza did not taste like I remembered it (in 2007 or 1985 to 1991). While chatting with one of the cooks (when I still thought I had not been there since the 1990’s,) he mentioned he worked at Morone’s in the 1990’s but left and since that time, there had been three different owners until the present. So that explained the disparity between my memories and my dining experience at the buffet.

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Morone's Italian Villa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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