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Posts Tagged ‘TAT Restaurant’

TAT: Talk of the Town, Ninety Years and Counting

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 3, 2020

The story of TAT Ristorante begins in 1929 in the former Flytown neighborhood of Columbus. The address was 409 West Goodale Street. The name itself is directly related to a historic moment in Columbus history. Pete and Philomena Carrova were looking for a name for their new restaurant. Prior to opening the doors to the public, a historic event occurred at the city’s airport, the Columbus Municipal Hangar (CMH) on the east site. On July 9th of 1929, the first transcontinental flights in the United States were launched. Passengers started their journey in New York via train, the first stop was Columbus where train passengers were transferred to a waiting Ford Tri-Motor aircraft to fly them to their next destination. In the course of 48 hours, a person could travel from New York to Los Angeles. It was an amazing feat for the era and the talk of the town that Columbus was a part of it. The name of this new airline was Transcontinental Air Transport or T-A-T. Legend says that Pete Corrova would watch planes from Transcontinental Air Transport flying into and out from the airport and decided to use the initials he saw on the planes as the name of the restaurant. Another legend suggests the once officials from T-A-T came by to ask about the use of the name and Pete replied it stood for “take any table”. The airline did not last long and faded from memory quickly and we do know that Pete’s son Jimmy Corrova started to tell customers that TAT did indeed stand for take any table. Today. The current home for TAT features a wonderful mural by local artist Carl Weisenberger which depicts the history of TAT..the airline in a series of images.

“Progress” in the form of new highways, cut up the Flytown neighborhood in the early 1950’s and forced TAT to move. Pete and Philomena opened the new location on the growing east side at 3280 E. Main St at South Hampton Road (it remained there until 1965). The couple continued to serve food that reflected Pete’s Sicilian (Ficara) roots and the recipes Philomena brought from Naples…and of course pizza. In 1955 (or 1954), Jimmy Corrova and his wife, Dolores, opened a second TAT at East Broad Street and James Road. In 1962 the family added a location at Livingston Avenue and Beechwood Road. This was followed by a pizza focused location on the west side, the TAT Pizza Carry Out at 3858 Sullivant Ave (which became Minelli’s Restaurant & Pizza Carry Out in 1967). During the brief tenure as a TAT, the west side location was very busy with Jimmy Corrova recalling they used “five to six delivery wagons and sold 600 pizzas per night on Friday and Saturday”. After the death of patriarch Pete, followed by Jimmy having a heart attack, the family decided to merge the two remaining east side TAT’s in 1980 which remains TAT’s location today, 1210 South James Road (at Livingston Avenue).

As the oldest continuously owned family restaurant in Columbus with over ninety years of service, a plethora of memories and stories have accumulated. Maintaining a tradition followed by most of the original pizzerias and many Italian restaurants in town, recipes are not written down. Kitchen staff (or family members) are shown how to make something and then they follow suit. Before Jimmy had heart surgery in the 1980’s, he made sure that video tapes were made showing him creating all of the essential recipes for the kitchen.

Corrova started working at TAT when he was seven, when he was nine he stood on a crate to run the cash register. Today his wife, Dolores is the general manager and his brother Anthony is the maitre d’. Defying generations of Sicilian tradition of leaving everything to the first born son, his daughters Michelle (back of the house / kitchen) and Marianne (front of the house) are ready to take over the family business when Jimmy decides to give up the reins.

A favorite story of Jimmy Corrova involves his David vs. Goliath fight with several big businesses in his cease and desist lawsuit involving the use of the the term, Poor Boy sandwiches in Ohio. At the time, several companies including Kroger were selling frozen Poor Boy sandwiches locally. A barely adult Jimmy decided to bring a lawsuit against these companies including the local grocery store chain. Shortly after word got out about what he was planning to do, he was asked to meet with “a few people” at Romeo’s Pizzeria. When he arrived, the place was full of various Italian community leaders as well as powerful Democratic and Republican lawmakers. He was very strongly “encouraged” to stop his legal fight so as to not stir up the pot. He was told the suit would destroy the family business and be bad for the Italian-American community. Afterward, he went to church where he “received a message from Heaven” that he would win the case. When he asked his lawyer how much he should sue for he was told $100,000. He recalls thinking that was a lot of 0’s (zeros). He did win the case after six years and TAT still owns the Poor Boy Trademark to this day. Jimmy believes the headline in the Citizen Journal (local newspaper of the era) was “Judge Slices Up Sandwich Attorneys” on the day he won the suit.

TAT is known for having many employees who have worked front and back of house for decades as well a countless regular customers that span the generations. Many customers have a favorite booth and/or server. One booth even has a plaque dedicated to a long time customer who passed away, now the booth is reserved for her forever. TAT puts the old, into Old School in every aspect one can imagine. This family business has survived the Great Depression, countless recessions, treads, fads and an endless stream of new competition by not changing a thing. The only thing that has changed at TAT is their style of pizza served which has evolved from their original thicker crust interpretation with American cheese to the classic Columbus style today with just a few tweaks since the 1950’s.

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Value Meal / Defining Old School: Back to T.A.T

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 15, 2013

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It has been a couple of years since I visited TAT Ristorante di Famiglia. No surprise that nothing has changed at this classic eatery but my appreciation of the place has grown. Due to a craving for Midwestern Italian comfort classics and not being able to think of many restaurants in town that really deliver the goods, I did two back to back visits to TAT.

There was a golden era of restaurant dining in America from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Booths were big, so was the hair. The economy was good and dining out became a common habit instead of an occasional custom. In particular, Italian restaurants were trending high after America’s appetite for the fare changed after World War II. Think of the movie Big Night, well think of the feel of a place, not the cuisine, Primo would have gone ballistic looking at The TAT menu. To set the scene, there was a time when most of the staff in a restaurant was from the same family, when you would have the same server every visit, when there really was a family recipe and something cooked from scratch in the back by grandma and when customers wore fine garments for fine dining.

The above might be referred to as “Old School”. I was trying to think of places that were true “old school in Columbus. I could not think of many. To many, old school might mean old-fashioned, out dated or inauthentic cuisine. To that I say hooey. Old School has its place especially for natives of the Midwest who were reared with this as our model for “exotic” food. There is something more than comforting in regards to comfort food. For some, there is a lot of comfort that comes from cottage fries, chicken livers and cottage cheese on the main menu. TAT still feels like stepping back to 1978 or even 1958. On my visits, I looked around and saw neither the customers or staff had changed since my last visit in 2011. I could not spot a server under 50. Most of the customers are families that interact with staff like they have been coming here for decades and probably always ordering the same thing. There is something nostalgic about this type of atmosphere and again, something comforting about this culinary time capsule. They don’t make them like this anymore and they probably can’t. I hope that all of these elements can carry on as the 4th and 5th generations of the Carrova family take over the front and back of the house. And I hope the children and the grandchildren of the current customers keep coming back to preserve this culinary classic. On my first revisit, I saw several older couples dressed in suit and tie or cocktail dress. The clothing may have been a bit worn or out of fashion, but I admired the dedication these couple made to make a night out special. I also saw a couple of kids come in for prom, also dressed to the nines, who came to TAT for a special night and special meal. I struggle to paint the scene in words but trust me that no other place in town can replicate this environment. I also observed that the older couples were wrapping up their early bird specials and I resolved to check that out myself on my next visit.

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Talk about a blast from the past. Other than MCL Cafeteria, I can’t think of another eatery that can dish out the array of offerings that TAT can for their Early Bird Special. It is featured 3:30 to 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday. The entrees are reduced portions of customers favorites from the regular menu. However, for $10.95 this is a real feast. The four course meal included an appetizer (often soup), salad, an entrée and a (scaled down) dessert, often a slice of homemade cake. Bread (with crackers) and butter service is included as well. I am often asked by younger folks about a family friendly place they can take their grandparents, kids or more “conservative” eaters. This is the place and this is the meal that will fill that void for old school, “safe” eating in the capital city. The food is good, the atmosphere is unique and the experience is priceless.

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And now for some bonus content. While I was there, and having been identified as a regular by having visited twice in the same month, I was given an insider tip about breakfast at TAT. Longtime readers know that I view breakfast as my fifth favorite meal, so I did not check this out, but maybe you will or one of our Columbus Breakfast bloggers. Photos below are my pictorial contribution to your breakfast knowledge.


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