We’re in this for the long haul! Saturday night has become pizza & a movie night, with home as my “safe space” during the COVID-19 period of social distancing. I’ve got to eat – it dawns on me there are so many pizza joints I have not tried, within 5 miles of my Clintonville, Ohio home. Netflix and Hulu readily supply an evening’s entertainment, and the couch has increased appeal while sheltering in place.
So, we’ve turned this “quarantine” into a tasty challenge – to try a new pizza house every Saturday night, if we are sheltering in place! We never imagined we’d be doing it this long! I decided it was about time to share this adventure, so others could benefit from our experience!
Oh, and don’t forget the movies! What fun – come along on this journey and see if you can smell the brown and bubbly mozzarella cheese, taste the crushed red pepper flakes, and hear the 20th Century Fox intro music. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7GE_HMZxa0)
Studio 35 / Fibonacci’s Pizza: In an effort to support local business, and spend some of our consumer dollars at the local movie house, we got creative and ordered jalapeño & pineapple with soy chorizo and a very special “side” – a large tub of buttered popcorn, to go. It was the early days of quarantine, when we were binge watching 7 seasons of 30 Rock, so the time in front of the TV outlasted the pizza and the popcorn! Don’t judge! The salty, buttery bucket of goodness was just what I was looking for, and I was impressed that the movie theater thought to offer popcorn to go!
Studio 35 used to order in pizza from the joint next door (Primo Pizza, which I enjoyed a few weeks later, and have returned to several times since). The theater started to make pizza on site, and it’s delish! Then, COVID, so I’m happy that pizza is so easily taken home. I’ll actually be ordering it tonight, to nibble on as I put the finishing touches on this blog post. I am a huge fan of the soy chorizo – quite tasty!
Hound Dogs: The night we brought home Hound Dogs was a night for a classic large cheese pizza. COVID had put the brakes on an overnight bike-packing ride we’d planned to go on, but our group of cycling friends decided to have a little fun anyway. The cycling event was still promoted, via a Facebook event, but it had transitioned into a “do it yourself” ride, with staggered start times and backyard camp sites. Some riders were encouraged do tackle the route backwards, so they sould wave to fellow cyclists, in passing.
We’d spent the day meandering around town, visiting The Ohio State University campus and downtown Columbus, making a big loop that had us back home for the evening. To enhance the spirit of camping we dragged out all our camp kitchenware, roasted marshmallows for s’mores in the backyard, and then put Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom on the living room TV.
Faced with the alternative of freeze-dried bags of camp rations, we decided to pick up the phone and dial Hound Dogs instead. We were pleased with our choice – ooey gooey melty cheese! It’s impossible to go wrong with this choice, and I’ll admit that there wasn’t much left at the end of the night.
Mama Mimi’s Take N’ Bake: Can I simply say “Yum!”? One benefit of “take n’ bake” pizza is being able to eat it hot from the oven, as you would if you were eating out, but from the safety of your own home. So, we’d need to do a bit of the work ourselves – so much work, turning on the oven! I didn’t mind one bit! We took home two large pizzas, and breadsticks. That’s a lot of food for two people, but we have somewhat divergent tastes – I’m the only vegetarian in the house. One crust was covered in sundried tomato, garlic, feta cheese and fresh basil, while the 2nd was topped with jalapeño, pineapple, and chopped pepperoni.
The night we ventured out to Mama Mimi’s was my first time going out into the world with a mask on – an N95. There was a plastic shield in front of the register, and the casher wiped down the iPad screen after she use it and again after I used it. The precautions were appreciated, but I never dreamed that this would become the norm. In fact, even though I was nervous to be out of the house a part of me imagined that these efforts were a bit excessive.
Months later we’re seeing more and more protective barriers, shortages of cleaning products and limits on the number of customers permitted inside of businesses. I’m firmly convinced this is as it should be. Stay safe – grab a take n’ bake and make your pizza in your own kitchen.
Pizza Primo – Clintonville: Customers pulled up and the lady inside the pizza joint ran pizza out to the car. When ordering over the phone you would simply identify the make, model, and color of the car you drive, so pick-up was easy, with minimal contact. Pizza Primo is just around the corner from home – in the running for the closest pizza to our back door – so it’s a staple around here. It’s classic, it’s simple, it’s fast, and it’s close by. A large cheese and we are set for the night.
So often it’s the simple pizza counter, sandwiched between a local barber shop and a tattoo parlor, that offers exactly what you are looking for. Inside, pizza boxes are stacked high, ready for a busy Saturday night of pick-up and delivery orders. The boxes are classic white, with bold red lettering and perforated tabs that snap into place. The task of assembly becomes repetitive and mind numbing, and the cardboard pulls the moisture from your hands – or so I’m told by experienced staff.
We know from experience that the narrow space is busy (and loud) with the over-the-top energy of teens working their first jobs, to earn a few extra bucks. There’s just enough room along the wall for tall, refrigerated cases of Pepsi, Orange Crush and Mountain Due, a TV mounted to the wall, and high-top tables, each with a pair of black vinyl stools. But we wouldn’t be dining in tonight, or any time soon.
Adriatico’s New York Style Pizza – OSU Campus: During the spring of COVID it was not surprising to find this campus sports bar and pizzeria, recently moved into a new building on a campus corner, empty. Campus itself was a ghost town in the early days of COVID, with classes cancelled, or moved online, and students sent home to Illinois, New York, and *ichigan with no projected return date. Okay. . . not that many are from the state up north, which is our biggest rival.
On a typical game day, when COVID isn’t interfering with the Ohio State – Michigan football rivalry, Adriatico’s would be wall-to-wall with college students. Go Bucks! O-H. . . . I-O! We will have to patiently wait and see if this scene ever returns to Central Ohio, and hope that not too many Ohio State students are expelled for violating restrictions on social gatherings.
In any case, for now delivery and pick-up orders will remain the predominant way of doing business. We ordered a deep dish that was ½ mushrooms and olives (green and black) and ½ sausage and jalapeño. It was tasty (some of the sausage “juice” may have leaked over onto my side), with a buttery, thick crust that was browned to perfection. Lots of cheese – we love it when there’s lots of cheese.
This is not the 1 in. brick of cheese that defines a Chicago-style pizza, but it was a treat to pull away a slice and watch the cheese stretch as I pulled. Out of this world! We watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and were entertained by the special effects, the vintage soundtrack, and the quirky characters. Out of this world!
Gatto’s: We kicked up our feet to watch Call of the Wild, with Harrison Ford – a familiar tale, for avid readers of animal fiction, reimagined with Ford’s distinct persona. The movie was entertaining, but the pizza that night. . . . a bit disappointing. How is that even possible for pizza to disappoint? Well, sometimes your expectations just aren’t met. I’ve had better pizza from this Clintonville establishment, situated in Clintonville, on High St., just blocks away from home. The cause of the disappointmment. . .
The cheese ½ of the pizza was perfectly browned, just the way I like it, and Yum!! The pineapple and jalapeño ½ of the pizza had too much of both toppings, and very little cheese. It’s a gamble, doing a ½ and ½ pizza, since the distinct halves might require different cooking times. In this case, the side with the extra ingredients was simply undercooked. Pair that with “not enough” cheese (for my cheese-loving tastes) and I found myself continuing to reach for slices of just cheese.
Perhaps it’s best to stick with the classic cheese pizza – Gatto’s has been serving Clintonville since 1952. They have some idea of what they are doing!
Ohio State Pizza: Do you need your pizza fast? Ohio State Pizza had our dinner ready in just 20 minutes, at 7 pm on a Saturday night. When we’d called their competition (Villa Nova) we were told we’d have to wait an hour and a half to pick up our pizza. That’s unreasonable – how could we possibly wait that long? We were hungry. . . okay, maybe hangry. There was no chance we’d survive waiting over an hour! Instead, Ohio State Pizza took good care of us.
(note: living and working in close quarters has put some strain on many couples, who are not accustomed to spending so much time together. Luckily my partner and I are old pros at working from home. In any case, his office reopened several months ago, so we’re good.)
Ohio State Pizza is accustomed to being busy, especially on a game day, slinging pizza all night and into the early morning hours, serving the OSU campus and surrounding area: student dorms, the artsy (turning commercial) Short North, the neighborhoods of Clintonville and Milo Grogan, and area hotels!
I honestly cannot recall what type of pizza it was – I was that hungry! We settled in, to dive into our meal while we watched the comedic, heart-warming flick Brittany Runs a Marathon. There is nothing like packing in the calories while laughing along as a non-athletic, clumsy lead character puts in the work to train to run a marathon. We had ridden our bikes earlier that morning, so we had “earned” our pizza – that’s what we keep telling ourselves, every Saturday night!
Pizza House: Once again we had high expectations, when we ordered from Pizza House. Last November we spontaneously met up with a fun group of cycling friends, at the 2019 “Slice of Clintonville,” where we hoped to discover which pizzeria serves up Clintonville’s best pizza. The Pizza House was there to defend last year’s People’s Choice and Celebrity Judge awards.
The Clintonville Women’s Club was packed wall-to-wall with voters – remember, this was still pre-COVID. Pizza House was, once again, in the #1 spot, so when we queued up Heroes on Netflix and ordered our weekly pizza. I’m certain we’ll give Pizza House another chance, but the best word to describe our experience that night is “Meh.” The pizza was nothing special. Its sauce was overly sweet, its crust was bready and too thick, and we came away unsatisfied.
Perhaps this amounts to another cheese malfunction (not enough volume, not browned enough, etc.). I can’t put my finger on it. But we’ll be return customers, to give them another shot. There could be a lot more weeks of COVID-19, and therefore a lot more Saturday movie nights, ahead.
Tommy’s Pizza: Tommy’s is truly some good pizza, and you can pick it up a stone’s throw from the OSU football stadium – the Horseshoe. I have many fond memories of eating a celebratory meal there. In graduate school I was a member of the OSU Women’s Self-Defense and Martial Arts Club, and I made numerous lifelong friends, from so many different departments, in that time and through that club. After a Tae Kwon Do belt test, to advance to the next rank, we reconvened at Tommy’s.
We’d order enough pizzas to feed twice the number of women present and ask the waitress to bring over large pitchers of ice water, for this group of thirsty martial artists. The best part? Passing around wooden boards that had been broken during the belt test, the result of flying side kicks, back kicks and spinning roundhouse kicks. We’d pass the boards around the table at Tommy’s, so the other women present at the test could sign it. It was something of a “yearbook,” a snapshot of a period of training together, sweating together, and growing closer together.
I moved several times with those boards, which were tied snugly together with the belt that I had worn during the time leading up to the test. It was the belt I was leaving behind, to continue to advance my skills and my understanding of Tae Kwon Do. A couple of years ago the minimalist in me won out – I photographed each of the boards to preserve the signatures and warm messages, and then the boards were burned in my backyard fire pit, the belts donated to the next generation of martial artist.
Funny how a slice of pizza can bring back all those memories. Funny how those memories, of camaraderie through reoccurring physical and mental challenges, can season the pizza, even years later. I savored every bite!
Villa Nova: The pizza was worth the wait – we’d passed on the hour and a half wait a few weeks prior but had circled back to this known favorite – a local, family-owned bar and restaurant. When dining in we order salads, and eat small plates of bread & butter, and larger plates of lasagna, or piles of spaghetti with marinara sauce. If you’re in the mood, add a modest glass of red table wine to wash this comfort food down. Sighs of contentment aren’t uncommon.
But the winning dish for carryout is, once again, the basic cheese pizza. This is “Moving into a new apartment” pizza. It’s “I need to feed the entire bowling league” pizza. And it’s great “Movie Night” pizza. I considered getting a Lg. Cheese at every pizza place, garnishing with shaky cheese and shaky peppers, like you would get at the pizzeria. A side salad and a fizzy drink help create the perfect weekend experience; cheese is a safe bet!
Problem is, I love toppings too much to survive that experiment.
As I settled in to watch A League of Their Own, the classic Gina Davis and Tom Hanks baseball movie, it was with a cheese pizza. For months there was NO baseball being played (thanks COVID!), and at the time of this viewing there were still no live games but there were plenty of baseball movies to get us through.
Tom Hanks reminds us that “There’s no crying in baseball,” and we relax with our feet up and our minds numbed by the familiar flick – one that makes us laugh every time. Started in 1978, and still owned by the Colleli family, Villa Nova exudes a sense of family, of familiarity, and of consistent quality. Owners Frank and Donna went in and out of retirement to run the establishment, and to ensure the business ran as they intended, and customers were satisfied.
Harvest Pizza: After several long months of being closed entirely – longer than most restaurants in town – Harvest Pizza reopened for curbside pickup only. That’s okay – we wanted our pizza to go, and minimal contact (or contactless pickup) is something that’s being marketed heavily these days. We doubled down on the cheese, asking for goat cheese to top a standard cheese pizza; they tossed on fresh basil as well. Fresh, local and organic are major selling points for patrons of Harvest.
The goat cheese, with its creamy texture and strong flavor, distracted us from whatever movie we pulled up on Netflix. If you have never tried it, or not had it on a pizza, it’s a new experience you won’t want to miss out on. The spreadable cheese melts easily into large puddles of creamy goodness that melt onto your tastebuds as you take a bite into your slice. Yum! I’m salivating just a little bit, as I type.
You’ve likely noticed, but I should probably make mention of the fact that it was quite common for me to accompany our pizza with a salad or some delicious caprese, with tomato and basil from the garden and thick balsamic glaze from Trader Joe’s. With this addition, a perfect meal was made.
Note: Be careful not to mistake the pizzeria for Harvest of Ohio, LLC (medical marijuana dispensary,) unless you think you might need a bite to eat too:
Giordano’s: I grew up in Chicago, but I was not raised on Chicago-style deep dish pizza. We typically ordered a thin crust with cheese and sausage, from Brookfield pizzeria, Tom’s Pizza. As an adult, however, I have come to love the large slabs of pizza, full of cheese and topped with rich red sauce. The deep-dish crust runs up the sides of the deep pan it is cooked in. Don’t show up too hungry – you’ll be waiting about 45 min. for your pie to cook. It’s 100% worth the wait. My preference is to take the Metra train downtown, grab lunch and spend the day in the city.
Knowing I’d be publishing this blog this week, it was decided that I should indulge in my hometown pizza as a finale to this pizza adventure. A single Giordano’s restaurant opened in Columbus pre-COVID. I resisted eating there, because this heavy meal is something I’d always considered a treat when I visit family. But it seemed an appropriate way to wrap up this blog post.
Searching for pizza-themed movies, we discovered a documentary called Pizza Shop: An Italian American Dream, which tells the story of an Italian immigrant family who put down roots in New Jersey. The documentary is filmed and produced by family members, which gives it a familiarity and warmth, as the two brothers who are being interviewed sometimes speak directly to the son behind the camera. You wouldn’t expect it, but there were a few touching, rather emotional moments in the film. It’s worth watching, over pizza of course.
Just in case you haven’t had enough already, here are some interesting pizza facts:
- Americans eat 100 acres of pizza each day.
- 5 billion pizzas are sold each year
- 58% of Americans order pizza on the day of the big game (super bowl)
- Thin crust is the most popular pizza worldwide
- October is national pizza month.
Join me on my next adventure,