Best Pizza in Columbus, Ohio: Top 25 Pies

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From the September 2013 edition

Edited by Beth Stallings  -   Photos by Tessa Berg  -  Top 25 by Shelley Mann

1. Harvest Pizzeria

HOT! Harvest’s wood-gas hybrid oven burns local cherry wood.

Harvest doesn’t make Columbus-style pizzas, strictly speaking. Their pie is cut in triangles rather than squares, and the crust is charred and chewy rather than cracker-y. What they make instead are pizzas infused with the essence of Columbus. This place employs a trained chef who understands local sourcing and how flavors work together, who plucks tomatoes, herbs and vegetables from nearby farms to pair with cheeses made right here in Ohio. Harvest’s pizzas get every detail right. The crust is charred and crispy, never soggy. The sauce is intriguingly complex, with lots of fresh herbs and spices. Cheese is applied in direct correlation to the other toppings; there’s never too little and never too much. Take, for example, the Spicy Yuma. It’s the perfect combination of spicy-salty-sweet, with chorizo, jalapeno and a chipotle-spiked sauce bringing the heat, balanced by sweet corn and roasted red pepper plus a creamy local gouda. On the other end of the spectrum, the Fennel Sausage is a marvelously simple creation, its smoked provolone paired with Canal Junction gouda and topped with onions and fennel-spiked sausage set off by delicate fennel fronds. 495 S. Fourth St., German Village, 614-824-1769, harvestpizzeria.com

2. Bono Pizza

What Bono lacks in ambiance, it makes up in soul. At the heart of this cash-only hole-in-the-wall (quite literally: it is a room on one side of a convenience store) is a wood-fired brick oven where owner Jake Wilch lovingly cooks pizzas one at a time. On cold nights, a chef’s table in the kitchen overlooking that glowing oven is the coziest seat in town. The 10-inch pies have airy, charred crusts and the best are loaded with fresh vegetables, like the monochromatic Hulk (fresh pesto sauce topped with seasonal green veggies). 1717 Northwest Blvd., Grandview, 614-906-8646, bonotogo.com

3. Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza

Natalie’s describes its coal-fired pies as “old-world New York pizzas,” and that’s an apt way to talk about these charred-edge beauties. Veggies from area farmers markets are paired with cheeses imported from Italy and thick slices of fresh mozzarella. If a pizza is topped with a balsamic reduction, order it. The Venetian Jail, with sausage, mushroom, goat cheese, ricotta, arugula and fresh herbs, all drizzled in that tart balsamic sauce, is incredible. 5601 N. High St., Worthington, 614-436-2625, nataliescoalfiredpizza.com

4. Yellow Brick

The city’s hippest pizzeria has to be Yellow Brick, housed in an old coin laundry building in burgeoning Olde Towne East and adorned with chalk art depictions of cleverly named pizza specials, like the Chris Farley-themed Olive in a Van (you know, down by the river). Not everything here is gimmicky, though. They’ve got a fantastic straightforward Rhode Island Red, its thick layer of slightly sweet, tomato-intense sauce capped with just a sprinkling of shaved parmesan. The rest of their light, doughy pies are topped with inspired combos like pear, bacon, thyme, shaved parmesan and a honey drizzle (that one’s called the Elliott Smith). 892 Oak St., Olde Towne East, 614-725-5482, yellowbrickpizza.com

5. Rubino’s

This epitome of a vintage pizza parlor serves the best old-school Columbus-style pizza. Scratch-made yeast dough is run through a mechanical roller to achieve its beloved cracker-thin texture, then it’s sauced all the way to the edge before being cut into rectangles. To-go orders are packed on a round of cardboard and slid into a white paper bag. Order yours with pepperoni; it’s that great kind with edges that curl up as it cooks. 2643 E. Main St., Bexley, 614-235-1700, rubinosbexley.com

6. Bexley Pizza Plus/Gahanna Pizza Plus

Brad Rocco is justifiably proud of the awards his piled-high pizzas have racked up, including third place in the Best Traditional Pizza in the World category at the 2011 International Pizza Expo; you’ll be blasted with reminders the moment you walk through the door. A sturdy crust means you can go crazy with just-chopped vegetable toppings here without worrying about sogginess. The Farmer’s Market, with spinach, broccoli, mushrooms and Roma tomatoes, is delightfully fresh and light. 2651 E. Main St., Bexley, 614-237-3305; 106 Granville St., Gahanna, 614-428-9878, bexleypizzaplus.com

7. Borgata Pizza Bistro

My first time dining here, three dudes straight out of a Scorsese movie strutted in and started serenading the kitchen staff, in a pitch-perfect Dean Martin impression with, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” Suffice it to say, this is a real-deal New York-style pizzeria—even if these aren’t the floppy slices synonymous with NYC. And that’s OK, because I actually prefer the heft of these thick, slightly crunchy pies topped with imported cheeses and fresh veggies to most anemic by-the-slice options. 5701 Parkville St., North Side, 614-891-2345, borgatapizzacafe.tumblr.com

8. Gatto’s

Gatto’s is another classic ’50s-era pizzeria, a mostly carryout business started by two brothers. Clintonvillians have grown up on their pies, which stand out among the square-cut heap thanks to a thin but crispy crust, piled-on mozzarella and provolone, and high-quality toppings, like smoky, spicy pepperoni. Giant meatballs and sausages are made in-house, so be sure to order those on your pizzas. The tender, garlicky meatballs are sliced into thin triangles and carefully layered from edge to edge. 2928 N. High St., Clintonville, 614-263-3737, gattospizza.com

9. Pizza House

This longtime favorite pizzeria looks like a 1980s mall food court (complete with lots of glass-block half-walls), but its pizza is still plenty relevant. It’s cut in Midwestern squares but it boasts a great crust that’s thicker than other Columbus pies, with delicious crunchy, buttery edges. The All Meat, piled with pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage and thin-sliced meatballs, is an over-the-top salty meat bomb (but in a good way). 747 E. Lincoln Ave., 614-885-3121, pizzahousecolumbus.com

10. Mikey’s Late Night Slice

Hot! Mikey’s slices are cooked in conventional ovens, but reheated in stone ovens.

OK, so this pizza tastes better when consumed after drinking alcohol than it does during broad daylight. But since Mikey’s conveniently places most of its pizza windows in or around bars, there’s really no reason to judge it without beer goggles. These foldable New York-style slices (mushroom with roasted garlic is pungent enough to cut through a booze-induced fog) aren’t complete without a drizzle of Mikey’s signature Slut Sauce, a better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts mix of ranch, hot ranch, garlic butter, sriracha and barbecue sauces. Multiple locations, latenightslice.com

11. Plank’s Cafe & Pizzeria

Cheese! Plank's uses 100 percent smoked provolone.

Plank’s, somewhat controversially, adds sugar to their dough, and the resulting super-sweet pies are the city’s ultimate love-it-or-hate-it option. The flavor is akin to eating pizza on a doughnut, a quirky and unexpected salty-sweet combo. The savory toppings of the All the Way—pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onion, green peppers and banana peppers—balance out the sweetness. 743 Parsons Ave., South Side, 614-443-6251, plankscafe.com

12. Panzera’s

The Grandview location of this family-owned business has a spacious patio with umbrella tables, great for enjoying these spot-on crunchy-thin pizzas. It’s nothing fancy, just a great Midwest-via-Italy recipe perfected over time. Go for the Crowd Pleaser, with the proper ratios of mozzarella, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and banana peppers. 1354 Grandview Ave., Grandview, 614-486-5951; 3794 Fairlington Dr., Upper Arlington, 614-442-7930, panzeras.com

13. Tristano’s

What you want here is the Sweet Lou’s Authentic Chicago Stuffed Pizza. This sauce-topped pie filled with gooey cheese is surrounded with a crust that’s thin along the bottom and appropriately thick and braided around the edges. 3306 Columbus St., Grove City, 614-875-5509, tristanospizza.com

14. Element

The spartan Downtown shop has some creative topping combinations—all on chewy, doughy crusts—but some work much better than others. Stay safe with the sweet-tasting Parma, loaded with hunks of prosciutto, almonds, raisins and fresh mozzarella. 250 N. Third St., Downtown, 614-232-8871, elementpizzabar.com

15. Meister’s Pizza

In the back of a dive bar, you’ll find some pretty great deep-dish, Chicago-style pizzas. Be prepared to wait—the crust is so thick it takes about 45 minutes for each sauce-laden, ultra-cheesy pie to cook. Luckily, Meister’s has pool tables and  a jukebox to bide the time. 1168 Chambers Rd., Grandview, 614-427-3141

16. Cowtown Pizza

Where this Grandview pizzeria excels is in diversity of toppings—goat cheese and feta, plus roasted eggplant and avocado. Have fun putting together new combinations of cheeses, meats and veggies to go on Cowtown’s crisp, crunchy crusts. 1359 Grandview Ave., Grandview, 614-488-4020, cowtownpizza.com

Dough! Cowtown's is spiked with wheat flour, raw cane sugar, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

17. Pizza Cottage

The best-known Cottage is in Buckeye Lake, where regulars go crazy for the BLT Pizza. More like a panini than a pizza, this creation starts life as a typical bacon pizza before being topped with iceberg lettuce, Roma tomato slices, some mayonnaise and a second pizza crust. Multiple locations, pizza-cottage.com

18. Massey’s

I don’t want to love Massey’s, the ubiquitous Columbus chain with a long history of dominating best-of polls. But I can’t help it. There’s just something about the cornmeal-coated crust, slightly spicy sauce and excessively applied toppings that makes their pepperoni pizzas downright addictive. Multiple locations, masseyspizza.com

19. Little Sicily’s

Out in Brice, this brick-walled pizzeria has classic Neapolitan pies with a devoted East Side following. Feeling adventurous? Order the quirky Ziggy’s Special, topped with Italian sausage and sauerkraut. The tangy sweetness of the sauerkraut marries nicely with the richness of the sausage. 2965 Brice Rd., Brice, 614-864-6020, littlesicilys.com

Dough! The dough recipe at Little Sicily’s is 34 years old.

20. Dante’s Pizza

This family-run place is straight out of the ’80s, with wood-paneled walls, pop by the can and a cash-only policy. What sets these medium-crust, square-cut pies apart is a bright and zesty sauce, especially when topped with the mild house-made sausage. 3586 Indianola Ave., 614-268-5090, dantespizzainc.com

21. Hounddog’s

The pizzas at this open-around-the-clock establishment are endlessly customizable. Sauces range from sweet to Howlin’ hot, and crusts come in Hounddog’s thin or Smokin’ Joe’s, a thicker, pie-cut pizza with a garlic-butter drenched crust that adds a whole extra level of finger-licking goodness to these pizzas. 2657 N. High St., North Campus, 614-261-4686, hounddogspizza.com   Photo by Jodi Miller

22. Tommy’s Pizza and Subs

Those who grew up eating Tommy’s prefer its flaky cracker crust over others of its ilk. The toppings here are all solid but standard, so it’s smartest to pile them all on for maximum enjoyment. The All-the-Way has pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage, green peppers and onion. Multiple locations, tommyspizza.com

23. Slice of New York

Formerly known as Flying Pizza, this teensy Campus shop is our best equivalent to those by-the-slice pizzerias found on the East Coast. Bonus: Constant dough tossing provides ample entertainment as they reheat your slices (I prefer the simplicity of the cheapo plain cheese; none of the toppings are worth the extra charge). 1812 N. High St., Campus, 614-294-1011, osusliceofnewyork.com

24. DiCarlo's

A huge portion of DiCarlo’s customers hail from the Ohio Valley, where this style of crispy-bottomed pizza reigns supreme. The cooking style is unique—cheese and toppings are put on after the pizza comes out of the oven, leaving an unusual lacy layer of just-melted provolone. 4144 Main St., Hilliard, 614-777-4992

25. Adriatico’s

Dough! The crust here is vegan-friendly.

Ohio State grads wax poetic about the Sicilian-style pies at this legendary Campus spot. They’re known for the party-ready Buckeye, a full tray of thick-cut squares that’ll fill you up after about, oh, one slice. 265 W. 11th Ave., Campus, 614-421-2300, adriaticospizza.com


 

Neighborhood favorites  

Enrico’s Pizza Restaurant Tiziana Sager and her parents emigrated from Italy in 1968, opened Enrico’s in 1988 and have been cooking up homemade, authentic Italian pizzas, pastas and subs at this quaint Dublin staple since. 5788 Frantz Rd., Dublin, 614-766-6900

Villa Nova This Beechwold favorite is part family eatery and part neighborhood tavern—a separate barroom that’s dark and well-worn, where chatty regulars help themselves to the  old-fashioned popcorn maker. The pizza is classic bar pie: hot, crisp and greasy. Wash it down with a bone-chilling beer in a frozen mug. 5545 N. High St., Worthington, 614-846-5777

Eagles Villa Pizza  Complete with exposed brick, historic photos and memorabilia, a covered-bridge mural and even a history-book store in house, this pizza shop started on a New Albany family’s back porch in 1965 and has grown into a beloved neighborhood restaurant known for its taco pizza. 2 N. High St., New Albany, 614-855-7600, eagles-pizza.com

Catfish Biff’s Pizza & Subs South Campus has been retooled with a shiny commercial strip and upgraded dorms—but the no-frills pizza joint stuffed into an old brick house is still fueling finals weeks and bar crawls with specialty pies and $2 cheese slices until 3:30 a.m. on weekends. 75 W. 11th Ave., South Campus, 614-421-7421

Sparano’s Pizza Sparano’s flies as under the radar as its neighborhood (the Italian-bent San Margherita)-––but those who live there speak fondly of both. Recently relocated from its Hague Road pizza shack to a strip mall around the corner, Sparano’s retained its carryout-encouraged charm along with its no-frills, greasy deep-dish tasting pies. 3590 Trabue Rd., West Side, 487-0087