Leone's Pizza has—had—exceptional pies that we won't soon forget.
[Editor’s Note: After we published this review in our November 2018 issue, Leone’s Pizza decided to close. We hope it returns someday.]
With outstanding New York-style pizza, the likes of which I haven’t encountered since living within steps of the Bronx’s famed Arthur Avenue, Leone’s Pizza is well worth the trek to Columbus’ North Side for chef/owner Ryan LaRose’s award-winning pies. But this hearty recommendation comes with a warning: I found that the eatery’s hours strayed greatly from those advertised, providing only frustration when a hankering for quality pizza hit.
With a thin and chewy yet sturdy, foldable crust, the hand-tossed dough is the restaurant’s standout. LaRose is a champion, acrobatic pizza-tosser (check out videos of him throwing dough at leonespizza.com), and he delivers on his restaurant’s promise of “a show in the dough.” Customers can watch him make pies in the kitchen of the small, unassuming, six-table eatery located at 5413 Sinclair Road while dining in or getting carryout.
Several of the pizzas on the menu (ranging from 10 to 18 inches) are a purist’s delight with minimal toppings, allowing the quality ingredients to shine. The Foundation ($10–$17) consists of only mozzarella and tomato sauce; Nana’s Pie ($12–$19) features tomato, garlic, basil and mozzarella; and the Margherita ($12–$19) comprises house-made mozzarella, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce and basil. On a recent visit, I tried the square Grandma’s pie ($20 for a 16-inch). With crisp red sauce, fresh mozzarella, garlic and basil, it did not disappoint.
Leone’s also offers several extravagant pies, like the “gigantic” (according to the menu) stuffed pizza ($28 for a 16-inch), which offers a flurry of meat, vegetables and cheese wedged between two crusts. The Leone’s pie ($14–$21) is a beauty, with mozzarella, chicken and caramelized onion baked and then topped with blue cheese, arugula and olive oil. It was respectable, but I found myself yearning with each bite for deeper notes of the complex blue cheese and sweet onion combo.
An absolute home run, the Tartufo pizza ($17–$24) features house-made mozzarella, a wild mushroom medley and rosemary, accented by truffle oil. It was incredible and hype-worthy. Also notable are the outstanding garlic knots (six for $5). Pungent and chewy, they are best when dipped in the scratch-made tomato sauce served alongside.
For dessert, I tried the cannoli ($3) filled with a mild sweet cream in a crisp fried shell. It was traditional and adequate. I appreciated the robustness of both the shell and the filling, but the cream’s texture was slightly grainy.
After finding Leone’s closed on multiple excursions to the eatery during their advertised weekday hours, I recommend sticking to weekend visits to ensure that you’ll actually be able to get the pizza when the craving strikes. Additionally, after salivating over Leone’s extensive menu online, which includes a number of appetizers, salads, hero sandwiches and pastas, I tried several times to order non-pizza entrées but was told that only pies, garlic knots and cannoli were available. Due to minimal staffing, I learned, the complete menu is currently on hold. This is understandable, but an online menu update seems to be in order. Despite these frustrations, I’m glad to say that the pizza is spectacular—some of the best in Columbus—and ideal for New York-style traditionalists who can’t stomach a Columbus-style pie.