Restaurant review: Iacono's
"It's like the craft beer resurgence, people are interested in a higher-end product these days," Trent Iacono told me over the phone.
Iacono was describing how contemporary customers are especially appreciative of the pizza dough, pasta dough, red sauce, sausage, lasagna and meatballs that have all been made by hand in the various local restaurants owned by his family over several decades.
When it came to nosy questions about his family, though, Iacono was less forthcoming. I can't blame him.
If you know much about classic Columbus pizza, the Iacono name is famous. Tommy Iacono - Trent's grandfather - founded iconic Tommy's Pizza back in 1952. Tommy's son, Steven (Trent's father), grew up in the business.
But in 1978, Steven, who was then about 32, struck out with three new partners to start the first Iacono's. When I asked Trent if this involved a family feud - as I'd often heard rumored - he cautiously said the schism was associated with "differences of opinion."
Three Iacono's currently dot the Columbus area, including the one I frequent: an old-school, leisurewear-and-family-friendly place in Upper Arlington. On a recent Friday evening, it was packed with restless kids, grandparents, teens and adults out for a night of feel-good food. Couple that crowd with an unceasing stream of to-go orders and it equaled slow-but-smiling service.
Fortunately, all dine-in entrées come with access to a salad bar stocked with fresh ingredients and a zingy, house-made Italian dressing - so eating could commence immediately after ordering my CBC IPA ($5.50) and Spaghetti and Meatballs ($10.29)
When the homemade pasta dinner arrived, it featured enough spaghetti to feed a Buckeyes offensive lineman - or three-to-four regular people. The truckload of yellow-tinted pasta was egg-based, so it's much sturdier than the water-based stuff, and the soothing, toothsome noodles were swamped in a simple, sweet-tangy tomato sauce crowned with two huge, comforting meatballs fortified with cheese and breadcrumbs.
Of course my tablemates and I also got one of Iacono's pizzas. We went with a medium "EBA" - everything but anchovies ($19). Here, that means a snappy, thin, crackery "laminated" crust with biscuit-like flaky layers topped with tangy-sweet crushed tomato sauce, clumps of fresh sausage, minced onions, fresh mushrooms, zesty pepperoni, green peppers (I always substitute banana peppers) and plenty of good-quality, blistered cheese.
Family feud or not, it's terrific, and as good as classic-style Columbus pizza gets.