House-made meatballs, pastas shine at Little Italy Pizza

You can get more than just a good pizza from this long-standing Groveport favorite

G.A. Benton
The el forno pasta with a breadstick and salad at Little Italy Pizza

“THIS BOX CONTAINS MORE THAN JUST A PIZZA” is printed prominently on the branded cardboard boxes used by Little Italy Pizza. Because the message is figurative — the boxes literally just contain pizzas — an explanation for it is supplied, in a more modest type, via a brief history of the long-beloved neighborhood eatery.

I’ll be more brief: Little Italy Pizza, which has been baking pizzas since 1979, is a family-run business in downtown Groveport (about a 20-minute drive from Columbus) that began as a grocery store in 1966. Echoing the pizza-box message, Little Italy offers more than just a basic pizzeria.   

To go with its decades-old legacy, Little Italy's above-and-beyond attributes include: super-friendly service; a quaint old building with a scarlet-and-gray facade sprouting green awnings, plus a wood-everywhere, recreation room-like interior with sports-tuned TVs. The joint, which offers craft beers while also self-describing as “home of the $5 pitcher” of Bud Light, cooks crowd-pleasing pizzas with good ingredients and family recipes, but also prepares two handmade pasta dishes — one alone is worth the drive from Columbus — adorned with standout, house-made meatballs.  

Those pork-and-beef delights are available in various guises, the most straightforward being the meatball mozzarella appetizer ($7.95), which features three big, juicy, tender and zesty meatballs coated in melted mozzarella and a slightly sweet tomato sauce as rich as it was bright. A deeply toasted, oversized garlic breadstick was provided for mop-up duty.

Crushed meatballs in tomato sauce are smartly offered as a pizza topping, too. They join other flavor-bomb meats — extra-spicy capicola, peppercorn-spiked salami, plus Ezzo pepperoni and good Italian sausage clumps — on well-baked pizzas cut into rectangles that feature yeasty and thin (but not crackery) crusts with crunchy, nearly flat edges. 

The pepperoni pizza at Little Italy Pizza

Prices begin at $9.99 for a small pie blanketed with oven-browned, good cheese. Multi-topping specialty pizzas, which offer fine a value, range from $13.49 for a 10-inch small to $24.45 for an aptly described “extra-large” 16-inch pie.        

Although described as a newer offering, the Threezo specialty pizza, which was loaded with two kinds of pepperoni (that were similarly crisp, spicy and first-rate), plus sausage, had all the characteristics of a local classic.

The chunky, highly recommended All Meat pizza — a taste-bud bonanza that robustly displays this place’s strengths — tweaks that winning recipe by piling on more meats: salami, capicola, bacon and, crucially, crushed meatballs. Those extras mean that pepperoni isn’t the front-and-center ingredient, so pepperoni-obsessed types might want to tack on the Crispy Sicilians appetizer ($6.99) — fried pepperoni chips served with a “dip” of (don’t pretend to be surprised) ranch dressing.        

Order the homemade spaghetti ($9.99), and — in addition to a breadstick and a lively dinner salad overdressed in a perky house vinaigrette and tricked-out with pepperoni, cheese, olives, pepperoncini and more — you’ll get a hefty meatball and good sauce ladled atop house-made egg noodles that wouldn’t be out of place in Amish country.    

Order the fettuccine el (sic) forno ($10.99), and you’ll get a huge pasta dish worth driving to another town for with your enjoyable dinner salad and breadstick. This menu highlight is a lasagna-style casserole assembled with thick, wonderfully toothsome house-made noodle strands flattered with house sauce and a heavy-duty, oven-blistered cheese cap thoroughly embedded with crushed meatballs.  

An Italian sub with a pint of beer at Little Italy Pizza

Befitting that “more than just a pizza” tagline, Little Italy also makes a nice Italian sub ($6.95). It’s distinguished by a griddled toastiness, house dressing and flavorful, though not plentiful, meats. 

Sure, some dishes might read like commonplace pub grub (jalapeno poppers, fried mac-and-cheese bites), but there are enough other “small-batch” items — like locally sourced Amish Fry Pies ($4.49) — to warrant further exploration when I return for another serving of that terrific pasta al forno.      

A salad at Little Italy Pizza

Little Italy Pizza

619 Main St., Groveport