Takeout: Nine Pizza Styles and Where to Find Them in Columbus

Beth Stallings
Grandad's pepperoni pizza

Dough, sauce, cheese—something so simple has so many interpretations that we collectively refer to as pizza. The comfort food of our youth. The fuel that keeps us charged for an all-nighter in college (studying or … not). The Friday night tradition with the family. No one ever says, “Pizza? Yeah, I just don’t care for it.” The question is never if you want pizza. It’s what kind of pizza speaks to you. Here’s a primer on nine regional styles and where to find them around town.

Style: Columbus 

Tavern, bar or party-cut. Whatever you want to call it, if it’s got a razor-thin crust, cheese from edge to edge, a slightly sweeter sauce and square slices, that is a Columbus-style pizza. Massey’s gets credit for originating the style decades ago, but longstanding shops like Rubino’s Pizza in Bexley, Grandad’s, Tommy’s and Iacono’s have made it our city’s namesake style. “It’s very much a Columbus thing. It does take a while for people to get used to that,” says Brad Rocco, owner of Bexley Pizza Plus. “I think once people realize there’s a method, there’s a reason it’s cut like that, they say ‘Hey, this makes sense.’” For example, the grid-style cut is perfect for pleasing both folks who love and hate pizza crust ends. Rocco, who travels often for pizza competitions, has tasted a lot of pizza in his day and says what we have in Columbus is truly unique. “I think Columbus is really a hidden gem for pizza,” Rocco says. 

We recommend: Bexley Pizza Plus, 2651 E. Main St., Bexley, 614-237-3305,;Grandad’s Pizza, 1254 W. Third Ave., Grandview, 614-488-9700, andGrandad’s Pizza & Pub, 4093 Trueman Blvd., Hilliard, 614-767-3020,; Rubino’s Pizza, 2643 E. Main St., Bexley, 614-235-0712

Style: Ohio Valley

For anyone used to bubbly, melted cheese and charred toppings—forget it. The cheese and pep go on after this Roman-style pan pizza takes its turn in a 550-degree oven. “It’s really a different kind of pizza,” says Anna DiCarlo, owner of DiCarlo’s Pizza. Her uncle Primo created Ohio Valley-style pizza in Steubenville in 1945, inspired by a dish he had in Italy during WWII. DiCarlo’s original square pan pizza is made using her grandparents’ Italian bread recipe, resulting in a crust that lives in limbo between thick and thin, and is topped with California tomatoes (the closest thing to Italy, she says) and freshly grated provolone. For first-timers, DiCarlo has two words: parking lot. “The problem is, you’ve got to eat it right away,” she says. “It’s the best to eat out in the parking lot, like they did back in the day. Eat it hot. You get that combo of the cheese on the crunchy crust, and it’s really good.”

We recommend: DiCarlo’s Pizza, 4142 Main St., Hilliard, 614-777-4992,

A Chef's Choice pizza with ramp pesto, asparagus, red peppers and egg at GoreMade

Style: Neapolitan

Neapolitan is a style mainly defined by cooking method—hot and fast wood-burning ovens that impart a gentle smokiness and char on chewy, roughly 12-inch crusts. “We cook very fast and very hot,” says GoreMade Pizza owner Nick Gore, whose pies take 60 to 90 seconds to bake in a 900-degree oven. “But that’s where the Italian-ness of it ends. We are very much focused on what’s around, very American in what we put on our pizza.” Harvest has the same quibble with the Neapolitan label, says Danny Cathcart, director of marketing for Grow Restaurants. A two-minute cook in a cherrywood-fired oven is all it takes to char Harvest’s pies, but the toppings are local and seasonal. Butternut squash sauce, ramps, blue spruce tips and salt-and-pepper potatoes are just a few examples of Ohio-inspired toppings that might crop up on GoreMade’s menu. Take full advantage and order the Chef’s Choice, an à la minute whim of whatever is seasonal that day; no two orders are ever quite the same. 

We recommend:GoreMade Pizza, 936 N. Fourth St., Italian Village, 614-725-2115,;Harvest Pizzeria, multiple locations,

Style: New York 

If craving a place where you stand on line (not in), and where pizza is served by the slice (not piece), Brooklyn Pizza in Powell is where you’re headed. They take the kind of care that’s expected at NYC’s finest stands. Lots of melty cheese, tomato sauce with a hint of garlic for zing and a hand-tossed, pliable crust with just the right chew, begging to be folded. Inside the outerbelt, an oversized slice of pepperoni from Mikey’s Late Night Slice will sate any Big Apple-size cravings. 

We recommend: Brooklyn Pizza, 240 N. Liberty St., Powell, 614-436-8900,;Mikey’s Late Night Slice, multiple locations,

Style: Sicilian 

Here’s how to spot a Sicilian pizza: It’s rectangular with a pillowy crust just shy of 2 inches thick and crunchy on the bottom. If you need an example, head to Campus mainstay Adriatico’s (while it’s not served with the sauce on top, it’s still darn good pie). “It’s substantive. It’s a pizza that has something to it—true comfort food,” says general manager Ryan Sykes. Dough is made fresh daily and double proofed in seasoned pans to get that trampolinelike lift. “The deep dish really is about letting it proof up to get that really big rise,” Sykes says, adding that this is a pizza made for toppings. “That’s the beauty of a deep dish; you can pile more on there. When you like lots of toppings, it’s set up to hold all of those toppings.” Go for the Supremo with silver-dollar-sized pepperoni and fennel-spiked sausage. And if you need to feed the neighborhood, make it a Buckeye—the legendary 18-by-24-inch slab pie. 

We recommend: Adriatico’s, 1618 Neil Ave., Campus, 614-421-2300,

Paulie Gee's Squares

Style: Detroit

Jet’s Pizza may be the most well-known of its kind in town, but Paulie Gee’s is the name to remember. In August, the Short North shop with a reputation for stellar Neapolitan pizza unveiled Squares, its take on the Sicilian-style, deep-dish pie baked in a rectangular pan (which makes it officially Detroit-style) until caramelized and crispy on the edges. When it came time to form the perfect crust, owner TJ Gibbs reached out to Columbus’ master of gluten, Dan the Baker. The two spent the better part of a year homing in on the right recipe—a three- to five-day fermented dough resulting in a rich and buttery crust that’s filling but not heavy, and sturdy but airy, like focaccia. “It’s a pretty special product,” says Gibbs, who recommends ordering the pepperoni square with aged mozzarella, oregano, Parmigiano Reggiano, and then finished with crushed tomatoes, basil and Mike’s Hot Honey. Squares are available daily, until they run out. 

We recommend: Paulie Gee’s Short North, 1195 N. High St., Short North, 614-808-0112,

Style: Brier Hill 

Ask Mahoning Valley natives and they will insist that authentic Brier Hill pizza exists in one place: a church pizza sale in Youngstown on Friday night, namely St. Anthony’s, which originated the style for a fundraiser in 1974. But if you don’t have time to make the two-hour-plus drive to Northeast Ohio for this thin pizza, hightail it to Olde Towne Tavern. Its Brier Hill pizza is an interpretation of what the owners and Youngstown natives grew up with—an airy and crispy crust bathed in a Sunday sauce (read: thick, like your Italian mama had it simmering all day) and topped with shredded bell peppers and Romano cheese (never mozzarella). “It’s kind of a poor man’s pizza. There’s not much to it,” says co-owner Kevin Burns. “People love it. There’s nothing else like it.” Go for the full Y-town experience and pair your pizza with a monkey salad—two kinds of lettuce with tuna, salami, Romano, mozzarella and Italian dressing. 

We recommend: Olde Towne Tavern, 889 Oak St., Olde Towne East, 614-252-2955,

New Haven-style pie from Taft's Brewpourium

Style: New Haven

Perhaps no other pizza style screams, “I’m my own pie!” quite like New Haven. The crust is not a perfect circle, but rather roundish. Those blistery, leopardlike char marks from the coal oven hint at deliciousness (and add character). And mozzarella is celebrated as its own add-on topping (you’ve got to ask for it). “I like to explain it as a style between Neapolitan and New York with a nice, crisp, cracker-y crust,” says David Veitch, operations manager at Taft’s Brewpourium, which brought New Haven “apizza” (pronounced a-beets) to the city when it opened in November. “We cook in a coal-fired oven for seven to eight minutes to get a nice char that complements the toppings.” Keep it traditional and start with the original tomato pie, a testament to simplicity with crushed Italian tomatoes, garlic, a grating of salty pecorino and olive oil drizzle. 

We recommend: Taft’s Brewpourium, 440 W. Broad St., Franklinton, 614-489-8900,

Tristano's Chicago-Style Stuffed Pizza at Yellow Brick

Style: Chicago

The ultimate sauce-on-top, deep-dish pizza. Thick and pielike, with melted cheese that stretches like a rubber band as each slice is lifted from the pan. For more than a decade, Tristano’s Pizzeria in Grove City was the local gold standard. When Lou Tristano decided to end his run a few years ago, Yellow Brick Pizza bought his recipes, pans, ovens and all. “It’s a lot of technique,” says co-owner Faith Pierce, who spent days with Tristano to learn his methods. “It’s braiding the crust, making sure the crust is thick enough to hold the weight of all that cheese, and baking at a low enough temperature so the cheese melts before the crust burns.” Aside from technique, Pierce says a good Chicago pizza has to be all about the quality of the cheese and sauce—because you are getting a lot of both (there’s about 2 pounds of Grande mozzarella in each 10-inch pie). This is why Pierce recommends as few toppings as possible. “Some things, the flavor will be lost because of the cheese and sauce,” she says. “I think pepperoni is awesome and banana peppers—the flavor of the banana pepper can cut through the sauce.” Carrying out? Request to leave your pizza uncut to keep it intact until it’s time to eat. In the mood for a solid Chicago pie and a dive bar setting? Go to Meister’s Bar.   

We recommend: Meister’s Bar, 1168 Chambers Road, Fifth by Northwest, 614-481-3051;Yellow Brick Pizza, 892 Oak St., Olde Towne East, 614-725-5482 and 245 King Ave., Campus, 614-429-0750,

Pepperoni pizza from Wizard of Za

Underground Pizza: Wizard of Za Catches Fire on the 'Gram

It was only a matter of time before Instagram’s clever algorithm led me to Spencer Saylor’s underground pizzeria, Wizard of Za, but a Youngstown native tipped me off first. “People like to feel like they discovered something,” says Saylor, whose Instagram handle is @WizardofZa. The singer-songwriter, who has settled in Columbus, says a career in food has always been his goal. “I’m from Youngstown, a big Italian hub, so pizza and pasta and sauces and cheeses [are] in my blood,” he says.

He started the Instagram account a year ago to post pizza discoveries he made while on tour, as well as his own creations in the kitchen. Friends and family began asking to sample his pies, which are a photogenic hybrid of Sicilian and Detroit-style pizza. Since February, he’s been baking up to five of his 9-by-13-inch rectangular pizzas daily and selling them out of his home using Instagram as a conduit. (We agreed not to share his address to protect his privacy.) 

Instead of regular pizza dough, Saylor uses homemade bread—either focaccia or sourdough—for his pillowy crust, which is inspired by the pizza he had growing up. “I refer to Youngstown pizza as comfort pizza, and I refer to my own pizza in that same manner. It’s not super-thin, it’s not super-thick, but it’s got some weight to it. It’s comforting.” Saylor’s memorable pizza sauce also has considerable depth, balancing acidity, sweetness and heat. He tops his pizzas with Romano, Parmesan and typically his own house-made mozzarella. 

As quarantine forced everyone inside this spring, Wizard of Za took off as a unique carryout option—one with a bit of speakeasy appeal. When we spoke in May, Saylor said Wizard of Za had a waitlist of 180 customers, but there is good news for those eager souls: A brick-and-mortar restaurant is in the works. Like other business owners, Saylor is looking to move forward with the venture as soon as the coronavirus crisis allows. (He declined to share the address but said it will be in the Clintonville-Old North vicinity.) The yet-to-be-named restaurant will feature pizzas as well as handmade pastas and small plates like arancini. “That’s been the one positive out of this whole situation,” he says. “It’s given me a lot of time to focus on the business … and to spread the word.” —Erin Edwards