Yesterday the Soprano Litigator and I went across the street to Due Amici for lunch. Due is one of the cornerstone restaurants in the food corridor that makes Gay Street the coolest street in downtown Columbus. It’s a more high-end lunch spot than some of its Gay Street brethren and, come cocktail hour and dinner time, is a place to see and be seen.
I normally don’t have pizza for lunch, but yesterday pizza sounded like just what the doctor ordered. I opted for the sausage and onion pizza, whereas the Soprano Litigator went with the veal meatball and pasta — which also looked very tasty, indeed. When my pizza came, it was great, with a flavorful sauce, big chunks of sausage that had a snap when you bit into them, and a golden brown, crunchy crust. I attacked it with gusto (and with knife and fork, incidentally, so as to avoid unsightly spotting on my suit, white shirt, and tie).
But here’s the thing: the pizza is just too big for lunch. Even for someone who is hungry, as I was, a pie with eight pieces is a lot. Long after the SL had finished her meal I was still carving away at the remaining pieces until my plate was empty. I suppose I could have asked for a to-go box, but I don’t like lugging them around. In my view, when you order lunch you should receive a meal that is reasonably consumable by one reasonably hungry person over the noon hour. In short, careful portion control is key. Due’s pizza stretches the outer boundaries and is geared more to someone with the appetite of a truck driver rather than one of a nearby office worker. Perhaps the name Due Amici — “two friends” in Italian — means the portions are intended to be shared.
Due isn’t alone in this. How often have you gone to a restaurant and received a plate that is groaning with two much food — typically, an oversized mound of french fries to accompany an already sizable cheeseburger? Even those of us who proudly boast of being charter members of the Clean Plate Club can’t possibly down so much food. We leave some on the plate and then feel guilty about it, knowing the food will be wasted. It’s an area where I think the great restaurants in Columbus could become even better.
I’m in Boise for work. Last night I felt like pizza for dinner, so I asked the desk clerk for a recommendation. She raved about the pizza at The Wylder, and particularly the Honey Badger. The Wylder had the advantage of being only a block away from my hotel on a rainy night, so my choice was an easy one.
The Wylder offers lots of interesting pizza options, but I felt I needed to go with the clerk’s enthusiastic endorsement– and I’m very glad I did. The Honey Badger is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted. It’s a white pizza that starts with a crunchy sourdough crust and is topped with fennel Italian sausage, caramelized onion, ricotta cheese, and some kind of chili-infused honey and garlic oil. Taking a bite results in a flavor explosion in your mouth, and the combination of tastes and textures is incredible.
As I sat, happily munching away on slice after slice, I reflected on the development of pizza cuisine in my lifetime. My first pizza was a red sauce mozzarella cheese pizza, where the sauce probably came out of a can and the crust and cheese had zero flavor. Over the intervening years pizza has moved from a convenience food to a chance for chefs to strut their culinary skills with great concoctions like the Honey Badger.
Last night we had dinner at Buddy’s Pizza, a Detroit institution for decades and also home to rectangular, “Detroit-style” pizza. Russell and I split a “Detroiter” — pizza loaded with meats and cheeses, with the cheese placed on top to maximize the meaty flavor and avoid charring the pepperoni.
The Detroiter was fantastic. That should come as no surprise, because Buddy’s is frequently identified as one of the very best pizza establishments in the U.S. of A. The crust was perfection itself — light and crunchy, without the doughy gumminess you find in many “deep dish” pizzas — and the cheese on top approach really does enhance the flavor. We also enjoyed a pitcher of Buddy’s beer, a very refreshing lager with hints of citrus that went well with the pizza.
I’m pretty sure there will be another trip to Buddy’s in my future.
Richard, Russell, and Julianne were all in town yesterday, and we decided to celebrate the happy homecoming by heading down to the Short North and having lunch in the first interesting place we found. We ended up in the Arch City Tavern — so named because Columbus used to be called the arch city because it featured lots of arched lights over its main streets — and that was a happy occasion, too.
It was about noon, so there were two crucial lunch decisions to be made. First, heavy or light? It was a hot day out, so I went for a choice on the lighter side, with an arugula, fig, prosciutto, and goat cheese pizza. It was excellent, and had a particularly delectable and crunchy crust — which any pizza aficionado knows is a crucial element of the entire pizza experience. So far, I was one for one.
Second, beer or no beer. It was a holiday, sure, but noon is pretty early for me. I took a chance and ordered a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale. It was so good I promptly had another. It had an excellent tart taste that went well with the hot weather, and it really held its own against the goat cheese. So, I was two for two — or perhaps three for three, since I had two of the beers.
I’m going to be on the lookout for places that sell the Monk’s Cafe by the six pack.
If you’re in the Columbus area today, you should stop by and join us at the grand reopening celebration at JT’s Pizza & Pub.
The work to reconfigure the place into something with more of a sports/brew pub atmosphere has been completed, and today the new business officially reopens with food and drink specials.
The drink specials include $1.50 for bottles of domestic beer and $3.00 for bottles of craft beers, $3.00 craft beer drafts, $2.00 well drinks, and $3.00 for selected specialty shots. The food specials include $10.00 for large 1 topping pizzas — and I can attest from personal experience that the pizzas are great — and half price appetizers. There also will be some prize giveaways during the day.
JT’s would be a good place to grab a brew, enjoy some grub, and watch the excellent sheet of college football games today that culminates in the Buckeyes’ game tonight against Minnesota. In doing so, you not only would be getting some good chow in a fun and festive atmosphere, you’d also be supporting a locally owned business run by an young entrepreneur — who also happens to be my nephew. We all should be interested in supporting the jobs creators in our communities!
JT’s is located at 390 W. Dublin Granville Road, and the grand reopening runs from 2 p.m. until midnight. We’ll probably be there this afternoon. Hope to see you there!
Our Dad ran a business, and he would be proud of what Joe has done with JT’s Pizza. It takes some courage to start a business — statistics tell us that a lot of new start-ups fail within the first year — but Joe has produced tasty products, focused on customer service, paid attention to the bottom line, and grown the business from a shop that prepared pizzas for the bar next door’s patrons to an operation that now offers an extensive menu and has lots of carry-out and delivery customers in addition to providing the food service at the Bier Stube North. Buying the Bier Stube North and consolidating the operations is a big next step, but it’s also a logical one. And it all starts with pretty darned good pizza.
So here’s a tip of the cap to JT’s Pizza and Pub and its owner Joe Hartnett, one of those small business owners who take risks, create jobs, and help our economy grow. If you find yourself in north Columbus with a hankering for a pizza, a Philly cheese steak sub, or a cold adult beverage, stop by JT’s Pizza and Pub, won’t you?