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You’re Nuts: What is the best Columbus pizza for game-night dining?

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Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Rob Hardin / Columbus Alive via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

Today’s Question: What is the best Columbus pizza for game night eating?

Matt and Jami were both huge fans of the dearly departed, south campus institution Catfish Biff’s. So if the pandemic hadn’t stolen them from us, at least one of them would have chosen the Biff’s.

Also, if you haven’t already, you need to pick up this generation’s seminal non-fiction tome “Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History” by Jim Ellison.


Jami’s Take: Tommy’s Pizza on Lane

It’s Game Day in Columbus, and you know what that means — you need to order the perfect game day pizza to feed your crew tonight. But which pizza place should you choose? Matt and I have you covered.

I’d like to take a moment to memorialize the late, great Catfish Biff’s, which Matt and I agree was the greatest pizza place to ever grace Columbus with its presence. Since our beloved Biff’s was a heartbreaking pandemic casualty, if you’re looking for game day pizza, there are only two remaining acceptable answers: Adriatico’s on South Campus and Tommy’s on Lane, depending on your geography.

If your reaction - like Matt’s - to reading that was “Jami, you’re wrong,” first of all, no I am not. I’m never wrong, and I have lived in both Chicago and New York, so I’m certainly never wrong about pizza. Matt, on the other hand, called Tommy’s “overrated” and “a generic knockoff of Donato’s” because he apparently lacks all taste. Arguably, he should be disqualified for even having an opinion on this topic if he can’t differentiate between Tommy’s - the pizza of the gods - and Donato’s - a fine option if cheap pitchers are what you’re really there for.

Adriatico’s and Tommy’s serve up two very different pizzas, but unfortunately, only one can be the best. Let’s see how they stack up in a variety of categories.

Value

I did the math - Tommy’s will cost you about $1.08 for each inch of pizza (it costs $16.25 for a large, 15” pizza). Adriatico’s, on the other hand, will run you about $1.03 per inch ($18.49 for a large 18” pizza). Adriatico’s also offers you more toppings and better sizing options (Tommy’s caps out at a 15” pizza, while Adriatico’s serves an 18”x24” Buckeye-size which is great for parties like the kind you might have on gameday). Each additional topping costs a little more at Adriatico’s than it does at Tommy’s, but overall, Adriatico’s has the better value.

Edge: Adriatico’s

Taste

This is all a matter of personal preference. The crust is the center of attention at Adriatico’s, but that means the flavor of the pizza is largely … bready, whereas Tommy’s flavors all come together into one cohesive pizza. I also prefer Tommy’s sauce and feel they have a better cheese-to-sauce-to-crust ratio.

Edge: Tommy’s

Crust

I personally prefer Tommy’s crust because I like a thinner, crunchier crust on my pizza. But at Adriatico’s, the crust really is the star of the show - it’s perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. That I tend to prefer thin crust pizza but still find myself dreaming about the pillowy goodness of Adriatico’s was enough for me to give them the edge. Tommy’s does a great crust if the thinner, crunchier crust is your thing. Adriatico’s does a great crust even if a doughy crust isn’t your thing.

Edge: Adriatico’s.

Toppings

Adriatico’s offers more variety by way of toppings, but in my experience, Tommy’s does a better job of nailing the ratio. If your heart is really set on putting turkey on your pizza (an option at Adriatico’s but not at Tommy’s), that’s not on Tommy. That’s on you for ruining your pizza. Tommy’s earns extra points in my book for their pepperoni. This might be a hot take, but Adriatico’s pepperoni doesn’t do it for me. Yes, I know it’s huge. I don’t want one giant pepperoni - I want lots of little pepperoni so they don’t slide off with one bite. The best pepperoni is the kind that curls up in the oven to form a small bowl - the ends get crispy and the grease sort of pools in the peps. Tommy’s is doing this all right, and Adriatico’s is a completely fine second.

Edge: Tommy’s

Ease of ordering

Both Tommy’s and Adriatico’s offer dine-in, pick-up, and delivery, but Adriatico’s doesn’t yet offer online ordering. You have to - gasp - pick up the phone and speak to a human (the horror!). Adriatico’s also charges a $2.00 delivery fee. Tommy’s, on the other hand, offers easy online ordering through DoorDash without any delivery fee or price markups on the menu. You can call if you prefer that, but I’m guessing most people don’t prefer that. They also have more than one location, which gives them a slightly wider delivery area.

To any college kids reading this - this is your friendly reminder to tip your delivery people. I know you’re broke. That’s not an excuse not to tip. Seriously. Scrounge up an extra $1 each among your friends to pay this person who is running around serving you food in your drunkenness.

Edge: Tommy’s

Overall winner: Tommy’s

Based on my very scientific analysis of these two very delightful pizza places, Tommy’s is the way to go. From easy ordering to taste you’ll dream about years after you leave Columbus, this is your best bet for all your game day pizza needs.


Matt’s Take:

According to the renowned pizza experts at Slice, Columbus style pizza is described as, “Columbus-style pies are built upon an ultra-thin crust that’s usually crispy, closer to a cracker than the typical pizza base. The toppings go all the way up to the very edge to maximize the real estate for the toppings. After baking, it’s cut into squares, rather than triangles.”

While it is similar in style to that of the St. Louis pie, Columbus style pizza uses more traditional pizza cheeses (mozzarella and parmesan) than our brethren in the Arch City do. Columbus pizza and Chicago thin-crust are very similar.

Now, as someone who hasn’t lived in Ohio in over 17 years, I can tell you that while there is certainly good pizza in other parts of the country, there is nothing like a good thin-and-crispy crust, Columbus-style large pizza that you can house in one sitting without ever realizing that you’ve had more than a couple of pieces.

Now, Tommy’s certainly falls into the Columbus style category, and were my dad to be writing this article, he might be inclined to agree with Jami, as he grew up one block away from the original Tommy’s location at the corner of Hamilton and Livingston. But, my dad’s not writing this article, and I have better taste than he does anyway (and obviously than Jami as well).

Being the elder statesman of LGHL, many of the on-campus pizza options have changed since I was in school, but I did always enjoy a good dose of Adriatico’s, especially when I was an R.A. or working for the Student Activities office, because you could order a Buckeye Pizza for an event and feed like 20 people for $12 on Tuesday nights. It was the Ohio State equivalent of feeding 4,000 people with a few loaves and fishes; a south campus miracle.

But, if we are talking about the quintessential pizza for an OSU game day, Adriatico’s is out, because it just doesn’t meet the qualifications of a Columbus-style pizza. Sorry, guys.

That also means that familiar brands like Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa Johns, Gumbys (is Gumbys still a thing on campus?), Hounddogs’ (is Hounddogs’ still a thing on campus?), and others are out as well.

So, that brings us to three Columbus-style staples, the aforementioned Tommy’s, the OG Columbus-style pizza Massey’s, and the preeminent representative of the style, Donato’s. I’m clearly not going with Tommy’s, or that would defeat the purpose of this article, and to be honest, it is my personal least favorite of these three.

So, the question is, do I go with the virtual inventor of the Columbus-style in Massey’s or do a go with the ever-growing behemoth in Donato’s? Both are childhood favorites of mine; Massey’s with the added crunch and texture of the extra seasoning on top and their impossibly long and thin slices. Donato’s with their nearly perfect, thin pepperoni that curl up with a delectable crispness on the edges.

Having lived in the south for over 15 years, when I took a friend who was never much of a pizza fan before to Columbus and fed them Donato’s, they responded that it was like they put crack on pizza. That seems like a fairly ringing endorsement.

However, living in Florida, Donato’s is creeping down into the Sunshine State, in fact, they have a franchise about 45 minutes away from me; close enough to go get it when I’m craving it, but not close enough for delivery — a blessing and a curse. They thing is, it’s not exactly the same. The crust is a little too thick to be authentic Donato’s. Everything else tastes the same (although I think they need to leave the pies in the oven a little longer to get that perfect crispness), but it still isn’t the perfect Donato’s experience.

Massey’s on the other hand only has 15 locations and they are all in Central Ohio, making it the type of pizza that seems built for an Ohio State football viewing party.

But, if I’m being honest, Donato’s is still it for me. I know it’s cliche, but there’s a reason that McDonald’s bought them (and them sold them back to the original owners) and that they are expanding nationwide; they are just the best Columbus style pizza out there.

So, I might be a square (cut), but I am riding Donato’s for game night; but you better not eat my corner pieces, damnit.


Poll

Who has the right answer to today’s question?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Jami: Tommy’s Pizza
    (47 votes)
  • 31%
    Matt: Donato’s Pizza
    (22 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now