Columbus-Style Pizza Is The Perfect Pie For Pepperoni Lovers

Pizza is both globally beloved and hotly debated, with countries, cities, and restaurants all vying for the superiority of their proprietary style. Pizza lovers have their fair share of style options, from the thin-crust New York slice or the thick square Detroit-style pizza to Chicago's hearty deep-dish pizza. However, Columbus-style pizza is a unique pie that deserves as much of a spot on national pizza radars, especially for pepperoni lovers.

Originating in Columbus, Ohio in 1950, Columbus-style pizza is an ultra-thin-crust round pizza with toppings extending to the very limits of its circular edges. The yeasty crust contains a cornmeal dusting, for added flavor and a fortified structure that will stand up to the copious amounts of pepperoni layered on top of the sauce and cheese. Like Chicago tavern-style pizza, Columbus-style pizza uses a cross-hatch cutting pattern, rendering smaller rectangular slices meant for sharing. Unlike tavern-style pizza, however, Columbus-style pizza has a distinctly sweet sauce and uses provolone cheese instead of the standard mozzarella.

The sweeter tomato sauce pairs well with the sharper taste of provolone cheese and the savory, umami-rich layer of pepperoni piled densely on top. At Ohio pizzeria chain Massey's Pizza, a quick stint in a super-hot 525-degree Fahrenheit oven crisps up the paper-thin crust while also curling up the slices of pepperoni into tantalizing cups full of their own oily juices. A handful of Columbus restaurants specialize in Columbus-style pizza, and while they all offer numerous topping options, the pepperoni-blanketed pie is the iconic bestseller.

History of Columbus-style pizza

While the history of pizza in America started in New York in 1905, it took around 30 years to make it to the Midwest. Neapolitan pizza was the prototype for the New York slice, which then morphed and was molded according to ingredient availability, eating style, and individual creativity. The first Italian restaurant in Columbus opened in 1929 serving Neopolitan pizza, but Columbus-style pizza wasn't born until 1950 when local baker and Italian American Jimmy Massucci opened Romeo's with his friend Romeo Sirij.

Massucci, nicknamed Massey, and Sirij engineered the first Columbus-style pizza, co-opting the thin-crust, communal-style cross-hatch format from Chicago tavern-style pizza. Massey later opened his own chain of Columbus-style pizza restaurants called Massey's that are still in existence today. Massey claimed to be the first pizza chef to use pepperoni as a topping. Some food historians attribute the provolone and pepperoni toppings to ingredient availability at the time. According to historians, there was only one Italian ingredient purveyor in Columbus during the first decades of pizza expansion, offering provolone instead of mozzarella. 

While the vast majority of Columbus-style pizza is relegated to historic and long-standing pizzerias like Massey's, Rubino's, and Tommy's, Donatos is the only Columbus-style pizza chain to go national, with over 350 locations in 22 states. Plus, Donatos has recently partnered with Red Robin, so you can find Columbus-style pizza on their menu in select locations.