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Columbus-style pizza: You’ve had it, but you’ve probably never heard of it

The iconic Columbus-style pizza originated in 1934 in Ohio’s capital city

October is National Pizza Month. Raise your hand if you knew that. Okay, okay, liars, hands down. Like its random origin suggests, this observation was a marketing ploy, in this case launching in October 1984 along with the new Pizza Today magazine via publisher and pizzeria owner, Gerry Durnell. Durnell dubbed the eerie month pizza month because that’s when the first issue of his magazine debuted.

Who cares about the month’s somewhat dubious claim to fame, though? Pizza is a universal dish, and any excuse to celebrate it is good enough for me. Which is why we’re here today: A real October celebration for the debut of the Columbus-Style Pizza Trail.

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Customers enjoy Columbus-style pizza.
Levy Ely

While New York, Chicago, and even Detroit pizza styles are ubiquitous, only true pizza-ionados have heard of pizza Columbus, Ohio style. The iconic pie is defined by its thin crust, edge-to-edge toppings, and crosshatched, square slices. While pizza eaters may have sunk their teeth into one of these cracker crusts at a bar or two, this pizza style has been thriving in Ohio’s capital city since 1934. Over the past nine decades, dozens of local pizza shops in the area have perfected their own recipes. Now, the new Columbus-style Pizza Trail encourages visitors to explore the various delicious versions of this classic pie one shop at a time.

“While Columbus-style may be less familiar for some, it’s not new. This thin-crust edge-to-edge style has been around for more than 85 years, and many local businesses have been perfecting their pies for several generations,” Michelle Wilson, director of visitor experience at Experience Columbus, said in a statement. “The pizzas may look similar in the crusts and cuts, but the flavors are unique to each location, and we’re confident trailgoers will enjoy every bite along the way.”

The new Columbus-Style Pizza Trail features the following restaurants offering some of the best pizza in Columbus.

Gatto’s Pizza

Like many of its peers, Gatto’s Pizza began as a small shop, this one in the neighborhood of Clintonville in Columbus, which grew via housing developments that sprouted up around the summer homes of nearby Ohio State University professors. Around the time of this expansion, brothers Joe and Jimmy Gatto opened the pizzeria in 1952, using family recipes to make fresh dough, sauces, meatballs, and Italian sausage that helped feed the flourishing community.

Gatto's Pizza in Columbus.
Gatto's Pizza

It’s now 70 years later, and Gatto’s reports that “very little has changed at 2928 North High Street.” The restaurant still serves circles cut into squares on thin-crust dough, loaded to the edge with toppings. The dough and toppings are all still made in-shop with quality meats and cheeses. Hungry locals and visitors alike can still enjoy a good meal at a reasonable price along with some quality community connection at Gatto’s.

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Donatos Pizza

Donatos founder Jim Grote found his calling when he was only 13-years-old. Growing up in Columbus, Grote’s first job was making pizzas. By the time he was a sophomore at Ohio State University, the pizza business was ingrained in Grate’s flour-stained hands. Grote bought his first shop in 1963 for $1,300. Along with the building came the name: Donatos. It’s not an Italian appellation but rather a play on a Latin phrase that means “to give a good thing.” It was a perfect way to launch the restaurant’s three-fold mission to deliver a superior product, great help, and local goodwill.

Donato's Pizza in Columbus.
Donato's Pizza

Today, the company is still family-owned, and it remains a favorite in Columbus and well beyond — it boasts more than 150 locations in six states, all delivering Donatos’ famous thin-crust pizza “loaded edge to edge” with toppings. That’s no exaggeration, either; its large pepperoni pizza features more than 100 pepperoni slices.

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JT’s Pizza & Pub

JT’s Pizza & Pub owner Joe Hartnett wanted to deliver high-quality, locally-made food for a good price. That desire has turned into is a community hub just six miles north of The Ohio State University.

JT's Pub & Patio

The pub lines up nine original pizzas, all stuffed with loads of toppings that stretch across the circular thin crust. Wings, waffle fries, and garlic knots round out the solid bar menu, and craft beers and sports games round out the quintessential Columbus pizzeria experience.

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Tat Ristorante Di Famiglia

Self-claiming the title for Columbus’ oldest Italian restaurant, Tat Ristorante Di Famiglia has been serving authentic Old World for over 90 years. Tat has offered fat, tomato-rich dishes in Ohio’s capital city since 1929.

Tat Ristorante Di Famiglia

Like many of its peers, Tat puts in the hard work to make “real” Italian food, still preparing dishes from scratch like they were when the market crashed in the 1920s. The restaurant’s sauces and Italian dressing are so popular that Tat now sells them by the bottle and ships them to fans across the country.

Tat embodies the Columbus-style pizza culture by selling these handmade delights for affordable prices in the spirit of honoring neighbors more than profit.

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