If there was a Mount Rushmore dedicated to the college experience, there would be a giant slice of pizza carved into the side of a granite mountain somewhere.
It’s as ingrained into the college culture as anything (yes, even cheap beer).
Crust, cheese and sauce – when properly proportioned, cultivated and seasoned – can make even the most pretentious taste buds sing.
At Ohio State, we have no shortage of pizza places. You have the national chains, the local shops, the by-the-slice joints, the bars that happen to serve pizza, the campus pizza places. You name it, and it’s probably here.
The result of all of the choices is a saturated market where quality doesn’t always beat out quantity.
That’s where I come in. As a pizza aficionado (trust me, I like pizza more than you), I wanted to inform my fellow campus-area dwellers the best the pizza community of Columbus has to offer. I embarked on a quest to taste, rate and eventually name a best pizza place in the campus area. It took about eight months and a lot of extra carbs, but I’m happy with how it turned out.
Here was my game plan – I tracked down all of the pizza places within a mile of campus, and on each Monday, I ordered a pizza from a different one.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did take a six-week hiatus from my quest during Lent because I realized my addiction might have been reaching an unhealthy level.
In order to qualify, the place had to offer pizza as one of its main items and it had to deliver (sorry, A Slice of New York).
In the end, I tried 14 different places. In the infinite wisdom of Internet commenters, I’m sure someone will find a place I missed. But I did the best I could.
Before we get into the list, let’s break down my criteria.
I ordered a plain cheese pizza from every location. This ensured equality in my judging process and also that my judgments were based on the essence of the pizza. Toppings matter, but the heart of every pizza is the crust, cheese and sauce.
I only judged the pizza and nothing else. So for the whiners that want to tell me how good the Li’l O’s at Formaggio’s or the Pogo Sticks at the Pizza Joint are, let me assure you, none of that factored in.
Lastly, price also was not taken into consideration. I know that’s an issue of concern for all of my college compatriots out there, but I’m judging 100 percent based on the quality.
OK, enough of my rambles. Here’s the list.
The top dog
1. Pizza Rustica
I did not expect Pizza Rustica to even be in my top three when I started this project, but it made a Cinderella run to steal the crown. Before you get too riled up, let me explain something that I think a lot of people don’t take into consideration. When you walk into Pizza Rustica and get pizza by the slice, it’s not the same as when you order it. The ordered product is fresh, has a one-of-a-kind seasoning and the perfect cheese-to-sauce ratio.
3. Hounddog’s Three Degree Pizza
One thing all pizza lovers know is that the best part of the pizza is the area just before the sauce and cheese meet the crust. Both of these places take those few square centimeters to another level.
Adriatico’s is a campus staple. The thick crust, heavy cheese and sharp sauce make it stick out from the competition. Hounddog’s has the best crust out of the 14 I sampled.
Not quite love
4. Catfish Biff’s
5. The Pizza Joint
I really like both of these places, but I can’t bring myself to drop the L-bomb. If I had to compare these places to a former OSU athlete (because I know you were wondering), it’d be William Buford. Very, very good. Not great.
6. Hungry Howie’s
A big caveat here. I did not take into consideration its flavored crust, which I know for some people is what defines this place.
7. Papa John’s
The chains will always be there and they will always be OK. I feel like everyone I know has a personal vendetta against one of these places due to one bad ordering experience from their childhood. Get over it. News flash: they’re all pretty equal.
10. Sicilia Fine Italian Specialties
11. Formaggio Pizza
12. Tommy’s Pizza and Subs
These are places that you know exist, but if your friend came from out of town you would never take them there unless you live right across the street. Good for a change of pace, not for a night of pizza delight.
Side note: Some people have a weird obsession with Tommy’s. The only explanation I can think of is these people have an obsession with thin crust, but Tommy’s thin crust doesn’t even stick out amid other places that specialize in it.
Campus bottom feeders
13. Woody’s Tavern
I feel bad putting Woody’s in the same category as PAD, but it had to be done. Out of all the places I tried, PAD is the only one that legitimately isn’t good on a regular basis (and that doesn’t even factor in the wait time).
Woody’s used to be so much better, but for some reason (probably money) it changed its pizza. And because both pizza places are on campus, I waived the delivery requirement.
So there’s the list. Let the debate begin.