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Few foods are as fabled or fickle as the tomato. Too much water and they spot, too much sun and they rot, and the ones in the grocery store always pale in comparison to those you buy off a tailgate or on the side of the road. That’s where you’ll find Dick Capuano most days [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Few foods are as fabled or fickle as the tomato.

Too much water and they spot, too much sun and they rot, and the ones in the grocery store always pale in comparison to those you buy off a tailgate or on the side of the road.

That’s where you’ll find Dick Capuano most days from late April to early September. His homegrown tomato stand adorned in traditional Italian green, white, and red is on the same stretch of land his ancestors settled more than a century ago.

“I grew up here. Mom and Dad always had a garden, so I always had a rototiller in my hands,” he recalled. “I love tomatoes, and once people have a homegrown one, they keep coming back for them.”

You won’t find San Margherita on every map, and if you drive through too fast, you might miss it entirely. The tiny unincorporated village, just west of the Scioto River, was founded by Italian immigrants who toiled in the nearby quarry. They eventually built homes and planted gardens along the edge of what is now Trabue Road. Most of the original settlers had ties to the same province in the old country, whose patron Saint Margaret inspired the name of their new community.

“Everyone who lived here between the two tracks grew something, and maybe had chickens, a hog, or a cow. It’s how they got by and survived,” Capuano explained. “It’s how San Margherita stayed San Margherita. Everyone had their own grapes and made their own wine, they grew plenty of vegetables, and they all had plenty to eat.”

Development is slowly swallowing those plots of land and the heritage of those who once lived there. There are only a handful of descendants of the first families still living or working in San Margherita. Some of the land remains idle, and still supports farms like Capuano’s, where his better years have boasted upwards of nearly 2,000 plants. Most of these are varieties of tomatoes, but various peppers and signature grapes are always in high demand.

“My time is up October 15, which is after the end of the season,” he explained, hoping that the land’s new owners might let him keep planting depending on their timeline for development. “I really don’t know what’s going to happen next year.”

It’s not the first time Capuano has faced such uncertainty and seeming futility. During his tour in Vietnam, it was his responsibility to remove roadside mines and clear the way for convoys, only to do the same thing the following day after fresh mines were planted under the cloak of night. A firefight earned him a Purple Heart, but he’s put more than his share of blood and sweat into his tomato stand only to see it threatened by another invisible enemy.

“I used to sell out of the garage,” he recalled. “But in 2005 I moved closer to the road and the stand has been here ever since.”

Capuano keeps it simple and predictable. Crops grow on the same soil year after year. He turns under the plants to go back into the soil over the winter and repeats the process the following spring, planting fresh tomato plants entirely by hand.

Only tomato enthusiasts can truly appreciate the depth of his bench, like baseball cards lined up on a giant table waiting to be discovered by a new generation of loyal fans. From contemporary classics like Early Girls and Carolina Gold to vintage heirloom varieties like Kellogg’s Breakfast and Gigantesque, if you can’t find the perfect taste and texture of tomato, you’re just not looking.

“I pull them before they get too big and start to split, then let them ripen the rest of the way on my porch before bringing them to the stand,” he explained. “But the rain we’ve had the past couple of weeks combined with the heat means this is the last of them.”

Don’t count Capuano out too soon. His cousin Joe still has a plot of land just down the road, and though it’s increasingly hard for anyone his age to plan too far ahead, one year at a time is as good a plan as any. He’s technically been retired as a carpenter for nearly three decades already, and despite the long hours and hot days in the field and at the stand, he’s not quite willing to let it go just yet.

“When I retired, I decided to go into my garden as my little hobby, and it just kept growing,” he said. “It’s hard work in the field, but it’s also peaceful here in the shade. I guess you could call it my man cave.”

 

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Food & Drink

Kick off summer with FREE Krispy Kreme this Saturday

Mike Thomas

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It’s officially summer in C-Bus, which, due to climate change, apparently doubles as monsoon season (thanks a lot, Al Gore).

If you’re still there after reading the words “climate change,” we have some good news. Krispy Kreme, purveyors of those sugary-sweet rings we all know and love, want to help you celebrate “summer” (and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission) with a free doughnut this Saturday, June 22.

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Free doughnuts might just be the perfect way to salvage a weekend wrecked by rain. As always, please remember to pace yourself!

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Biz + Dev

Signage suggests new eatery coming to former Short North Blick space

Mike Thomas

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A brand new awning sporting the words “Ned’s Bayou” has appeared over the former Blick’s Art Supplies location at 612 N High St in the Short North.

While initial searches have turned up little information about this forthcoming business, we can only assume that this will one day be the sight of a Louisiana-inspired restaurant of some sort.

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Then again, the word “Bayou” carries other connotations. Maybe this will be the Short North’s first-ever spot for gator rasslin’. Only time will tell!

614NOW will keep an eye peeled for more info on this business as it becomes available.

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Food & Drink

Hop On: (614) rolls around in new brewery party bus

Regina Fox

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So many breweries, so little time, so few volunteers to drive your tipsy tush around, right? Wrong! Columbus, I’d like you to meet CBus Brew Bus: a brewery party bus tour that offers a new and refreshingly different way for curious hop heads to experience the local craft beer scene.

It was a despairingly shitty day in Central Ohio when our very strange-looking Uber pulled up to the (614) Media Group office. We all raced to the front to catch a glimpse, giggling at the thought of our impending adventure. 

Our tour was private, meaning we had the whole bus to ourselves and were able to customize the pickup and dropoff locations, as well as the destinations. Public tours, on the other hand, are made up of several small groups that meet in the heart of downtown at City Tavern and visit predetermined breweries. (I know what you’re thinking and yes, the AUX cord is up for grabs on both private and public tours.)  

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Owner Andy Bachman and his wife/tour guide extraordinaire/HBIC Jess greeted us at the door as we took our seats. The inside was decked out with paintings of Godzilla wearing a shirt reading “I Heart Local Beer” and Godzilla wearing a Block “O” tee—both raising foaming pints of beer, naturally. Unlike a real school bus where Kenny from 5C won’t stop kicking the back of your seat, CBus Brew Bus chairs face inward to keep conversations flowing right along with the brews. Between each seat is a cup holder that contained a 6.75-ounce sample glass that we would use to sample three unique beers at each of our three destinations.

Between curiosities of our careers and a mutual interest in beer, we hit it off with both Jess and Andy immediately—a perk of the service before we even shifted into drive. 

“It’s a great way to meet other people who may already enjoy craft beer,” Andy said of the tour. “You might even be somebody new to town or visiting from out of town and it’s a great way to acclimate yourself to the Columbus culture.”

First stop: Zaftig Brewing

We hustled in to avoid the rain and were met by an expecting Frank Shoults, Zaftig Taproom Manager. One of the most special qualities of CBus Brew Bus is the personalized experience you receive at every checkpoint. There were other bar guests upon our arrival, but Shoults gave us his undivided attention as he explained the beers, and waited patiently as we decided on our individual flights of three. 

I’m an IPA girl through and through, but I wanted to use this excursion to expand my hop horizons. I went with the Big Barleywine (14% ABV), Nuts For You Peanut Butter Stout (8% ABV) and Juicy Lucy IPA (7% ABV) because, well, old habits die hard.

While Andy understands that beer isn’t everyone’s thing, he’s confident the CBus Brew Bus can provide an experience even the most inexperienced beer drinker can appreciate. 

“Through this tour, you get to sample nine different types of beer and there’s usually something within that range that people will grab onto,” he assured. “There’s something for everybody. Don’t fear the beer!” 

We sipped and gossiped until Shoults came over and invited us on a tour of the Zaftig brewing facility. We learned about cultures, yeast, the canning process, and the importance of having a CFO (chief feline officer—follow Hops on Instagram at @zaftighops).

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Second stop: Parsons North 

Jess popped the top of our crowler of Sweet Lucy and officially christened our trip with its first road beers before we were even clear of the Zaftig parking lot. You can throw a rock from pretty much anywhere in Columbus and hit a drinking establishment, but there’s just something about sipping on an ice-cold IPA with your buddies while doing 65 down I-71 South. Beer tastes better while you’re doing a mile a minute. Amirite?

It was becoming crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery + to-go beers between stops were going to add up quickly.

Like at Zaftig, our bartender was also ready and waiting for us with an ice-cold pitcher when we tipsily traipsed into Parsons North. Mulberry Saison (7% ABV), American Stout (5% ABV), and Grapefruit Wheat (6% ABV) were the three beers we were treated to—none of which I would have ordered on my own accord, but were all brews I’d drink again. 

Andy, now retired from Columbus City Schools, was first introduced to craft beer during his residency in Boulder, CO and, more specifically, his experience with Boulder Beer Company about 20 years ago. Experimenting with different craft beers has been a muse of mine for about five years now. Andy, however, is a pioneer of sorts.  

“From that point on, I was pretty anti-domestic,” Andy said laughingly. But, he returned to Ohio in the mid-90s only to discover how far, far behind we were in the craft beer scene. Andy became a teacher but clung to his passion for beer. Without the capital for a taproom or enough knowledge of the process to become a brewer himself, Andy landed on the idea for the CBus Brew Bus.

Third and final stop: Platform Beer Co. 

The trip from stop 2 to stop 3 is what Andy calls the “sweet spot.” What he means is that the riders are experiencing peak fun. I couldn’t agree more. Our small, but lively, group of (614) staffers and Jess—who was going beer sample for beer sample with us—drank the rest of our Sweet Lucy crowler under-the-light of the green LEDs that lined the ceiling of the bus, and talked and laughed at unnecessarily high volumes until we rolled to a stop at our final destination. 

At Platform, I tried the Seltzer Project: Tangerine-Grapefruit Hard Seltzer (5% ABV) and I loved it. Will it replace my Black Cherry White Claws this summer? Stay tuned. I also had the Mello Hello IPA – Brut (5.4% ABV) and loved it, also. 

By this point, at our third brewery, it was crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery plus to-go beer between stops had really added up—tipsy would’ve been an understated adjective for our crew. But, we got way more than a Friday morning hangover out of the deal. Jess was our new favorite drinking buddy, we fell in love with several new brews we may have never taken a chance on otherwise, we learned the ins and outs of Zaftig’s brewing process, and we bonded with each other in a way that few coworkers get to experience. 

What will your Brew Bus adventure hold?

For more information and to schedule your next trip, visit cbusbrewbus.com.

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