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Food & Drink

Going Global: Ezzo’s Pepperoni puts Columbus-style pizza on the map

J.R. McMillan



Don’t believe those who deny Columbus is a city defined by its pizza as much as any other industry. Dating back nearly a century from off-the-menu offerings appealing exclusively to Italian immigrants to the avant garde ingredients that reimagine the familiar format, our pizza has always been more craft than commodity, and often a family affair that also dates back decades.

Ezzo isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of Columbus pizza, but it probably should be. What started in upstate New York four generations ago in a family grocery store that stuffed its own sausage has grown into perhaps the most pervasive and prolific premium pepperoni purveyor in the world, run entirely from the company’s recently expanded facility on the city’s far West Side. Former Ohio State wide receiver Bill Ezzo grew the brand after the family business relocated to Columbus from Indiana in 1978, a legacy his sons Darren and Jon now share and enthusiastically embrace. Both are integral to daily operations, but Darren has slowly become the unapologetic ambassador for an unlikely empire.

“As kids, we were always driving with our dad to pizzerias. Tom Angeletti’s father was always around. He and our dad were tight so we would go to Ange’s or Capuano’s. We actually knew the people who became the namesakes of Columbus pizza,” recalled Darren. “I grew up a block away from Rubino’s. As soon as I was old enough to hang out with my friends, we used to walk from Bexley High School, pool our money, and buy a couple of pizzas and play pinball. That was a big part of my childhood.”

Photos: Rebecca Tien

The rest of the country has finally started to figure out that Columbus pizza isn’t simply distinguished by the crust and the cut, but the toppings as well. As indelible as the blend of cheese or sauce recipes is the pepperoni. Not that flat nonsense the national chains sling on triangular slices. This is so- called “cup and char” pepperoni that curls up in the oven as the casing cooks to a crispy edge contrasting the savory center. It’s a difference old school mom and pop shops and a rising tide of craft pizzerias favor over cheaper options from multinational, processed food conglomerates.

“The reason our customers are so loyal is because we don’t compromise on ingredients. Every commodity pepperoni manufacturer uses pink slime to reduce cost and boost their lean protein because they use trimmings instead of muscle meat. We use shoulders and cheeks, that’s it,” Darren noted. “Our competitors have started to cut their pepperoni thicker trying to get it to cup like ours. But that just means our pepperoni offers better coverage, even if it costs a little more per case.”

Though Ezzo sells several varieties of pepperoni, and a spectacular sliced sausage, it’s their cup and char that remains their most beloved product, and an elusive one for home chefs hoping to up their game. Ezzo only sells to places that serve pizza, not retail customers. But their signature slices are so sought after, there’s actually a somewhat secret network of online outlets that somehow procure pepperoni by the case, then sell it by the pound—an unofficial pizza underground.


Pizza as most of us know it is largely an American invention with distinct regional differences. During an excursion to Italy, Darren unwittingly arrived in the tiny town of Terracina on a religious feast day. Without a taxi to be found to his destination, he ended up sharing a less familiar pizza at the train station with some locals—a simple focaccia with just a splash of sauce and a little shaved parm—a stark departure from a cracker-thin crust and toppings so thick they fall off the edge.

“There’s something in-between those two things that is the perfect pizza. I really think you should be able to see the sauce under the cheese, a balance of ingredients that doesn’t bury any one thing,” he opined. “It’s okay to experiment. If people didn’t, everyone’s pizza would be the same. It doesn’t matter where you are, or if you put pineapple or fresh cut flowers on it, so long as you make it your own.”

Darren isn’t a reluctant or reclusive ambassador, logging more time in the air than an astronaut and more miles in the past few years pitching prospects and converting clientele than a round trip to the Moon. Though he still prefers to drive to cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and New York, lesser known pizza joints from Portland to Pakistan, Denver to Dubai, aren’t exactly accessible by car. Wherever he can’t reach easily by planes, trains, and automobiles, he relies heavily on the internet to help advance the brand.

“One of my ex-girlfriends works at Google. When I was wondering if I should start an Instagram, she said, ‘Why wouldn’t you? You’re out eating pizza anyway, you might as well document it.’ I didn’t think anyone would be interested in following a meat grinder,” he chided. “It turns out pizza tourism is a real thing, and every time I post a photo of someplace that uses our pepperoni, I get more followers and they get more customers.”

As with any premium producer of authentic foods, quality control is crucial. A recent recall of some Ezzo products—not unlike an occasional Jeni’s Ice Cream recall—is indicative of just how diligent those standards are. Darren revealed the affected products never left the production facility, and the expanded recall was entirely precautionary. In fact, Ezzo customers, and their customers as well, are so fiercely loyal to Ezzo, the biggest concern for most was how quickly they would receive more stock, including Tom Angeletti of Ange’s Pizza.

“Tom was actually my first boss. I used to work at Ange’s on Yearling as a teenager. He once told me I was the slowest pizza maker in America. I decided I’d stick to making the dough after that,” Darren confessed. “Tom is practically family. I’ve known him my whole life. That’s also what sets Ezzo apart. We’re as passionate about pizza as our customers. But they’re also family, and our family keeps getting bigger.

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Food & Drink

Local restaurant named one of the best new concepts in the country

Regina Fox



Columbus is making national headlines once again, this time thanks to Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.

The restaurant group's newest concept Del Mar SoCal Kitchen was named one of the country’s top 20 new restaurants in 2019 by

To be considered, restaurants had to be a part of the OpenTable network and meet a minimum number of qualified reviews.

Del Mar has a 90% recommendation rating according to OpenTable.

The restaurant opened in April 2019 at 711 N High St., serving California-inspired foods like lobster rolls, swordfish, beef tenderloin, as well as a raw bar.

To read more about Del Mar, click here. To check out their Restaurant Week menu, click here.

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Food & Drink

The Interview Issue: Columbus Brewing Company owners Beth & Eric Bean

Mitch Hooper



Each January, we feature the movers and shakers of the city in in-depth, in-person interviews that dig into their backgrounds, their plans, and what ties them to the capital city. While our interview issue subjects are all Columbus-based, their stories are universal. So settle in, cozy up, and give yourself some you-time. You’ll want to read every word.

Columbus Brewing Company was at the forefront of the craft beer movement. Beth and Eric Bean are making sure it stays that way.

The next time you crack open a bottle of Columbus Brewing Company’s Bodhi, turn the bottle around until you see a seal of approval label. On every single bottle of CBC’s brews, there’s a quality assurance mark, signaling to the drinker that the brewer is proud enough of this beer to put their name on it. The name you’ll find on all bottles of CBC is Eric Bean, co-owner and brewmaster. And while he and his wife—CBC co-owner Beth Bean—have become more focused on working on their business rather than working for their business since taking over this legacy company in 2014, beer is always on their minds.

In 2019, CBC celebrated its 31st birthday, marking it as one of the longest-standing local breweries in Columbus. The special year also welcomed in a first for the company: a brewery and taproom on the city’s west side. It might sound crazy that one of the oldest breweries in Columbus is also one of the last to open a taproom, but the Beans both echoed this sentiment: it was the next proverbial step. While stocking bars with kegs and grocery stores with bottles is a way to monitor how brews are doing in terms of popularity, the immediate feedback from customers in the taproom can help influence future brews, which are being created daily in the back. It’s the new age, and even local breweries want analytics.

The opening of the taproom also represents the work the Beans have put in since taking over CBC, a journey that can be split into many silos. The brewery they took over holds a legacy in the Columbus community— both as an institution that is local, and one that serves some damn good beers. It’s up to Eric and Beth to not just maintain that status, but better yet, propel it to the next level. Outside some financial help from a bank, the brewery is essentially independent of investors, meaning there is creative freedom, but also plenty of risk. It’s also up to the Beans to craft the voice behind the brand of the beer. With a few iterations under its belt, the current CBC logo represents the traditions built by brewers past thanks to the old style font, and the brewers of the future thanks to modern illustrations, clever names, and interesting designs on the bottle.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

The Beans are dedicated owners. While Eric starts his mornings bright and early for sensory tests and meetings, Beth is no stranger to working late into the evening, solving errors on the website and preparing for future projects.

In talking with the Beans, you can tell the two love every aspect of the brewing process. While showing (614) around the brewery, Eric’s eyes lit up as he talked about CBC’s sour program, or the new bottling system which helps monitor the amount of oxygen getting into the bottle once it’s sealed. (It turns out oxygen can be detrimental to beer over time after the bottling process, and the new device allows the Beans to discover where there might be kinks in the distribution line.) It’s subtle moves like this that ensure a quality product finds its way into pint glasses across the city.

“We’ve always said we don’t want people to buy our beer just because it’s local—we want that to be a bonus,” Eric explained. “We want to be the best beer on the shelf [...] And it’s difficult. Making high quality beer is not as simple as many small brewers have found. It’s a lot easier when people are coming over and drinking your beer for free.”

This love for beer has roots that run deep for Eric. Prior to CBC, Eric was the brewmaster at Gordon Biersch, a well-loved national restaurant and brewery chain that began in 1988. Before that, Eric took his time to master his craft—literally. He attended U.C. Davis, where he studied brewing science in the master brew program under the guidance of a German-trained brewmaster.

“Henrick was the brewmaster and he was like, ‘Look, craft beer is going to stay. What I see as a problem is there aren’t trained brewers in the U.S. There are a bunch of talented brewers that don’t have the technical skills,’ ” Eric recalled. “He was the one who really convinced me that if I wanted to make a niche in this industry, I had to go to brewing school.”

The goal for Eric since the beginning has been the same: make high-quality beer he can be proud of while also pushing the envelope.

Originally, CBC approached Eric about coming on as the head brewmaster. He had other ideas in mind, kindly declining the offer and following up with a bigger ask: could he just outright buy the company?

“It was a Friday afternoon meeting that wasn’t really planned, and within a couple of weeks we were negotiating it and putting it all together,” Eric recalled.

It didn’t take long for CBC to need more space for all the projects they were working on at the time.

“In the end at the old place, we’d have to drive the forklift into the parking lot to turn it around and get it back in,” Beth said. “We never thought we’d fill the new place, but if you look in the back, that’s not the case.”

The face and voice of the company comes from Beth, who manages the social channels with her own photography. It’s not often considered when it comes to drinking, but branding is a large part of what helps to sell your beers. While the true “King of Beers” might be up for debate, the trademarked King of Beers is something we are all too aware of. The same can be said for local brewers. Finding a way to stand out on the shelves is a challenge, and something as simple as a nice looking bottle design can be the difference between sipping a six pack of CBC IPA, or a case of Bud Light. The Beans entrust graphic designer Greg Davis to create the label designs, and his art work can be found on the murals inside the brewery and taproom.

The pinnacle of their hard work comes in the form of a bottle, the Columbus IPA. Prior to the Beans taking over, CBC was stocked with pale ales and lagers, but it was Eric who introduced a West Coast IPA to the line up. It was an instant success, and it led to the birth of other popular IPAs such as the aforementioned Bohdi and Creeper, both of which have been award recipients at the Great American Beer Festival.

“I think that’s why people know us, you know? Mostly IPAs,” Beth said. “That’s what really is the backbone.”

The Beans said 2014 is when they noticed the craft beer boom start to pick up steam. Couple a community’s interest in where their goods are coming from with a growing need for elevated options and you have the perfect storm for CBC. This is also when other local breweries started to find popularity, and the Beans tip their caps to places like Wolf’s Ridge for combining high quality beers with thoughtful dishes. While the CBC brewery and taproom currently doesn’t feature food, the Beans are working on a food adventure near Old Towne East called the Trolley Barn which will host CBC taps in the future.

Though the love of the brand and the beer is apparent, the care the two show towards its staff further proves the Beans’ dedication to quality. When the two took over CBC, the staff was much smaller than the more than 40 employees they have today.

“We always try to remember it’s not just Eric and I. It’s not just our house on the line,” Beth explained. “We have a bunch of employees and families that count on us and we are trying to make sure they have jobs in the future. We’re responsible for a lot of people—and not just us. Also the people we buy from. It’s like a whole community.”

As always for the Beans, its quality over quantity. This mantra is what has made this brewery into what it is today. And if Eric and Beth’s time at CBC has proven anything, it’s that all great things take a little time and a lot of beer.

The Columbus Brewing Company Taproom is located at 2555 Harrison Road. Visit to learn more.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week Sneak Peek: Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

Regina Fox



In less than 10 years at its natural sunlight-soaked digs on N 4th Street, Wolf's Ridge Brewing has managed to become a place revered not only for brewing some of the best beers the city has to offer, but also for serving some of the best food.

What better time to experience them both than Restaurant Week January 20-25?

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Wolf's Ridge three-course menu before it was released to the public, and we think you're really going to like it.

First Course: Choice of baked brie, endive salad, or bread and butter

The endive salad offered depths with every bite: the brightness of the shaved pear, the fresh earthiness of the endive, the texture of the fennel, the crunch of the walnuts. But the star of this dish was certainly the pool of tangy, creamy blue cheese dressing hiding below the colorful mixture.

Second Course: Choice of salmon, grilled cauliflower, or pork tenderloin

Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe each one of the entrees offered during Restaurant week are slam dunks, but to me, the choice was obvious: pork tenderloin.

The three plump and pink cuts of pork were so tender, they could be easily cut with just a butter knife. The succulence of the meat played well with the sweet, nutty sunchoke puree, and rich smoked hazelnut butter. Like the french origin suggests, the demi-glace soaked into the tenderloin truly was the "icing" on top.

Third Course: Choice of cheesecake or fudge bar

If at the end of your meal you're feeling bright, light, and flirty, the cheesecake is for you. The toasted coconuts coating the mousse-like rum cheesecake, icy pineapple sorbet and orange marmalade will send your palate on an all-inclusive trip to the seaside.

Feeling a little more dense or moody? The punch of the espresso ice cream, thick chocolate bar, and sticky caramel crémeux will have you closing your eyes, and "mmm"ing through every bite.

At $40, the Wolf's Ridge Restaurant deal is quite possibly the best time to experience the creative, elevated menu. But, you and the other 900,000 residents of Columbus already know that, right? So, don't wait to make your reservation!

To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit

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