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According to the judges at the 2001 “World Pizza Championship” held in Italy, the best pizza in the land is at locally owned and operated Michael’s Pizza, An Italian Kitchen, in Westerville.
Michael Evans, whose Italian grandfather was a chef in Sicily, started in the pizza business in 1995. Evans grew up in Columbus’ north side and attended St. Francis DeSales High School, before finding his calling in pizza.
But Michael’s isn’t just any pizza: It’s Old World, old school. With no pretense, just honest food, the focus is on a balance between the dough, sauce and cheese.
The homemade dough is definitely different, and all we could coax out of Evans is that one of the differentiating ingredients is malt (he wouldn’t say what kind, but our guess is barley malt). The dough has a pronounced, yeasty aroma and taste that’s truly unique. And the crust is crispy on the bottom (no delivery here, as the dough may get soggy if you don’t go straight home).
The cheese, a blend of imported Pecorino Romano and provolone, is full of flavor, and the sauce – nice and light – doesn’t overwhelm the dough or cheese. True Sicilians would stop here, but Michael’s caters to American palates, topping his pies with traditional ingredients such as pepperoni (made locally by Ezzo’s) and homemade, secret-recipe Italian sausage, in addition to the toppings you would find at most pizza restaurants.
Michael’s also offers other dishes: a range of pastas, soups, salads, and a full line of subs and stromboli, which the Grumpy Gourmet declared “Best in Columbus.” There are lots of appetizers – mostly fried – good antipasta, wine and other alcoholic beverages, and even desserts.
The Italian beef sub is a standout. Also “Best Sandwich in Columbus” by the Grump, it’s made to order with pan-seared sirloin, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, seasonings, sweet onions and peppers, all piled on an Italian roll.
But if you follow the “When in Rome” philosophy, you’ll go to Michael’s for the pizza. Michael’s Traditional – the pie that won top prize in Italy – is topped with Ezzo’s spicy pepperoni, homemade Italian sausage, “Candy King sweet onions,” homemade sauce, spices and the imported cheese blend. At $11.50 for a 12-inch; $13.75 for a 14-inch; or $16 for a 16-inch, it’s a bargain. The plain cheese in the same sizes is also a bargain at $8.50, $10 and $11.50, respectively.
Evans describes Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons in the restaurant as “packed with my extended family. This is when it is fun; I can be with my friends and watch them enjoy our food, connect with one another, relax and enjoy the atmosphere.”
Michael’s Pizza, An Italian Kitchen
15 E. College Ave.
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m., Sunday; closed Monday.
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