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Restaurant Review: Pizza Cucinova

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Pizza Cucinova
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Pizza Cucinova looks exactly nothing like a Sbarro.

The expectation of resemblance seems rational: Pizza Cucinova is an offspring of the mall eatery… and why mess with success? Sbarro was and is an institution of fabulous high school calzone memories.

While there are about a thousand Sbarro stops, there is only one Pizza Cucinova, for now, and Columbus is its home. The concept is being test-driven at Easton (not in the clogged-up part, the eatery is over there in the strip mall zone).

The new pizzeria looks much more like a Chipotle than a Sbarro. It’s fast-casual pizza. We’ve got Chipotle, Chipotle-Sushi, Chipotle-Asian, Chipotle-Piada. Now we have Chipotle-Pizza. It was just a matter of time.

The dining line begins with a kneader of pizza dough. The pizza starts with the raw stuff, not some short-cut-boboli-pita thing. As guests walk down the order counter, they supervise the addition of toppings from a colorful assembly line with an array of items ranging from pesto to broccolini.

Picking out pizza toppings isn’t rocket science. That said, it’s still a relief to see that the house offers a few set pizza combos that have already been taste tested and approved. Each pizza is supposed to be personal-sized, but that’s for a big eater. The pies are about the size of a large dinner plate.

So, big ups for the Quattro Carni ($10.85). You can tell from the name that it’s going to be four meats, right? It boasts Italian sausage, meatballs, pepperoni, soppressata and romano cheese. One of the interesting things about the assembly line is that the Italian sausage is raw. The staffer puts little blobs of raw sausage on the raw pizza dough. Perhaps this is conventional, but it’s new to me. A few minutes in the firey oven, and it comes out with briny, meaty excellence; all of which was thoroughly cooked.

Sausage & Broccolini ($10.85) was less popular at the table. Broccolini never seems terribly aggressive as a side dish, but it can hijack a pizza like nobody’s business. It takes one serious vegetable to outshine sausage, and it did. So, that particular pie is good for broccolini-philes, but for those who were looking for a combination of flavors, move along.

Wild Mushrooms ($11.15) is good too, and it’s a nice showcase for the airy wood-fired crust. The pizza is topped with a mix of portobello, shiitake and regular button mushrooms accented with a biting asiago and more romano.

Move along to something like the Potato & Anchovy ($8.45) pizza. It’s exotic and unusual, and more likable. It’s almost got an onion-y breakfast appeal, with thin slices of red potatoes, caramelized onions, strips of fennel and mozzarella cheese. As promised, there are a few little anchovy pieces in the mix too.

For those who just have to exercise creative power, the DIY option will set you back about a dollar per topping. There are also a salads. The cash register offers a little electronic reminder that the eatery offers Cheesecake ($2.95) for dessert. It’s a good, normal cheesecake: dense, with a thick, moist graham crust.

You can find Pizza Cucinova at 4044 Morse Crossing, it’s open for dinner and lunch.

For more information, visit www.pizzacucinova.com.

Photos by Walker Evans.

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  • Just saw their second store, not yet open on Olentangy Blvd in the same plaza as the new Potbelly Sandwiches. Was curious about it and will likely try it out!

  • NerosNeptune

    Not saying it doesn’t look good… but I don’t understand what makes it like Chipotle. There are a ton of things on the menu. It seems like a pizza place where you can order a bunch of specialty pizzas or I assume tell them what you want on it, just like any other pizza place? Is it because you can watch them put the stuff on it? In that case it seems more like Subway but with pizza crust and less depressing ingredients.

  • heresthecasey

    Eleven bucks seems pretty expensive for a personal-sized pizza from a fast casual chain in a strip mall.

  • Eugene_C

    IMO, Sbarro is pretty awful. So, I would hope that they would not try to replicate that anywhere outside of a mall. I remember Sbarro was pretty good when I first ate there back in the early/mid 90s (when you picked your food out and weighed it on a scale to pay) but sometime a few years later the quality and variety really took a nosedive.

  • Anne and I went last night (to take photos and feed the kids) and the comparisons to other fast-casual operations are apt. You go through an assembly-line process very similar to Chipotle, Piada and others. You can create your own style with toppings, and the interaction with the employees is very much in the same format as you get passed down the line. The whole process is slower (hand-kneading the dough took around four minutes per pizza and we ordered three) but still very similar.

    The toppings all seemed very high quality too (which seems to be a common practice in fast casual environs) and the atmosphere was very modern. The decor was almost an exact replica of Piada (they didn’t quite have as much aluminum and stainless steel as Chipotle).

    All in all, the food was good. Wood fired pizza is tasty. We dropped $40 on three pies, 1 dessert and 4 drinks, but had about a pizza and a half worth of leftovers to take home.

    I guess you could compare it to Subway in the same way you could compare Chipotle to Subway. Yes, there is an assembly line. But that’s about it.

  • tolemac5050

    ugly chairs

  • Geno99

    I have yet to see “assembly line food” and “good Italian food” go together. But perhaps someone will eventually get it right.

  • UrbanPlanner2112

    NPR had a story on Sbarro over the weekend, and they mentioned the launch of this new fast-casual chain in Ohio. My initial thought was that pizza parlors were the original “fast casual” restaurants.

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