Table Talk

Neapolitan-style pies the specialty at Pizza Cucinova

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Sausage and broccolini pizza from Pizza Cucinova, which recently opened a location at 1187 Olentangy River Road.

Pizza is a funny thing: so many types of sauce, toppings and dough styles.

The pizza business, well, that’s more of a tricky thing, trying to satisfy the diversity of tastes.

Pizza Cucinova, a relatively new player on the Columbus scene, is trying to appeal to an emerging segment of customers: pizza gourmets.

“Pizza is a very regional product and that’s not a bad thing,” said David Karam, CEO of Sbarro, of which Pizza Cucinova is a subsidiary.

“And, really, it’s going through a lot of changes. The growth segment is with the artisan pizza. I don’t want to say it’s new; it’s a true Neapolitan style.”

Pizza Cucinova, which got its start seven months ago in Easton Town Center, recently opened a new store at 1187 Olentangy River Road. As with the original location, it is 3,200 square feet and seats 90. The new store also has a 20-seat patio.

Karam said he likes the location: Close to Ohio State University, Grandview Yard and other new developments.

“I think it’s a great area,” he said. “The demographics there are really good.”

The concept, from food to service, is based on a now-popular fast-casual model in the style of Chipotle: customers order their customized pizza, which is cooked in less than 3 minutes, or just about the time they reach the cash register.

To accomplish that, much attention was focused on the dough, which is tossed in house using double-zero flour, with no sugar or olive oil added, making it very light. The dough absorbs an enormous amount of water that allows it to be cooked quickly at a high temperature – above 700 degrees in this case.

Customers choose from 30 traditional and custom toppings, such as fontina cheese, soppressatta, grilled sirloin, shrimp, fennel and arugula. There also are 10 signature pies from which to choose.

“It’s good for lunch. It’s good for dinner,” Karam said. “It’s a light pizza with good toppings.”

Gourmet salads round out the menu. Beer and wine are served at the restaurant.

All pizzas are 12 inches and range in price from $6.75 to $11.15. Over the next month, 10-inch pies will be introduced and will be $1 to $3 cheaper per pizza, Karam said, making it more attractive to the lunch crowd.

With local brands such as Tommy’s, Iacono’s, Donatos and Massey’s dominating the local consciousness, Karam said he knew he’d have competition.

“I know people who live in Columbus love pizza and I know there’s a strong presence of national chains,” Karam said.

“I see the opportunity with Pizza Cucinova as more of a reflection of a trend in consumers as opposed to positioning ourselves better with bigger brands in the city.”

Karam said he sees Columbus as a “four-store market” for Pizza Cucinova, “targeting a consumer who has a taste for pizza, but is a bit more discerning of what they’re attracted to, what their appeal is.”

The Olentangy River Road location is open for lunch and dinner daily. For more information, call 614-299-9520.

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Kathleen’s Cafe is closing, but its owner hopes to relocate.

Owner Kathleen Murchison said she was unable to negotiate a short-term lease with her landlord, so she is moving from 1093 Bethel Road. A specific date was not available as of last week.

She said the 1,500-square-foot space is too big, there’s little foot traffic in the shopping center, no frontage on Bethel Road and it’s set back too far from Kenny Road.

“And the three months of winter did me in,” she said.

Her cafe is known for its quiet, calming atmosphere and fresh-made fare, including quiches, pies, a wide assortment of baked goods, soups and sandwiches. Kathleen’s Cafe seats 36.

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