Table Talk: Gionino’s Pizzeria plays chicken with pies and jojos

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
Gionino's Pizzeria is a staple of northeast Ohio, and two franchisees, Dan Shackelford (left) and Larry Halpin, have opened a franchise in Pickerington (pictured here) and are expanding to Westerville.

Pizza, “Italiano” fried chicken and jojos – a sort of holy trinity of dishes – have a place at the table and, often, all at the same time, in northeast Ohio.

In Columbus, it’s less common.

Daniel Shackelford and Larry Halpin, lifelong friends, are trying to raise the profile of the trio with the opening of their second Gionino’s Pizzeria in July at 103 Westerville Plaza, just off Interstate 270 on the southern edge of Westerville.

The local franchisees, who opened their first central Ohio pizzeria 2 ½ years ago at 12983 Stonecreek Drive in Pickerington, are optimistic about their offerings.

“Down here it’s a little unique,” Shackelford said, “but up north, there are a lot places that sell fried chicken and pizza.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like jojos,” Halpin said.

The chicken, in particular, is fresh, never frozen and marinated in a venerated mix of herbs and spices for at least 24 hours. The pieces are dredged in a light, seasoned batter and pressure-fried in peanut oil to order.

Orders take about 20 minutes each, so customers are urged to call ahead.

“Good things take time,” Shackelford said.

Gionino's Pizzeria franchisees Dan Shackelford (left) and Larry Halpin are shown making pizzas at their Pickerington location.

Jojos are wedge potatoes, cut fresh into eight pieces per spud and soaked overnight in cold water. They, too, are hand-battered and fried per order.

Shackelford said he started to give them away for free to interested but apprehensive customers.

“It was a lot of explaining what they are,” he said.

Last, but certainly not least, is the pizza – representing one of the most competitive dishes in central Ohio and beyond.

At Gionino’s, it’s more of a pan crust, medium thick, made with hand-tossed dough that takes a full day to rest. The sauce is of the sweeter variety, and the cheese is 100% provolone. Signature styles are available, as are build-your-own options.

Thin dough and square-cut pies are available on request.

The menu is rounded out with wings, salads and subs.

The local restaurants are carryout and delivery only, with no seating inside. The Pickerington location is somewhat unusual in that it’s connected to Classics Sports Bar, which uses Gionino’s food, Shackelford said.

Shackelford and Halpin, both 30, grew up working together at Gionino’s in Akron, where the chain is based.

They don’t really have any other expansion plans for the local market.

Gionino’s, meanwhile, has more than 50 locations, mostly near Akron and Cleveland.

“We’re real excited about the Columbus market,” Halpin said. “It’s a young and up-and-coming market. People need this pizza.”

Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 614-868-8000.

Daniel Shackelford and Larry Halpin own two Gionino’s Pizzeria franchises in central Ohio. One is slated to open in July at 103 Westerville Plaza, just off Interstate 270 on the southern edge of Westerville. They opened their first central Ohio pizzeria 2 ½ years ago at 12983 Stonecreek Drive in Pickerington,

Rockin' ramen

Speaking of Pickerington, although ramen isn’t that uncommon, the location of Hana Ramen certainly is unusual.

The restaurant quietly opened more than a month ago in an old Jiffy Lube location, 1850 Winderly Lane in Pickerington.

Few would argue with the visibility advantage, at the southwest corner of Interstate 70 and state Route 256.

Another plus: The garage doors may be opened during warmer weather.

The menu includes a typical lineup of ramen noodle soups, made with pork, chicken or vegetable broth – plus steamed buns and a small assortment of appetizers.

Piada creates lone new model

Piada Italian Street Food’s continued march into steel country has created a one-off in Pittsburgh for the locally based restaurant chain.

For the first time in company history, Piada will use its smallest footprint – 1,500 square feet – and have one assembly station, which will serve both online and pay-first orders, said Matt Harding, senior vice president of culinary innovation for Piada.

Piada’s third, fourth and fifth stores in the Steel City are slated to open this year. Company officials wanted to be in East Liberty but had to trade size for a new meal-assembly program, Harding said.

Right now, Piada’s 38 stores, all company-owned, have two separate serving stations to accommodate both types of orders, Harding said.

So, in short, Piada didn’t go completely rogue with an entire online-ordering system, Harding said.

Instead, the chain was satisfied with six to eight seats for dine-in customers, a restaurant that is smaller by 500 to 1,000 square feet and a kitchen that prepares meals in the order in which they arrive, giving priority to no one, he said.

The idea came when Piada showed an increase in sales at its Rocky River restaurant in suburban Cleveland, which has a drive-thru window.

“The more important piece for us is we got more accurate, faster (orders) and more highly satisfied guests,” he said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary