Ohio City Pizzeria Feeds the Soul with a New Menu and Mission

Ohio City Pizzeria reopened on July 19 with a new look, menu, and mission. The pizza joint has been a neighborhood staple for more than 30 years.

The West Side Catholic Center (WSCC), located just a block away, acquired the business in 2018 and reopened it, operating as a nonprofit LLC. The WSCC runs a family shelter, workforce development and housing solutions, and provides hot meals, clothing, and household goods to those on the path to self-sufficiency.

The bistro-style restaurant was developed under the watchful eye of Brandon Chrostowski, the creator of EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, who worked with WSCC on the menu, training, and décor.

“We really wanted to keep the pizzeria open, but we didn’t know how we would do it on our own,” explained John Litten, WSCC executive director. “We asked Brandon to take a look at the space, and he said he wanted to be a part of it.”

No longer just a pizza place, the fully reimagined spot now features an expansive menu listing Italian pasta dishes like Cavatelli and meatballs and Carbonara, and several hearty proteins such as Bistecca, Osso Bucco, and Veal Marsala. Antipasti like calamari, bruschetta, and prosciutto and melon are a fitting start before a dive into specialty pizzas like The Formaggi, a white pizza of mozzarella, provolone, parmesan; the Engine#4, pepperoni, salami, and three kinds of peppers; and The Wildcat, an homage to nearby St. Ignatius, with meatballs, red onion, mushroom, green peppers ,and a balsamic reduction. Christopher Terry, executive chef at EDWINS, leads the kitchen.

“The pizza you can get today is similar to the original with some nuances and additions, thanks to Brandon,” John said.

The space is cozy, seating about 30. Historic photographs of the neighborhood hang on dark green walls. Dark wood, and an original tin ceiling have an Old World charm that befits the architecture. Charming red- and white-checkered tablecloths are set meticulously by EDWINS-trained staff, who are friendly and engaging. Diners at the window seats overlook Lorain Avenue, just beyond the new retro-looking neon sign. One particularly intimate corner booth is the perfect setting for a first date or a marriage proposal, and a back room is available for small-group private dining.

It’s a place equally apropos to a quick, casual meal, or a romantic dinner. The restaurant does take reservations, which are recommended. The food is priced reasonably, with intention. Diners enjoy some fresh Orlando Bread with olive oil as wine is poured, and several meats obtained from local purveyors are prepped at EDWINS Butcher Shop in the Buckeye neighborhood.

Ohio City Pizzeria profits will support the WSCC mission, and the restaurant will be a place of employment for some of their clients, which aligns with the work of EDWINS program. Speaking of the new venture, Brandon said, “We saw potential not just in a physical respect, but also the idea that another human being could achieve their hopes and dreams.”

The menu is big, so here’s some advice from a couple of insiders. Brandon recommends the thick-cut fried calamari, tossed in a red sauce with a healthy squeeze of lemon, and is also persuasive about the homemade cheesecake with Punch D’Abruzzo (an Italian sweet liquor).  John champions the Caprese salad, the cheese ravioli with a truffle rosé sauce, and the Osso Bucco). Breaking a little with Italian tradition, both men say they are fans of Ohio City Pizzeria’s Hawaiian pie.

Ohio City Pizzeria recently added lunch hours, serving sandwiches, calzones, salads, and soups and, of course, pizzas. The restaurant is open 11:30am-9pm Monday-Thursday, and 11:30 am–10pm Friday and Saturday, and offers take-out and some limited delivery.  It’s located at 3223 Lorain Avenue.

—Lisa Sands