From Tradition to Table

Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Dough Show

What is there to write about pizza that hasn’t been said before?

Pizza—even sub-par, frozen grocery store pizza—is still pizza, and carries with it the inherent “goodness” that the foodstuff has had from its inception.

That we are, as a country, wholly fascinated with pizza’s many preparations and iterations is certainly not by chance, and Columbus is not immune to it’s dominance of the restaurant scene.

I could bloviate for paragraphs on end about how the pizza coming out of the 1,000-degree single oven at GoreMade—Italian Village’s newest restaurant—is spectacularly flavorful, appropriately fussed over, and brimming with fresh locally sourced toppings, but I’d rather not.

Not because it isn’t all of those things (it is, and more) but because in any relatively large American city, simply making good pizza isn’t all that exciting anymore. There’s a lot of options out there, and more importantly, a lot of great options. Let’s get it out of the way now: GoreMade is great. The dough is spectacular, with just the right mix of chewiness and crispiness. The red sauce is spiced well, with a bit of sweetness. There are a lot of toppings, and they change all the time. Every topping I tried was fresh and flavorful. It is really good pizza.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about my favorite thing at GoreMade: the experience.

As a loyal patron of Little Rock Bar (GoreMade’s next door neighbor) I walked by the place dozens of times before setting foot inside. Before they opened, I saw the owner Nick Gore working tirelessly, often past 10 or 11 at night, to get the place open, and slowly but surely making progress on the charming little pizza shop.

I saw the first few days after their grand opening when people crowded in to take a look. As is only natural, the crowds diminished a bit after the grand opening, but night after night, there were people I recognized from the neighborhood sitting at the counters surrounding the oven, and being entertained by their chef. It looked cozy, and cheerful. Made with love, as they say.

I am naturally drawn to bars over restaurants, and bars that serve food check all the boxes for me. When I enter a traditional restaurant I feel a gravitational pull to the bar and make a beeline for any available seats, preferring the camaraderie, the community, and the people-watching over the seclusion of a small table tucked away at the back of a dining room. Having spent years working in restaurants, I feed off of the movement and flurry of activity behind a bar. With the kitchen normally tucked away in the back, the bar becomes the only space in which you can fully immerse yourself in the inner workings of the restaurant.

Walking past those windows each night, I became more and more intrigued by what I saw. Yes, there is a bar at GoreMade, but you won’t see any draft protruding from behind it. There are no bar tools, no bottle coolers glowing with white fluorescent light. Instead there is a flat prep cooler filled with toppings, a stainless steel table where dough sits ready to be flattened and tossed in the air, and a stone oven. A chalkboard to the left lists that day’s toppings, and a chef is ready to take your order.

This is a pizza-only zone. Can you imagine anything more satisfying?

When I finally walked in and sat at the bar, I was greeted warmly and asked what I would like to drink. I was worried that the lack of draft lines and liquor bottles would mean this was a dry bar, but tucked away under the counter were cans and bottles from Founders, Bells, North High, and Rhinegeist, and a small section on the bottom of the menu promised cocktails, should I want them. The man I had seen all those late nights, setting up equipment and installing fixtures stood behind the bar tossing dough with a smile on his face. He asked if we would like to start with the newest addition to the menu—chips and salsa.

“We just had so many peppers and tomatoes” he explained “We couldn’t use them all for pizza toppings, so we made salsa; people liked it so much we kept it.”

Let’s not skip past that part. Salsa at a pizza joint? Why not? And furthermore, kudos to the type of place unafraid to be a little different. After all, something’s got to cause separation in this overcrowded dining hall that we call Columbus.

I told him that I couldn’t decide between two of the pizzas on the menu or building my own from the toppings list, and he told me I should order the chef’s choice. “Trust me, you’ll like it.” He reassured me, and then walked a few steps over to his prep station.

As I tried not to look and ruin the surprise, I walked around the small space and out back to a fenced in outdoor area where a fire pit and a few small tables sat directly on the lawn. It felt more like someone’s backyard than a restaurant patio, in the best way possible. When I returned, my pizza was coming out of the oven, and moments later it was placed on the bar. It was cut in squares as opposed to their normal triangle cut, and split into three sections; the first two were both the pizzas I couldn’t decide between, and the third was an entirely new creation with basil pesto, sunflower sprouts, kalamata olives, and tomatoes from the farmer’s market. “This is a nasturtium flower,” he said as he placed a beautiful bloom on the third section, “you can just eat it whole or tear it up and sprinkle it on the pizza, it’s delicious.”

To quote a man I dislike, and a song I despise, “I love this bar.”

GoreMade (936 N Fourth St.) is open at 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more, visit goremadepizza.com.

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