Donatos Pizza—Heartland Chain Serves Up Chicago Tavern-Style Crispy

Donatis - outside - RESIZELeaving Columbus, Ohio after a short stay on business, I thought my trip had had its last taste of pizza. Until lo and behold, there was a Donatos Pizza staring me down in the airport terminal not too far from my departing gate. Since I was looking for dinner and had been wanting to check Donatos out, the timing could not have been more perfect. And ain’t it cool when airports feature local businesses?

Donatos is a family-owned pizza chain started in 1963 in Columbus. Since then, they have grown to boast almost 200 locations in six states in America’s Heartland. Most are in Ohio and my fellow Nashvillians can take note that there are plans for one to open in Midtown.

Donatis - outside2 - RESIZETheir catch phrase is that they serve toppings “Edge-to-Edge.” Well, for a cheese-only lover like me that serves no purpose. The Snob prefers a pizza that is good enough to stand on its own without being drowned in toppings. Unfortunately, Donatos’ pie did not pass that test.

I went for a 12-inch “medium” cheese pizza at the somewhat inflated airport price of $11.99. It came served in a pizza box and upon opening it I was disappointed to see that Donatos definition of “crispy thin” meant that greasy Chicago tavern style pizza cut into those small annoying slices.

Donatis - inside - RESIZEFrom what I can tell, Donatos is quite successful and sells a lot of pizza. But that doesn’t mean I have to like this style of pie and I don’t. It’s just way too oily for me, and Donatos use of Provolone cheese instead of Mozzarella is an abomination to all that is sacred in the world of pizza.

As for some specifics, the cheese was glazed over with a sorry burnt look and the bottom just wasn’t all that crisp. Grabbing one of the middle slices without an edge makes me reach for a napkin to clean my oily hands. There was barely any end crust to it and the bottom crust was char-free. In fact, it was so white-looking it didn’t even look like pizza crust. I was also really surprised to find the tomato sauce so salty.  The pizza also left a nasty aftertaste that lingered in my mouth on the flight home.

Donatis - pizza - RESIZEAll right—in the spirit of the universal premise that there is almost no such thing as bad pizza, it was a tad tasty and I wound up eating the whole thing since I was so hungry. But this type of pie just doesn’t do it for me. Those brief blushes of a satisfying pizza taste just make me long for something crisp that I can hold firmly and fold.

So Donatos can keep expanding away, but this is just another chain that the Snob will avoid. And speaking of chains, are you ready for this? From 1999 to 2003 Donatos was actually owned by McDonalds until the original owners bought back control. I don’t eat there either.

PIZZA SNOB RATING     *** Better Than Dominos
Donatos Pizza
Port Columbus Airport
Columbus, OH  43219
[no phone]
www.donatos.com

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