Restaurant review | Emelio’s: Old-school pizza joint proves 1960 is still a very good year

G.A. Benton For The Columbus Dispatch
A pepperoni pizza and an “All the Way” pizza at Emelio's [Chris Casella]

In 1960, a telephone was a bulky object with a rotary dial. Back then, such clunky machines could do one thing: allow users to converse with people outside of screaming distance.

In 1960, most American households had but one screen for viewing electronic transmissions. Throughout the majority of the country, the boxy and sometimes-flickering TV screen could pick up three channels.

And in 1960, the DiSabato family opened a bar and restaurant on the West Side. The joint attracted a loyal clientele with crowd-pleasing, Italian-American fare that starred a relatively new local sensation: pizza.

Clearly, the world has changed immensely in the intervening 60 years. But not at Emelio’s Restaurant, which is still owned and operated by the DiSabato family. Practically within screaming distance of the Hollywood Casino Columbus, Emelio's is where canny customers show up to eat, drink and party like it’s 1960.

OK, mostly like it’s 1960. Seating in the charmingly retro establishment is on stools at a vintage bar that occupies a large part of the main dining area, and in a few booths that seem like they could be 60 years old. (Tables are offered on a covered patio and in a brightly lit, multipurpose storage room, too.) Now, though, multiple flat-screen TVs beam games into this sports-happy place with old-fashioned, wood-paneled walls plastered with photos of athletes and family members — and sometimes both, as several DiSabatos have been prominent in wrestling.

Emelio’s menu advertises “tried and true” beers such as Rolling Rock, Budweiser and Bud Light ($2.50) but offers a “craft brew” section, too, where you will find selections from the Columbus Brewing Company, Brooklyn Brewing and Goose Island ($3.50).

When it comes to food, though, Emelio’s little menu is defiantly old-school. Its beloved pizzas typify the irresistible, if often-underappreciated, classic Columbus style: pies with house-made sauce atop thin-and-crisp, scratch-cooked crusts cut into rectangles.

Staying true to that form, Emelio’s showcases spicy, “old-style” (aka “old-world”) pepperonis that arrive as delightfully crisp cups gleaming with grease. Order a pizza with these ($14 for a large), and you will receive a lusty treat loaded with the meat.

Emelio’s good, thin crust stays preternaturally crisp underneath the onslaught of its well-proportioned, highly recommended, “All the Way” pizza ($21 for a large) topped with pepperonis, mild-but-flavorful Italian sausage crumbles, appealingly oven-singed onions and green peppers, mushrooms and uncommon (as a pizza topping) chile flakes.

Distinct touches elevate many of Emelio’s other offerings as well, such as its special salad. The mountainous appetizer ($7.50 scores a quart) is an endearingly familiar ensemble — iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, ample provolone and pepperoncini overdressed with a good, house vinaigrette — that is made special by a huge amount of crunchy, cooked pepperonis that are amusing replacements for croutons and bacon bits.

An alluring price, a toasted sesame-seed roll, plenty of melted provolone, a lively tomato sauce and tender meatballs add up to a meatball and cheese sub ($7) that is comforting in the mouth and on the wallet.

I also would place the inexpensive and enjoyable sausage and cheese sandwich ($4.50) in the doubly comforting category. A toasted, very pleasant roll — think artisanal hot dog bun — holds a mild Italian sausage link, tomato sauce and a thick blanket of melted cheese.

The super sub ($6) is better than, and costs less than, most other Italian subs. As I demolished that sandwich inside the confines of friendly, old Emelio’s, my suddenly grinning dining partner yanked out her phone to Instagram the moment. Immortalized with a surprised face shining from delectable salami and capicola oil, I began to question just how much technological advances have improved our lives.

What: Emelio's Restaurant

Where: 574 Georgesville Road

Contact: 614-279-7900,

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays

Rating: * * * (three stars out of five)

Price range: $4.50 to $21

Ambience: very friendly, family-run vintage bar with multiple TVs and wood-paneled walls covered with photos of athletes; a patio and brightly lit storage-and-dining area are offered, too

Children’s menu: it’s pizza

Reservations: no

Accessible: yes

Liquor license: full bar

Quick click: Thankfully, little has changed at this beloved, 60-year-old bar and pizza parlor

At a glance