Sexton’s Pizza Invites Customers to Choose Their Own Crust Adventure
“Well Done and Crispy” is the new motto at Sexton’s, a sibling-owned, Central Ohio pizzeria that is eyeing a local expansion.
Marshmallows around the campfire can be controversial. One person’s nicely charred is another person’s plain-old burnt.
The same goes for char on pizzas. Hand-tossed pies that are thrown in an uber-hot oven until they achieve charcoal-black, blistered spots (called “leoparding”)—this style of ’za is having a moment of heated debate among pizza geeks and critics in New York.
Joining the debate are brothers Joey and Jamey Sexton, the owners of Sexton’s Pizza. The Columbus natives moved to Florida and missed the Columbus-style pizza of their childhood, so they decided to buy a food trailer and craft their own. They moved back and opened their first brick-and-mortar in Reynoldsburg in 2019.
However, the pies served at Sexton’s Gahanna and Hilliard locations today are different than the Ohio-style, party-cut pizzas they first served. (The original Reynoldsburg location has closed.) The brothers have done a dough pivot, even hiring consultant and “dough whisperer” Noel Brohner.
Sexton’s charred, New York-style pies cooked in stone ovens are now its bread-and-butter, but the pizzeria also offers four other crust styles to choose from. Pizzas start at $16 and run up to $28.50, depending on what crust you choose.
Although a purist may take issue with Sexton’s triangular, NY-style slices—a bit too thick-and-crispy to fold—the hand-tossed crust is a well-crafted, pleasingly crunchy base to build upon. Joey calls Sexton’s pizza “controversial” for its char, but we’d just call it good.
The Motown crust is Sexton’s riff on rectangular Detroit-style pizza, and while it’s not quite a platinum hit—more caramelized cheese on the edges, please—the result is a toothsome, thick-crusted pie.
The largest of the bunch is the deep-dish, 16-by-16-inch Sicilian-style pizza, with bulbous edges. Cauliflower crust and a super-thin, 12-inch bar pie are also available.
Of the specialty pizzas, one of the most out-there is the What the Dilly, Yo!?, a pickle lovers’ dream sporting a garlic base, Parmesan and sliced pickle spears from Grove City’s Galaxy Pickles. It pairs well with Sexton’s addictive house made ranch dressing.
The Smokey Robinson—featuring a flavorful tomato sauce, Columbus’ own Ezzo pepperoni, Parmesan, smoked hot honey and jalapeños—is a salty-sweet winner. Barbecue pizza fans will enjoy the Bee Bee Q, with a garlic sauce base, fried chicken and drizzles of barbecue sauce and ranch. (See the theme?)
Ranch is a cheat: Slather it on something suboptimal, and you’ll improve its taste. That rule applies to Sexton’s fried pickles and Arby’s-esque curly fries, both $8 and underwhelming. But dip these apps in Sexton’s ranch and most is forgiven. Opt instead for the crunchy fried chicken wings (10 for $16), which come with sauces such as Buffalo, garlic or Nashville hot. And there’s always ranch.
A common refrain of theirs is: “You can debate our pizza all day long, but don’t debate the ranch,” Joey says.
For dining in, check out Sexton's in Old Hilliard, which offers a full bar, TVs and a spacious patio right off the Heritage Rail Trail. Sexton’s has big expansion plans, as well. The brothers intend to focus on opening New York-style, by-the-slice carryouts in the future, including one in Victorian Village.
Sexton’s Pizza943 E. Johnstown Road, Gahanna,614-269-7355; 5460 Franklin St., Hilliard, sextonspizza.com
This story is from the December 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.