One of the best old-guard pizzerias in town — I wouldn’t argue if you said it was THE best classic Columbus pizza joint — is Rubino’s in Bexley. For nearly 60 years, this defiantly traditional and beyond-quaint family-owned operation has turned a blind eye to every food trend to come down the pike. In fact, I’m tempted to say this vintage-as-vintage-can-be place’s faded red-and-white checked window curtains possess a supernatural power to shield the shop from any pesky infiltrations of the modern world. Glacial would aptly describe its approach to change.
That’s why, when Rubino’s recently announced it was adding a new menu item, I took notice. But I had to re-read the announcement because the strangeness of the option threw me for a loop. Before reading what it is, make sure you’re sitting down. OK, here goes: It’s a pickle pizza. I know!
Prior to ripping into that oddity, my visit to Rubino’s last week was as predictable (in a good way) as the smile on my face. After being seated in the bare-bones single room, my game companion and I received our personal capped plastic pitcher of cold water and took in the “scene.” There’s no music in that TV-, alcohol- and hipster-free zone — unless you count the sound of families eating, kids playing pinball and the constant ringing of an ancient corded telephone to be some sort of symphony in the key of retro.
After polishing off the mandatory, laughably inexpensive, feeds-two Large Salad ($3, a mammoth old-school assembly of iceberg lettuce, pepperoncini, pepperoni, mozzarella slices and so forth dressed with a perky housemade red-wine vinaigrette), the pizzas arrived. Note I use the plural because we hedged our bet with Rubino’s can’t-miss large Combo Pizza ($12.25).
Biting into the pickle pizza (it’s made with “hamburger” dill slices), I giggled aloud at the flat-out wackiness of its derangement — but I liked the thing. It’s a wild tongue-tickler as the pie’s lively tomato sauce gangs up with the salty rush of steaming hot pickle juice to create a tartness onslaught. Relief arrives from molten cheese and Rubino’s crackly, thin and altogether terrific crust.
If it’s a bit out there for your sensitive palate, the killer Combo — with homemade sausage, spicy pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers and onions — is easier to love. My recommendation? Get one of each.