You can’t spell “Wednesday” without D-E-F-E-N-D. Right? Oh, whatever.
Ahh, LaRosa’s Pizzeria: Greater Cincinnati’s best homegrown local chain* and my favorite of the “Cincinnati Core Four” (in my not-so-humble opinion). I know a lot of people disagree with me here, but this isn’t their blog and this is my personal preference. So defend it, I will.
LaRosa’s is known for its pizza and “sub par Italian fare” as far as the haters are concerned. First off, its pizza is just okay, and I’d be hard-pressed to say it’s even in my top 5 favorite foods on the menu. Additionally, if you’re looking to experience authentic Italian food out, this probably isn’t your place. Neither is Olive Garden. Or Buca di Beppo. Or any restaurant, really, because you should be eating homemade spaghetti and lasagna at, well, home. (Editor’s note: I was going to suggest that, if you must eat Italian food out, try Roma in Cheviot, but it appears it is now permanently closed, so never mind. Eighty-six that?)
I’ll admit that I frequent this place, err, frequently, and my favorite thing about it is that it boasts variety. Like I said, the pizza is just one of many choices from the menu, and it’s definitely not the best. Every time I go, my internal monologue conflict goes a little something like this:
Me 1: Hmm, I could go for breadsticks, a Just Right Combo**, calzone, OR steak hoagy. Well, I guess there’s always pizza, too. How’s a broad to choose?!
Me 2: Breadsticks are a must. Good luck with the rest.
Me 1: But I got a half hoagy and salad last time…
Me 2: Then get a full hoagy this time. Or a different Just Right meal. OR CALZONE. Just make a choice, lady!
Me 1: And the pop. Oh, the Coke Freestyle Machine. How’s a broad to choo—Diet Dr. Pepper!
As you can see, the choice is never easy, and my decision usually starts with which Just Right meal I’d like; or if I’d like to venture out and get a single cheese calzone (wait, what?). Breadsticks [with cheese] are pretty regularly a must as a starter. If I’m feeling really froggy (see: not in the mood for any of the aforementioned or would like to share with someone else), I’ll get a traditional cheese pizza with light sauce. On the rarer occasion, I opt for pan cheese pizza. Here’s my thing: pizza is pizza, and if you know me, you know my stance on that (and French fries). All pizza is pretty good; albeit on a spectrum. It’s like asking me if I want $5 or $50: either way I’ll take the friggin’ money, but obviously $50 is way better.
This is one Cincinnati delicacy I am absolutely proud of and will unashamedly defend until the death (not unlike my love for Justin Bieber). And to the haters of its pizza: I dare you to try something else on the menu. Or not even that; something else, else. I even dare you not to like what ever it is that you decide to try.
LaRosa’s may only be a $15 pizza (literally and figuratively), but it’s much better than being on the $5 end of the Pizza Goodness Spectrum. And it absolutely usurps most other available pizza “chains” in the area. (See what I did there with the $5 Pizza Chain thing?)
Things You Should Know:
- LaRosa’s has some pretty fantastic condiments. Try as many as you can on as many dishes as possible. That’s my advice. (see: ranch, honey mustard, diablo sauce, garlic butter, and even the fat free honey mustard)
- This pizza is absolutely the best away from its pizzerias. Therefore, any time you’re at a church festival, Great American Ball Park, Coney Island, Cincinnati Zoo, Riverbend, or any other Cincinnati event and it’s available, that’s where I recommend getting it. For some reason, the pizza always tastes better away from the pizzeria. I’m not sure why (drugs are my only guess), but this rings especially true at Kings Island. Hoo wee, it’s great there.
- LaRosa’s pizza used to have a much better sauce, in case you’re wondering why some Cincinnatians are so hell-bent on how good the pizza is. I call that denial mixed with an insane sense of pride. The new sauce is okay, but it’s just not the same. Workers and management alike deny and deny this, but you will never convince us differently. Yes, it’s different. It used to be sweeter.
- It should be noted that I’ve never tried the Ravioli (there are three versions) even though I think it always sounds really good. It’s got to be better than Chef Boyardee, right?
- I also have never ordered pasta. I’ve tried a lot of the dishes, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend them. Especially the spaghetti. Even if Spaghetti-A-Plenty is a good deal, I just can’t get on board with recommending that. (See aforementioned rant about eating “Italian” out.) Again, it’s personal preference.
- The Pizza Rondos are a really nice addition to the menu and probably one of my favorite additions as of late. I don’t typically order them myself, but I’m not above having one of someone else’s.
*I don’t consider LaRosa’s to be a chain per se. Instead, because it is only available within a 100-mile radius in a smaller region, I still consider it to be a local restaurant … just with many, many locations.
**The Just Right Combos always feature a salad to start, followed by a half hoagy with Saratoga chips; small two-item pizza; or one of three kinds of Ravioli. There are plenty of other choices, too. See them here. (A separate lunch menu is also available.)