Columbus, Ohio is a surprisingly great town for food. Ohio is one of the most diverse states in the Midwest, and the Ohio State University, third largest university in enrollment in the country, draws students and faculty from around the world. This is a city that appreciates and supports its food culture, from a lively food truck scene to hometown favorites such as Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams to old-school food stores such as Vincenzo’s in Dublin.
A popular stop for handmade breads, prepared Italian foods and submarine sandwiches that could feed a navy, family-owned Vincenzo’s conveniently shares its strip mall at Sawmill Road and 161 with what used to be the only Trader Joe’s store in Columbus (now there is one more).
I love the sea salt and herb bread, pictured above, piled with parsley, rosemary and other fresh herbs. When my mom visited from California, she zeroed in on the very spicy, very cheesy pepperoni jalapeno bread.
The secret weapon at Vincenzo’s is Italian grandma Mary Bonfante, mother of owner Louis Bonfante, who has been at work in Vincenzo’s kitchen early every morning for the past 20-plus years. I love grandmas – think of all the culinary knowledge, history and experience packed into that tiny little lady! I followed her around the store with my iPhone in camera mode.
She is on the move, whizzing past the Italian flag.
Mary makes many of the prepared foods, using handmade pastas and sauces. In addition to a variety of pasta and meat entrees, Vincenzo’s offerings also include antipasti, calzones and sandwiches made with their freshly baked bread.
Here is Mary at the pasta machine in the front window.
Vincenzo’s also carries a large selection of wine and Italian ingredients. This is the place to find fresh mozzarella, ladyfingers and other Italian specialties.
I rarely leave Vincenzo’s without an Italian sub, crusty bread drizzled with vinaigrette and layered with four meats and two cheeses. These sandwiches are huge, weighing in at around two pounds (!). Its price ($9.99) seems hefty too, until you consider what is in it – a full loaf of artisan bread and at least a pound of high quality meats and cheese. One sandwich will leave two hungry people full to groaning.
The nice people at Vincenzo’s will toast the sandwich for you, but usually I take it home and toast it just before I’m ready to eat. Pictured here is half a sandwich. I wasn’t joking about the full loaf of bread.
Vincenzo’s thoughtfully packs the fixings separately so they don’t get the bread soggy – lettuce, tomato and tangy yellow banana peppers. Columbus loves banana peppers – they’re on half the pizzas in town (a little Columbus quirk: pizzas here are cut into little squares, not wedges).
Nothing gimmicky about this Italian sub, just excellent ingredients simply combined. Old school.