Fifteen dollars for Poutine? Hoser.

Cincinnati Bites
Spring rolls from Pho Lang Thang

Posted Saturday, April 9, 2016

Square. That's what my earliest concept of what a slice of pizza was. It was square. It was small. And when you ate it, you'd wolf down a dozen 2.5 x 3-inch squares in one sitting. And so my earliest perceptions of pizza were vastly different from the general population. Most Americans understand pizza to be a big, round, fluffy pie with a thick, doughy crust topped with a mild tomato sauce and studded with wisps of pepperoni, drowning in seas of greasy, melted cheese and sliced into prominent wedges. No, no --by the gods-- NO!

What I knew as pizza came from Dayton, Ohio. It's all thanks to the late, great Cassano's Pizza King founder "Vic" Cassano, Sr. and his mother-in-law, "Mom" Donisi. Their pizza was allegedly derived from old-world Italy. When they opened their first restaurant in 1953, they introduced to the area a crispy, thin-crust pizza featuring a salted bottom, edge-to-edge toppings and a wine-spiked tomato sauce sliced into those precious little squares. Thanks to Cassano's unique style, Ohioans can enjoy copy-cat pizza companies like Donato's and Marion's Piazza, both of which I like because, you know, squares. But Cassano's came first and, to me, it will always be the best.

While Cassano's offers more than 30 locations in the Dayton area, there are scant few in greater Cincinnati, all relegated to its outer edges, like Fairfield, Monroe and Trenton. Tonight, I made a special trip to visit an old friend: the Fairfield Cassano's Pizza King, located in a strip mall off Dixie Highway, just past Jungle Jim's.

cassano's sign Cassano's neon sign

The 32-year-old neon sign is like the ones I remember as a child, with the smiling, crown-adorned chef lifting a pizza box high aloft as if to say, "Behold, this is what true pizza is! Step in, my friends, and reward your tongue with greatness!"

I'd called ahead 15 minutes prior to my arrival to pick up my 16-inch beauty: a classic Cassano's Deluxe topped with pepperoni, ground sausage, and finely diced mushrooms, onion and green pepper. The layout of the place hadn't changed in the several years since I'd last visited, with wood paneled chair rails and deep red booths and tables in a long, shot-gun style dining room. The free Wi-Fi was likely the biggest, most recent upgrade to the place. Still, not much needs to change here: for people like me, Cassano's is all about nostalgia.

Greedily snatching the box and dashing back out to my car, I lustily breathed in the distinctively salty aroma so signature to their pizza. It filled my cabin and infused itself into my clothing like a warm embrace, inviting me to succumb to its allure and sneak a few pieces before I took the agonizing 30-minute drive back to my house.

cassano's pizza box Cassano's box
cassano's sign Cassano's deluxe pizza

When I arrived home, it was all I could do to stop myself from devouring the whole pizza. While the tiny squares offer their own kind of special appeal, they also serve as delicious, devilish minions of deception, fooling the diner into believing that he hasn't eaten as much as he has. "I'll just have a few squares more...what's the harm?" the unsuspecting diner might say aloud, only to find himself repeating this ritual until the whole damn thing is gone.

Tonight, however, I managed a modicum of restraint. The supreme saltiness of a Cassano's pizza paradoxically makes the idea of an ice-old Coca-Cola diuretic irresistible, and I silently cursed myself for not having the foresight to purchase a can.

In the morning, I opened my refrigerator door to find more than 3/4 of the pizza still staring back at me, and so I took part in yet another Cassano's fan ritual: the leftover pizza breakfast. By now, the distinctive Cassano's pizza flavors had been granted enough time to further marry and concentrate, and what morning leftover pizza lacks in crispiness, it gains twofold in flavor.

Cassano's was likely the first Italian word I'd ever uttered in my life and, if its sodium content is any indication, it may very well be my last. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Cassano's Pizza & Subs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Cassano\'s Fairfield

Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 4.0 out of 44.0 stars

Other Recent Reviews

  1. Dinner Impressions: Envision Cinemas Bar & Grill
    -posted Tuesday, January 16, 2018
  2. A Taste of Hawaii: Poke Hut
    -posted Thursday, January 4, 2018
  3. Pizza in Walnut Hills: Fireside Pizza
    -posted Thursday, December 21, 2017
  4. Breakfast and Brunch Review: Wild Eggs
    -posted Tuesday, December 19, 2017
  5. Barbecue Impressions: Bourbon Smokehouse
    -posted Sunday, December 17, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Natasia Malaihollo about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thank you for the review and background on the restaurant history! I was a huge fan of huit and super disappointed when they “closed.” Was wondering what’s going on with this musical chairs of a restaurant strategy so thank you for clarifying!
    posted: Fri., Jan 26th, 2018 @ 6:50 PM
  • From Jeff about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for the thorough review! It honestly does seem like a new restaurant is opening every other day..but the thing about the wait staff..they might be getting paid a higher hourly rate because they are only open for lunch. I’ve worked at a restaurant where I was paid $10 an hour but the owner kept the tips, it sucked but sort of made sense for the lunch shift.
    posted: Fri., Dec 22nd, 2017 @ 9:00 PM
  • From heather about Wild Eggs:
    we liked it too - things are fresh and made from scratch and high quality - good experiences all around
    posted: Wed., Dec 20th, 2017 @ 10:55 AM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for writing, Heather. I definitely like their other restaurants. Lalo's pazole and fish taco are better than Mazunte's, I think. But I agree they are definitely hit-or-miss. I'm still rooting for them, though. There's talent there. :)

    posted: Mon., Nov 20th, 2017 @ 1:30 PM
  • From Heather JOhnson about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    I tried Huit & Lalo and they were both expensive and so mixed - one thing great - another thing barely mediocre. More of the same it sounds like - hits and misses for a really expensive lunch. Nope on Dope.
    posted: Sun., Nov 19th, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
  • From TJ Jackson about Udupi Cafe:
    I do not know if it is truly a match for the product you remember, but Frostop Root Beer is sold at Jungle Jims and is a personal favorite of mine.
    posted: Fri., Sep 29th, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
  • From Jones about Haru Korean Restaurant:
    As a long time reader, I found this review to be one of your loveliest and most enthusiastically vivid. I can't wait to try this place!
    posted: Tue., Aug 29th, 2017 @ 9:48 AM
  • From Jordan about Grand Central Delicatessen:
    posted: Sat., Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:16 PM
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design