Mary's Pizza Shop has been on my "To Eat" list for quite some time now. I'm not sure exactly how I came across a reference to the small rural eatery, but I've known that a visit would require a significant time commitment as the drive alone was more than an hour each direction. When I recently had a Friday off of work, I decided to make the trip, hoping to arrive for a late lunch in order to avoid the crowds. While this strategy would normally work like a charm, when I arrived in Lisbon, Ohio at 1:30 PM and finally managed to track down the store, I was disheartened to discover that the lights were off, the doors were locked, and there wasn't a soul to be found inside that could help me out. The fact that no hours were listed on the door only compounded my confusion.
Not quite ready to call it quits, I decided that I would find an alternative for lunch and then return to Mary's for dinner. That was how my visit to Steel Trolley Diner came about. In fact, when I revealed to the STD folks about my original intention during my visit, they absolutely insisted that I must stick around for dinner. They were also helpful in telling me that Mary's wasn't just a take-out joint and that I could eat my pizza at the restaurant. After I finally managed to track down a library where I could work out the afternoon hours, I hopped back in my car and returned to the scene of my earlier disappointment right around 5:30 PM.
Mary's Pizza Shop was located at 301 North Beaver Street, Lisbon, OH 44432 and can be reached at 330-424-3559. While the address listed claims that the shop is on North Beaver street, the storefront actually faces High Street, just west of the intersection of Beaver and High. Parking was in one of the six or seven spots directly in front of the building. There was no website associated with the restaurant at the time of this writing.
Here was a shot of the storefront:
When I pulled in, I was happy to discover that not only were the lights on, but only one other car had pulled into the lot. This meant that I would more than likely be able to snag a table. As I walked through the front door, I noticed a small area with a cash register in front of me, three tables with chairs to the left, and this colorful mural hanging on the wall to the right:
Looking at the tables, I found them to be completely unoccupied. "Great!" I thought to myself. That was when fate intervened. A man from the kitchen walked to the register and asked me for my name. I replied that I hadn't called an order in and was simply walking in off the street. He looked at me in utter disbelief.
"You picked probably one of the worst times to walk in."
"It's going to be at least an hour and fifteen minutes for your order."
I realized the gravity of my error and while I initially thought of just turning around and walking out the door, since it was still early in the evening and I had already gone through so much to try out one of their pizzas, I decided to stick it out.
"Can I wait at one of the tables?"
"Sure, suit yourself."
Wanting to keep things simple, I ordered a large pepperoni pizza. Which, at eight slices, I figured I could eat half at the restaurant and then take the rest with me when I left. Having placed my order, I grabbed one of the paper menus and retired to one of the smaller tables to see everything that Mary's offered. Here were shots of the complete menu:
As it turned out, Mary's DID have lunchtime hours, only they were from 10:30 AM until 1:00 PM. My goal of arriving to a post-lunchtime crowd was admirable, except for the fact that the restaurant was closed between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. Ah well, lesson learned. I also learned by studying the last page of the menu that Mary's had a unique pizza sauce, slightly sweet with herbs, garlic, and crumbled Italian sausage.
As I sat there whiling away the time, I was amazed at how busy this little pizza shop was on a Friday night. Every ten seconds, the phone would ring and I would hear, "Mary's Pizza Shop. Can I help you?" In the hour and a half that I was inside the restaurant, no one else ever did come in and sit down to eat their food; the entirety of their business during that time period was take-out. Fortunately, the hour and fifteen estimate for my pizza had been a little on the long side. About fifty minutes after taking my order, the same gentleman I had spoken to earlier called my name out.
I walked to the cooler, picked out a bottle of water, and proceeded to pay for my dinner. When I asked him if it would be okay to eat the pizza there, he grabbed a paper plate, knife, fork, and napkins, and handed them to me along with my pizza. When the full weight of the pizza had been transferred to me, I was immediately surprised at how heavy it was. I had been expected an eight slice pizza equivalent to a Papa John's, Dominoes, or Little Ceasar's.
Instead, when I opened the cardboard lid, I discovered something in thickness more equivalent to a Chicago deep-dish pizza:
I immediately realized that I should have ordered the smaller four slice pizza. While this definitely wasn't classic Chicago deep-dish, the slices were large and deep:
The cheese appeared to be mostly melted and I immediately began to understand why the pizza had taken so long to cook. Given the caramelization on the naked portions of sauce, the homemade dough and sauce must have had a head start in the oven to get parcooked. At the right moment, the toppings of choice and cheese were added. In an unusual twist, the toppings (the pepperoni in my case) were placed under the cheese. Given that the cheese was only mostly melted, I would surmise that this step occurred only during the last few minutes.
Using my knife and fork, I managed to free one of the slices and transfer it to my paper plate:
Cutting the first piece, I stabbed it with my fork and lifted it to my mouth. The crust was nicely cooked and the bottom had a soul satisfying crunch to it. The interior dough was cooked completely through, but still soft and doughy. The prominent layer of cheese added a richness and creaminess. The sauce was definitely interesting. It had the texture of a meat sauce and while I would have preferred a bit of spice, I definitely got the sweetness from the sauce and the savoriness from the Italian sausage. While I could visually see the pepperoni, the flavor was completely lost. Being a lover of crispy pepperoni on my pizzas, by burying it underneath the cheese, it was rather limp and greasy.
When I had eaten about three-quarters of my first slice, I managed to get a nice photograph of the layers:
This pizza is definitely not for those who prefer thin crust pies, although the menu does list a thin crust pizza available as well. For me, the two biggest nitpicks (and honestly, with something so unique as this pizza, they were minor) were that the sauce was too sweet and I completely lost the flavor of the pepperoni. I might as well have simply ordered the pizza with cheese alone. I'm curious as to how other toppings flavors would fare, too. While my original goal was to eat four of the eight slices, in reality, I gave up after two. The rest came home with me where I reheated and devoured the rest of my pie over the next 24 hours.
I can completely understand how if this was the pizza you grew up on, you might be endeared to it for life. I feel the same way about Marie's Pizza in Wadsworth. As an outsider, would I be willing to repeat my trip today only for this pizza? No. Not because it wasn't good, but because this wouldn't be a flavor that I would crave enough to make the drive. That being said, if I was within twenty minutes of Lisbon, would I make the detour? Absolutely. The pizza was tasty and I've not come across anything like it in my travels for the blog.
As you can tell by my impromptu visit, make sure you call ahead (at least 45 minutes) before you plan on showing up or you will be waiting around, just like I did tonight. While it was definitely worth the wait, giving the kitchen a head start will ensure that whether you choose to eat it in the restaurant or take it home, your wait time will be minimal and your pizza still hot. I definitely recommend giving Mary's Pizza Shop a try if you are in the area.