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Red Angel Pizza
** 1/2
Out of a possible five

Red Angel’s pies rank in upper crust of rivals

The building was the first thing that stood out about Red Angel Pizza on Lima Road.

The nifty strip mall modeled to look like a city skyline that went up a few years ago certainly draws the eye, and the space Red Angel has occupied there for the past two-plus years is sleek and attractive.

With a mustard and red paint scheme, glossy floor and black exposed ceiling, it is gorgeous, especially for a place that relies on carry-out for a great portion of its business. But dining in was more than pleasant; the tableside service was stellar, and I really dug their funky, colorfully designed plates.

The other thing that really stood out about Red Angel was its sourdough crust, which was a staple of the small chain that started in Bryan, Ohio, and once had 14 stores.

Karen Lonergan, who grew up next to a Red Angel in Paulding, Ohio, and who now owns and operates the Lima Road shop with her husband, Brian, and daughter, Chelsea White, said their location is one of only two remaining.

The airy, scored crust had a pronounced flavor that shone through regardless of how many toppings were on it. The crust was firm but more bread-like than crisp, and I enjoyed it. But if you don’t like the sourdough flavor, you wouldn’t like any of the pizzeria’s pies.

My favorite was the least standard one I tried – the Hot Chic.

The crust was coated with creamy Alfredo sauce instead of the usually tangy tomato and topped with chicken, artichokes, bacon and cheese. The salty bacon worked great with the sauce, the artichokes were plentiful but not overpowering and it was just a great combination. I also advise taking one of them home because when I did the crust steamed in the box and became a little softer and chewier, which made the pizza even better.

The signature Red Angel pizza – beef, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers and onions – was a decent combination with the still-crunchy green peppers providing some zip. The Sexy Italian was like an Italian sub in pizza form with its ham, salami, pepperoni, onions and banana peppers. The tangy sauce worked well with the salty meats, and the peppers added a great little vinegar punch.

The pizza that disappointed most did so not because it wasn’t good, it just failed to live up to its billing. The Dare Devil boasted everything the Red Angel pie had plus bacon, ham, green and black olives, banana and jalapeno peppers. I thought it would be spicier, but the jalapenos were kind of lost and, although it had a lot of toppings, it did not have enough to make it daring. It wasn’t much heftier than loaded pies at other parlors.

Red Angel’s pizza rolls are made with a standard dough instead of the sourdough. The roll was nicely browned on top and split a few times to allow it to vent when baking. Despite the pretty brown color, the crust was not as crisp as I would have liked, but it was brushed with melted butter and dusted with grated parmesan, which was nice.

The breadsticks and cheese-stuffed breadsticks are not made from scratch, nor is the garlic bread. They were all fine with the cheese-stuffed sticks being the best option.

The Morie’s House Salad – ice cold, fresh greens, black and green olives, tomatoes, banana peppers, bacon, shredded cheddar and croutons – was a better starter and featured a fantastic creamy, tangy house-made Italian dressing.

“Brian’s mom created the dressing and we stole it from her,” Karen said.

The Angel Wings dessert also uses a standard dough instead of the sourdough, and I don’t think there is anyone who wouldn’t like it.

The dough was stretched out in a flat angel shape and baked to be nice and crisp around the edges but still soft and doughy throughout the rest of it. It was brushed with melted butter, had cinnamon and just a little sugar dusted over it and was drizzled with sweet, sticky white icing. It reminded me of a carnival elephant ear only better because of the butter and icing.

Red Angel pizza reminded me of many other pizza carry-out type places, but was better. Its welcoming, attractive dining area was a refreshing change, and that sourdough crust made it different from the norm.

And that made it worth having again.

Restaurant: Red Angel Pizza

Address: 9011 Lima Road

Phone: 755-3310

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cuisine: Pizza

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer and wine

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Bread sticks/cheese-filled sticks ($3.75), garlic-cheese bread ($3 small; $5 large), Angel Wings ($3.75), pizza roll ($5.50), specialty pizzas ($7.50 mini; $12 small; $16.95 medium; $21.25 large)

Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: *(1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter (@DiningOutDuVall).