In a time when ever-changing menus that rely on what is in season are nearly the norm, there is something refreshing about an old standby that leaves little to the imagination but always delivers satisfaction.
Oley's Pizza at Coliseum Boulevard and Lake Avenue is one of those places. Solid pizza, friendly service and the amazing crust make it a staple for my family, and a favorite among all of the out-of-town guests I have taken there.
And though it is rather basic at its core, there are still some Instagram-worthy options that those locally sourced places pride themselves on churning out at Oley's, too.
The signature double-crust pizza has no peers. This deep-dish specialty of the house starts with a crust topped with gobs of cheese, then has another crust on top of it that is then topped with sauce, toppings and even more cheese just like a regular pie.
You get cheese in every bite – double the cheese, actually – and it is balanced so the cheese does not become too much, as if that is ever a problem with a deep-dish pizza. My Oley's Deluxe was packed with sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms and olives. You might struggle to eat more than two pieces of this weighty pie.
The reason Oley's crust is so good is the use of brewer's yeast, which gives it an almost hoppy beer essence that sets it apart. That delicious flavor is even more prominent on the thin-crust pizzas, which are also great, but hard for me to go for given the amazingness of the double-crust pies.
The thin pies are crispy as they should be and are actually a great change of pace from the thick ones, so I suggest ordering one of each and noshing away.
Though the double-crust is an Oley's tradition, the most traditional find there is the sausage roll. It is made the way these Summit City favorites were first made. It is rolled up dough tightly packed with cheese, sauce and sausage that has near perfect tubular shape. I also loved that there are two sizes offered so you don't have to go crazy and get a brick-sized roll if you are not ready to devour something that big.
There were no air pockets in this roll. Its exterior was super crunchy and really one you could walk around with while you ate, which is seldom the case with other versions around the city.
One twist on the roll was the sauce that came with it. Barbecue is pretty much the staple condiment, but the Oley's sauce was very red and did not taste like any barbecue sauce I had before. When I asked my server what kind it was, she told me it was house-made picante sauce and added the restaurant served it because of tradition.
Once I knew what it was the flavor made sense and it was actually a pretty good picante. As for the tradition, that was new to me and I still wanted barbecue. Well, I got barbecue sauce and it, too, was house-made and was perfect – dark and sweet with a little tang.
When it comes to the non-pizza items, the baked cod dinner is a fine option. It is so perfectly cooked that Oley's has become a place I think of when I am in the mood for cod as much as pizza. The two fillets arrive swimming in butter with a light dusting of Italian herbs and are joined by a piece of garlic toast, which is also always done right there. The cheese-topped bread is a great appetizer.
The dinner also includes a baked potato and dinner salad, which could have been much better. It was an iceberg and romaine blend with red cabbage, red onions, carrot slivers and mozzarella, but I would have liked some mote options given there are so many veggies available as pizza toppings.
The breadsticks at Oley's are also a solid starting option as they have that same unique flavor as the crust, and are toasty crisp on the outside white light and fluffy on the inside.
But by far the best shareable item there are the cheesy mushrooms. These big sliced beauties arrived bubbling and sizzling away with garlic in a hot crock covered by a blanket of melted and well-browned cheese. They were fantastic.
The stromboli sub was fantastic, too. The bun was very crispy on the exterior and the inner part of it had soaked up the sausage and pepperoni drippings and sauce perfectly and there were just enough peppers and onions to give it flair.
The baked spaghetti dinner fell a little flat. The meat sauce, which was also covered by cheese like the mushrooms, was nice, but it sat on top of the noodles, which were surprisingly not at all overcooked leaving many of the noodles at the bottom dry. Mixing the sauce with the pasta better before baking would have been a nice touch.
There were plenty of nice service touches and I never left wanting or needing anything during my visits. The décor is pleasant if not stunning with a large fish tank being the most interesting eye-catcher. Regardless, I have always felt at home a bit here and been treated like regulars.
That makes sense I suppose because my family has regularly found our way here over the years and will continue to do so.
Restaurant: Oley's Pizza
Address: 1427 Coliseum Blvd. N.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Beer and wine
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Breadsticks ($3.29 2 pieces, $5.25 for 4), garlic-cheese bread ($3.29 for 4, $5.25 for 8), cheesy mushrooms ($5.45), double-crust Oley's Deluxe pizza ($10.95 8-inch, $15.95 10-inch, $19.95 12-inch, $27.75 14-inch, $36.50 16-inch), sausage roll ($5.99, $8.99) cod dinner ($11.95), stromboli sub ($6.25 half, $8.45 full), baked spaghetti ($10.95)
Rating breakdown: Food: ★★1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 max.), service: ★ (1 max.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.
Out of a possible five