This year we lost David Bowie and Prince, found Zika, England voted to Brexit and the killing of a gorilla made our town a meme. And it has been two weeks since the world woke up to president-elect Donald Trump, and no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, people are upset. In times like these, we seek comfort — specifically, I seek carbohydrates, like those found at LPH Pizza Co., and I adhere to the strict nonpartisan standards of pizza-based journalism.
The windows of LPH Pizza Co. on State Avenue in Lower Price Hill are illuminated like a lighthouse in the early winter dark. Formerly BLOCHead Pizza, LPH Pizza Co.’s bright, open floor plan allows anyone dining in to watch the cooks in the kitchen. Although there was no music playing when I dined, the restaurant was fully decorated for autumn and smelled perpetually of baking bread — like a hug for your nose.
Owners Damian Fields and Christine Collins were both in the kitchen when I arrived. If you’re a Lower Price Hill native, you probably know Fields. He’s lived in the neighborhood his entire life, which is part of why he and his partners chose Lower Price Hill for their restaurant location. Soon after BLOCHead Pizza closed, they stepped in to fill its shoes.
Fields’ and Collins’ warm personalities shine through on the menu, offering topping options that sound like a friend of yours was throwing out awesome off-the-cuff ideas for pizza night. There are specialties like the Cheeseburger and “Lots O’Meat,” topped with local goetta (…and pepperoni, sausage, bacon and ground beef), or “Lots O’Veggies,” boasting a creamy garlic sauce and tons of vegetables. Each pie rings up at less than $6 for an 8-inch small and less than $17 for 16 inches. I ordered a small cheese pizza ($4.59), a small Cincinnati Chili pizza ($5.59) and a half-dozen cheese-stuffed breadsticks ($4.50).
LPH Pizza Co. is no-frills. It reminded me slightly of the bodegas in New York I’d crawl into around 9 a.m. for a hoagie. And like the quiet bodegas, the food is really, really delicious. The dough, dressings and sauces are made in-house, and beyond pizza, the menu offers pasta, subs, calzones, salads, wings and homemade desserts.
“Things taste better when they’re fresh and made in-house,” Fields says.
My breadsticks and pizza came out all at once, served on thin silver platters as if I was a queen. Everything was piping hot. The marinara dipping sauce for the breadsticks steamed the entire time I was eating, and the pizza sauce had that acidic spike that can only be derived from fresh tomatoes. The cheese-stuffed breadsticks are slightly spicy and have more mozzarella flavor to offer — I almost liked them better than the cheese pizza.
The Cincinnati chili pizza was a different animal entirely: a dough base, chili meat, onions and that gorgeous yellow 3-way cheese. At first I was afraid that my pizza had come out burnt because the meat had turned a dark, dark brown color. I realized quickly that this is just the nature of Cincinnati chili. The dish was amazing and reminded me to never judge a pizza by its cover.
Collins has a background in baking, and LPH Pizza Co. lets her do what she loves — the housemade desserts are hers. As I ate, I heard her talk to an employee about a new cheesecake recipe, describing how this one was even better than the last and making sure that her employee had tried it.
Collins and Fields are often the ones working at LPH Pizza Co. on any given night, interacting with customers and the community. Their dream is to give back to Lower Price Hill and to bring people who don’t frequent the neighborhood into the restaurant to see the charm of the area and fall in love with it like they have.
“Lower Price Hill isn’t what people think it is,” Fields says. “You can stop outside and people are friendly.”
Their mission is encapsulated in a blurb on the website: “We formed the idea to re-open a once-owned pizza place in Lower Price Hill to bring the dinner table back to the community, to put people in Lower Price Hill to work. To drive traffic from outside neighborhoods to see what’s happening in Lower Price Hill. We as a team, and as a company in general, wanted to be part of the success of Lower Price Hill.”
Collins and Fields have also instituted a Pay It Forward program: Restaurant-goers are able to pay an additional amount at the time of their meal for those less fortunate to use when dining at LPH Pizza Co. The program has only been in operation for a few weeks and already customers have donated $50 to the effort.
I know a lot of people are hurting right now, so here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to call my friend, the one that doesn’t agree with me politically (you know the one), and I’m going to tell them that I found the best new pizza spot in town. And then I’m going to sit at a table with them at LPH Pizza, eat stuffed breadsticks off silver platters and get to know them again.
LPH Pizza Co.
GO: 712 State Ave., Lower Price Hill; CALL: 513-817-4989; INTERNET: lphpizzaco.com; HOURS: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Monday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.