Just by the name alone, most people would think this downtown location was strictly pizza and I’m here to say it’s so much more! In fact, owner Johnny Lis has been able to combine that sometimes elusive combination of good food sourced locally and a wide variety of Ohio beers plus a fully stocked bar. It’s a one stop place for good drinks, good food and a good time.
Pizza 216 is located downtown next to the Arcade with an outdoor patio and a large indoor seating space. While perfect for getting a bite while venturing downtown for a sporting, theater or music event; Pizza 216 does face some challenges in terms of parking and just sheer visibility due to competition with all other dining experiences on nearby east 4th street. The good news is they do valet parking starting Thursday through Saturday and they have nightly specials that make it well worth the stop. Plus fine dining isn’t the kind of clientele they are aiming for. Pizza 216 has a vibrant, lively feel to it with music, sports TVs and a loyal group of patrons coming in and out.
Owner Johnny Lis had a dream for this restaurant long before it came to fruition. After several years that included multiple health issues including cancer, brain surgery and subsequent healing, the time came to live life fully and follow his dream no matter what it took. He had already been through some of the hardest times in his life and he no longer wanted to wait to move forward. And so Pizza 216 was born.
From the beginning, owner Johnny Lis wanted to focus on bringing a New York style pizza to Cleveland with his own flair and style to it. Not only that, he wanted to make sure local ingredients were featured to connect to Cleveland and also to focus on quality. I was lucky enough to taste some of his most popular items-- margarita pizza and Italian nachos (featured below). The mozzarella cheese used on the pizza was creamy and rich with a depth you’d expect from a true Italian restaurant. Perhaps my only complaint was the crust wasn’t as thin and crispy as I personally preferred. It was thick and chewy for those who like something to hang onto! The nachos also featured a medley of cheeses, chunks of Italian meats and perfect tanginess that helped me understand why this appetizer has won numerous Cleveland appetizer awards in the past. Their menu goes on to be very extensive with great salads, full meals, sandwiches and a long list of popular appetizers.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the roller coaster Pizza 216 has faced through the last 5 years of opening. Starting with a roof collapse at the end of year 1 that put them out of business for over 200 days. Then the pandemic hit and drastically curtailed their business to be take out only and nearly a shutdown of business/entertainment traffic downtown. Then the recent protests downtown nearly made a third hit but luckily a security guard was able to stop any vandalism. Throughout it all, Johnny paid his employees. Even when they weren’t working at all or working less. Their wages stayed intact and nearly everyone on his staff has been there from the beginning.
Because of all of this, I think this also helps them fit squarely in a unique niche of a quality restaurant with affordable prices and a fun vibe for the younger set or families.
I encourage you to try out this stop whether you are a pizza lover or just have a pizza lover in your family. You will find something on the menu that will satisfy your cravings and support a local business that has stuck with Cleveland through thick and thin.
Pizza 216 Kitchen and Taphouse
401 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland Ohio