Za bomb: Pizza 216's pie changes everything

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At the helm of Pizza (216) is Johnny Lis, who combines his business acumen with a passion for food. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Laura Briedis

Determined to drop explosive flavors on Northeast Ohio, Johnny Lis operates his Pizza (216) like a target shooter.

“Nothing about what we do is ordinary,” Johnny promises. “Everything here tastes better. Our ingredients are fresher, our combinations more thoughtful and our dedication to creating a superior pizza experience surpasses other pies out there.”

Mirroring Cleveland’s melting pot of nationalities, the restaurant artfully melds culinary influences.

The result? Creatively prepared cuisine with a nod to Italian but with many nuances, evident in dishes ranging from Italian Nachos to Pierogi Pie to Short Rib Poutine.

At the helm of the restaurant is Johnny Lis, who combines his business acumen with a passion for food. A Michigan native who attended John Carroll University and worked in the banking industry before becoming a restaurateur, he epitomizes the idea that here in Cleveland nothing is given and everything is earned.

“After being diagnosed with stage three testicular lymphatic cancer, I thought it was time to follow my real passion,” he reflects.

“I always wanted to play pro golf or open a restaurant. I discovered you had to be able to chip to go on tour, so I decided it was time to follow my dream and open a restaurant.”

He went to pizza school (yes, there is such a place) and learned from the best master chefs all the intricacies of the art of pizza.

“We hand crush our tomatoes to make our homemade sauce,” says Johnny, noting their tomatoes are picked in California and all of the other ingredients are sourced locally.

“We use fresh, thoughtful ingredients for a better taste experience.”

More Than Just Pizza
Known for its brick oven pizzas, the downtown eatery has expanded its menu to offer tasty small plates and enticing dinner entrees.

“During the day we serve pizzas and salads to cater to the lunch crowd looking for a quick bite,” notes Johnny.

“Our pizzas bake in just three minutes in a 700-degree brick oven. In the evening starting at 4 p.m., we amp up our offerings on the dinner menu.”

Seafood finds its way onto the menu, including various specials like Salmon Sliders and Lobster Tacos.

Lobster Tacos are filled with Maine lobster, sweet chili aioli, pico de gallo, avocado, cilantro and lettuce.

For that something different, the Short Rib Poutine, which is a mix of hand-cut French fries topped with cheese curds, gravy and braised short ribs, fits the bill.

And the Italian Nachos, made from Ohio City pasta cut and fried into chips topped with cheese sauce, pepperoni, sausage and pepperoncinis, offers a culinary twist on a Mexican favorite.

The Pan Seared Salmon is topped with brown butter foam, served with house-made gnocchi and peas over hazelnut butter.

There also is an appreciable selection of salads, as well as pasta entrees made from scratch.

Fresh Purveyed Ingredients
The New York-style thin-crust pizzas are cooked in a brick oven imported from Italy using a combination of gas and wood, so it produces a charred bottom with a crispy crust but still with that nice chew everyone loves when they bite into a pizza.

In fact, the eatery offers its dough wholesale to local bars, restaurants, hotels and catering companies that want to offer a better pizza experience to customers.

“Pizza (216) is one of the few to specialize in fresh and frozen pizza crusts and dough balls. American cold-pressed crusts, Italian stone-baked crusts and dough balls of the highest quality are offered here because our pizza crust stays true to our core business,” Johnny explains.

“We have a fully automated production process at our disposal with extremely high capacity. Our crusts have a light dough structure and they are crispy on the outside. With our extensive assortment, we are a one-stop shop for all the pizza base products you need for your next special event.”

With a half-dozen specialty pizzas, along with couple dozen toppings to build your own, the combinations are endless.

One of Pizza (216)’s specialty pizzas, the Margherita (216) is topped with red sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and Romano cheese.

“One of my favorites is the Pierogi Pie,” says Johnny. “It is topped with whipped mashed potatoes, ricotta, cheddar, caramelized onions, green onions and sour cream.”

If you build your own pizza, you can choose from five different sauces including classic red, spicy red, ranch, creamy buffalo and olive oil. Top it with the classic cheese blend, or opt for cheddar, provolone, fresh mozzarella or ricotta cheese.

Over 75 Craft Beers
Is there anything better when eating pizza than washing it down with a cold ale? Pizza (216) does not disappoint, as you will find one of the city’s largest selections of craft beers from local breweries as well as some more obscure brands from around the country.

Part restaurant and part bar, the elongated bar that seats 20-plus is the perfect spot to enjoy happy hour, Monday through Friday, from 4 to 7 p.m., and all day Sunday.

Other daily specials include Monday Wing Night, Tap Tuesday with $4 draft beers, Wednesday Trivia Night when you can win prizes and gift cards, and Thursday is half off bottles of wine.

“One of our signature drinks is a 96-ounce Moscow Mule served in a gigantic copper tin for people to share,” says Johnny.

“And our White Sangria is phenomenal. Plus we mix all the classics, like a Dirty Martini and Old Fashioned, and make all our own simple syrups and muddle the fresh fruit.”

With a modern, urban décor and fun, upbeat vibe, the 4,500-square-foot restaurant with a prime outdoor patio can seat 170 diners and accommodate small parties as well as cater to area businesses. Pizza (216) was awarded the Judge’s Choice honor at Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week in 2017.

“Whether you work downtown and stop in for lunch, come in before a ballgame or theater show, or just come to town to eat and play, check us out,” invites Johnny. “And savor a slice of Cleveland’s downtown culinary scene.”

Pizza (216) is located downtown Cleveland in The Arcade at 401 Euclid Avenue. Restaurant hours are Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. For more information, call 216-741-7992 or visit

Categories: Downtown Food & Dining