Twenty-first Stop: Jean Paul’s Paradiso
Date: July 13th, 2012
Location: 6732 Clough Pike Cincinnati, OH 45244
Biggest mystery here? The fact that Jean Paul’s little piece of heaven doesn’t show up until #41 on the master pizza list. This place is named appropriately. It’s not just about how delicious Jean Paul’s masterful pizza is; it’s about the location, the desserts, the experience of ordering, picking up, and eating it. This place, and its pizza, would rank much closer to the number 1 than the number 50 if we had our say.
It was Robyn’s idea to go with Jean Paul’s. Courtney had just gotten back in town that day and, though she wanted some pizza, she wanted to do it in the laziest way possible. So, Robyn headed over to the eastside with the suggestion of Jean Paul’s carryout. Jean Paul's is primarily a carry-out establishment, although there are one or two high top tables for two that could be used to dine in. It took Courtney a second to realize exactly where this parlor sat. She didn’t make the immediate connection between it and the small strip mall-like location on Clough Pike that she’d passed numerous times en route to the local pet store. But, sure enough, that’s where it is. It sits in the far right slot of a building with a few businesses, right on Clough Pike in Anderson Township. It’s quaint and charming from the outside, with hanging baskets of flowers punctuated by matching light fixtures, and a sign over the entrance featuring a green cartoon chef fit with an apron and hat.
We had reviewed the menu online. Admittedly, the prices seemed steep to us. In fact, we opted for a small pizza, since a large version was $23.40. Plus, we had heard that Jean Paul’s offered a menagerie of fine dessert specimens, and we wanted to save some dollars for our sweet teeth. We called in our order for the $13.50 version of a Pepperoni, salami, ham, capicola, tomatoes, basil and garlic pizza, and were given about a ½ hour until it was ready. Judging by the thick accent of the man on the other end, we are pretty sure JP himself took our order.
“I smell a Sicilian!” exclaimed the young woman in the visible kitchen behind the pastry case. No, she wasn’t being racist. She was pinpointing, with wise familiarity, the scent of our carefully crafted dinner, a small Sicilian Pizza. This must be a popular choice, if it can be named by its smell. We came in a little suspicious of what the website calls “The best in the universe!” and, honestly, more excited for the desserts.
|L to R: fruit tart, a flour-less chocolate cake, and Key Lime Pie|
|chocolate mousse cup, Neopolitan, and Cannoli|
We saw these immediately, encased and on display, and were surprised by the number of choices before us. All sold in individual servings, there was Key Lime Pie, cheesecake, Tiramisu, tiny Pecan pies, chocolate mousse in a colorful edible cup, Neopolitans, fancy tarts we can no longer name, and more. The woman behind the counter was extremely nice, patient, and explanatory as we ooed and aaaahed, and asked a bazillion questions about the genetic makeups of each little sweet treat. We both chose four desserts, eight in total. This might be a lot for two people, but we dare you to survey those desserts and not leave with a sampling of your own. Robyn also bought some homemade croutons, pictured below. We left the premises with what could be described as a portion of paradise. Calling the restaurant Jean Paul’s Paradiso turns out not to be boastful moniker, but a modest assessment of inventory.
And now, the pizza. We were not expecting this pizza to be as very delicious as it was. The blend of ingredients on The Sicilian is nothing fancy or out of the ordinary, but the flavors swell to set this pizza apart from other contenders. It was a conflicting feeling to eat each bite: you want to savor it but, simultaneously, you wish to shove it in your mouth so as to more quickly take the next. The toppings form a strata where meats, cheese, and veggies live in a perfect harmony of flavor and texture. The tomatoes were really the focal point of this pizza pie, and the one item that most stands out in retrospect. They had to have been marinated in a blend of oil, balsamic, and Italian herbs for the perfect eternity. The final product was plump, red, and incredibly juicy, lending a wonderful flavor to each bite of the pizza. To help you understand how very tasty the tomatoes were: Robyn, who typically picks this red fruit off of her slices, found Jean Paul’s tomatoes to be succulent and non-negotiable. Perhaps they are the best part of this pizza. When something is made the right way, you just know. You can sense the skill involved in its recipe and the care taken in its creation. The personal investment in the product is transferred through the food and to the person eating it. Maybe this sounds a little hippy-dippy, but seriously you guys. You know it’s true. It’s why we don’t get the same pleasure from an Eggo waffle as we would a waffle at Taste of Belgium. Well, not if you are paying attention and have taste buds.
|Robyn's croutons, which were mighty tasty|
|No, thank YOU, Mr. Jean Paul and crew.|