Cutting-Edge Pizza

April 2011
Written By: 
Ashley Morris

Donatos brings a slice of Ohio to the Grand Strand

It all started with a college kid from O-H-I-O, who had a little dough.

And that $1,300 down payment dough on a small pizza place in Columbus, Ohio, back in 1963 has since made Jim Grote a lot of, well, dough and pizza dough–all in the name of Donatos.

But it’s because he rolled three P’s into pizza–a great product, great people and strong principles–that Donatos has found such delicious success in hundreds of restaurants in five states.

It’s why local owner Mike Zemke, who had been VP of operations for Divine Dining Group and Ultimate California Pizza for 14 years, was enticed to join the company and open the first Donatos in the market in Garden City in February. “I just fell in love with the pizza and the edge-to-edge toppings concept is different than any other,” he says. “Plus, being able to see at headquarters that their corporate philosophy is all about community was really impressive.”

It is obvious by a packed dining room that Zemke, whose culinary tenure ranges from a pizza prowess since the age of 16 to catering experience to a stint as executive chef in Aspen, Colo., will have no problem spreading his love of Donatos, with the wealth of Ohio natives who have migrated to the Grand Strand.

The difference is in the details, like Donatos’ toppings that crowd out the hand-tossed crust, a sweeter Italian sauce and fresh-cut veggies and mozzarella. The signature thin-crust Chicken Spinach Mozzarella pizza is a masterpiece medley of roasted chicken, garlic, Roma tomatoes and fresh spinach.

Breadsticks dusted with garlic are perfection.
For those who want to watch their weight in pizza, NoDough pizzas–any of the more than a dozen pizza combinations, minus the dough–are gluten-free, but baked full of flavor. Donatos also tosses up veggie oven-baked subs and tasty salads like Chicken Harvest (chicken and bacon with apples, pecans and cranberries, with apple cider vinaigrette).

Look for future Donatos openings on the Grand Strand and into Charleston.