Friday, June 20, 2014


My first experience with Inner Circle Pizza happened quite a number of years ago, when my husband Jack was teaching freshman English classes at Youngstown State University. The final “class,” at which students turned in the research papers on which they’d been working during the quarter, usually took place at the Inner Circle that at the time was on Lincoln Avenue across from the YSU campus. Some students sat and chatted a while, some had to run in, drop off their papers and run to another final exam, and one or two stayed long enough to enjoy pizza or a burger.

When Jack stopped classroom teaching and switched to supervising student teachers in the English Department, those quarterly outings at Inner Circle came to a halt as well. From then on, I doubt we went there more than once or twice. More recently, we enjoyed visits to the Inner Circle that was open for a while in the Eastwood Mall complex (where Wing Warehouse is now), and after we moved from Niles to Mineral Ridge, we made it a couple of times to the Inner Circle on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown.

Needless to say, it’s a place we’ve enjoyed over the years, but one location we hadn’t visited is the Inner Circle in Canfield. That omission came to an end a few weeks ago - and we found that this one is noticeably different from the others. First and foremost, the wide variety of pizzas has been pared down considerably. My all-time favorite, the IC Hot, wasn’t on the menu - although happily, my second favorite, spinach and tomato (spinach, fresh-cut tomatoes topped with cheese, spices and garlic is still there.

The interior is quite spacious - the familiar brick is here as at other locations - and there’s a large bar in the center of the main dining area. Lots of windows let light in, and there are several large-screen plasma TV sets here and there (eight, the website says, but we didn’t count). 

We’d come because we bought one of those dining coupons - spend $10 up front for a $20 certificate - and, of course, because we wanted to see this location. We got there about 1:30 on a Thursday, and the place was fairly crowded, although we had no trouble being seated right away. Much of the crowd was gone by the time our food arrived - more on that later - so we figured folks in Canfield tend to eat lunch a bit later than elsewhere.
We did have a bit of a wait after being seated, but once our server appeared, we ordered drinks (ignoring the extensive list of martinis and specialty drinks and sticking with beers). Then we took some time to look over the menu, although we both had a pretty good idea what we wanted when we went in. We peeked at the list of daily specials (on Thursdays, it’s penne with meatballs, chicken parmesan  and baked Tuscan pasta with sausage, peppers, mushrooms, onions and cheese. The penne was tempting, but the others just seemed to be too much for lunch.

There are quite a number of salads, including one called the Youngstown Chicken Salad that sounded especially good: Grilled chicken breast with greens, tomato, carrots, black olives with French fries and cheese. Calzones and stromboli are specialties here as well, with several options from which to choose. From the appetizer list, I want to try the hot peppers in oil with breadsticks sometime soon - this time out, my stomach just wasn’t ready to take the heat for some reason.

Of course, I was disappointed that “my” hot-pepper pizza wasn’t available, but judging from past experience, I was confident that the spinach and tomato one would work just fine. I went with the small 6-inch version ($4.75) so I could add a cup of wedding soup to start ($3.95). Remembering how great the burgers used to be, Jack ordered the Circle burger for $7.75. Sandwiches here don’t come with fries, but you can add them for $2.49; because he wasn’t all that hungry, he declined. 

Once we’d placed our order, we really had a wait until my soup was delivered. It was quite tasty with lots of broth, fresh greens, celery, chicken and those tiny meatballs in a generous-sized cup. I would have preferred it much hotter - it was just a cut above lukewarm - but since it was delicious I made short work of it anyway. 

Next up was my pizza, neatly cut in four pieces. Our server told Jack his burger would take “a few more minutes,” and I finished half of my pizza (and gave Jack about a third of my soup when it was apparent his burger wasn’t going to be forthcoming) before the sandwich arrived with an apology from the server, who told us the cook didn’t see the burger on the original ticket and had to play catch-up. It was, however, worth at least some of the wait, loaded with mushrooms, onions, peppers and melted cheese.

As for the pizza, it was as yummy as ever - the flavored dough is especially wonderful. There’s enough spinach to taste but not turn the whole thing green, and it’s topped with very thin whole slices of tomato, plenty of cheese and enough garlic to add zest but not overwhelm.

When my pizza arrived, I told our server I also wanted an order of cinnamon dippers - fried warm breadsticks about an inch wide loaded with cinnamon sugar and a container of ooey-gooey white frosting to dip them in ($3.99). They’re a treat I enjoyed back in those YSU days, and I was delighted that they hadn’t gone by the boards. In fact, I waited to place the order because I was afraid they’d be delivered too early and cool down by the time I was ready to eat them.

Once we’d finished up, our server stopped to ask if we wanted anything else, and I reminded her about the dippers. Oh yes, she said, scurrying to put in the order. In five minutes or less, we were happily scarfing them down as fast as we could. Yum!

If you go:

Inner Circle Pizza
6579 Ironwood Blvd.
Canfield, Ohio 44410
(330) 533-7575

Open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.