Alison Matas taste-tests pizza, Chuck’s berry salad, a loaded chip basket, Bavarian pretzel sticks, spinach and artichoke dip and a s’mores sundae at Kozmo’s Grille.
Kozmo’s Grille has been a staple in Massillon for more than a decade, occupying a historic, renovated building in the city’s downtown.
The restaurant describes itself as new American cuisine, and its menu offers grill items, pasta, seafood, sandwiches, salads, soups, appetizers, desserts and pizzas cooked in a hearthstone pizza oven.
The pizzas are pretty popular. Kozmo’s pies have won the judges’ award two years in the Massillon Pizza and Wings War, and they were named among a dozen must-eat dishes in Stark County in a past issue of About magazine. The pizzas and the story of the restaurant founders’ quest for the perfect pizza oven even gets its own billing on the website, separate from the menu.
So we went to try for ourselves.
We picked two specialty pizzas from a list that includes the traditional cheese and a deluxe that’s piled with meat and veggies.
The barbecue chicken pizza ($13.99) is topped with chicken and barbecue sauce plus caramelized onions, mozzarella, provolone, Gouda and cilantro. Our waitress said this pizza was her favorite, and it was ours, too. The combination of the sauce, cheese and onions provided plenty of flavor.
The Tuscan pizza ($13.99) also has chicken, along with tomato, red onion, pepper jack cheese, basil and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar. There were two bummers for me with this pizza: The red onion was cut in big strips and had been left raw before being baked, and the pepper jack cheese that ostensibly was the base of the dish didn’t offer any of that ooey-gooey, stringy, cheesy feel I like about pizza. Overall, the taste was somewhat bland, especially compared to the barbecue chicken.
Each of our pies had a chewy, thin crust made from homemade dough that I would have been happy to eat alone.
We paired the pies with Chuck’s berry salad ($9.29), which has apples, dried cranberries, toasted almonds and a Parmesan cheese tossed with a cran-apple vinaigrette. It was equal parts sweet and tart, with the vinaigrette being more like a cranberry chutney. The salad was refreshing and had good texture and crunch.
Beyond the pizzas, we attempted to make a dent in the massive menu. It’s wide-ranging: You can choose a shrimp and bacon-wrapped scallop skillet ($21.99), a filet ($17.99), a spicy crispy chicken sandwich ($7.99) or Asian Chile shrimp tacos ($8.59), among many other entrees.
Because we used the pizzas as our main course, we mostly stuck to starters and desserts.
I liked each of the dishes we tried.
The spinach and artichoke dip ($9.99) is made with brie and bacon, which gives it a richer flavor. It’s also full of piping hot artichoke and served with flatbread, which reminded me of the yummy pizza crust.
The Bavarian pretzel sticks ($7.99) are served with beer cheese dip and spicy honey mustard. Each was good, and the mustard definitely had a kick.
We got the homemade Kozmo chip basket and ordered it loaded ($7.99), which means it was piled with cheese, bacon, tomato and scallion with a side of sour cream. The toppings were only on the first layer of chips, but enough of the bacon and tomato had fallen off that we were able to scoop up the pieces and use a little sour cream to make our own loaded chips for the rest of the plate.
We finished with the s’mores sundae ($5.99) and a square of butter-fudge cake ($6.29). Both were topped with vanilla ice cream and were shareable sizes.
The s’mores sundae featured graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate baked in the pizza oven. It sounds like a great idea. But instead of the messy, melted chocolate you get over a campfire, this chocolate was burned, making it crumbly and kind of chalky.
I preferred the butter-fudge cake, which was a standard piece of chocolate cake with a drizzle of caramel sauce.
In addition to serving lunch and dinner, Kozmo’s Grille also hosts banquets in its upstairs facility.
[ 37 First St. SW, Massillon | 330-832-8807 | KOZMOSGRILLE.com | open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday ]