Award-winning pizzas are a crowd pleaser

. February 22, 2013.

Question: What’s more fun than gathering the family and heading out for some fabulous pizza?
Answer: Grabbing some great friends to join you — making it a “pizza party.”

Which was exactly our plan on a recent family night out. No one in our party of ten had ever ventured to Charlie’s Homemade Pizza and Italian Cuisine in Saxon Square on Sylvania Avenue near McCord Road, though we'd always heard good reviews. By visiting the culinary unknown, we found a surprising treat.

Fresh twist on old favorites
About 15 years ago, what is now Charlie’s Homemade Pizza & Italian Cuisine opened as Charlie’s Homemade Pizza and Edibles. In 2011, Charlie Nyitray sold the pizza portion of his restaurant to Sylvania natives Steve and Laurie Weaver, creating two separate Charlie’s restaurants in the plaza, one savory and one sweet. The Weaver’s son, Steve Jr., is the chef and a partner in the business.

Steve Sr. brought years of business experience to Charlie’s, while Steve Jr. brought a fresh twist to some old favorites (he’s classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) and introduced many new menu items as well.

Charlie’s may be a small, unassuming eatery located in a modest plaza, but the from-scratch kitchen definitely makes it stand out. To my surprise, they offer so much more than just pizza. From baked ravioli, to fettuccini alfredo, to chicken marsala, you can tame all of  your cravings for Italian foods. “Our lasagna is probably the most popular of all our meals,” Weaver says. Our friend tried the lasagna for $11.50 and loved it, while my husband enjoyed the Primo Penne with Tuscan Garden Vegetables and chicken for $13.50. The minestrone soup that came with his entrée was very hearty and flavorful. We have yet to try Chef Steve’s homemade cheesecake, but we heard
it’s fabulous.

Award winning pizza
Ahhhh…now let’s talk pizza! My family loves good pizza. Charlie’s won Best Pepperoni and Cheese Pizza from the panel of expert judges at Toledo’s
2012 Pizza Palooza. They also have bragging rights with a  2nd place People’s Choice Award.
My boys split a pepperoni pizza on thick crust while my daughter and her friend enjoyed the margherita pizza. Both were wonderful. Though the pizza menu is extensive, I am still drooling over thoughts of their Bluto pizza, covered with alfredo sauce, spinach, garlic, chicken, artichokes, and feta and ricotta cheese, topped off with slivered almonds. It hit the spot for the adult palate. And they have a selection of craft beers on tap to complement any pie.

Pint size pizza makers
Charlie’s Homemade Pizza & Italian Cuisine is no doubt a family restaurant. They offer a great kid’s menu for children 10 and under for only $4.95 including drink. The younger ones at our table were occupied with crayons and the paper menu, which doubled as a coloring page.

One of the most popular items is the kid’s pizza. Their slogan? “You make it, we bake it!” My friend’s children chose this option for dinner. A small crust, sauce, cheese, and one topping of their choice was brought out to the table. The kids thoroughly enjoyed making their “designer pizzas” and sent them back to the kitchen to be baked. “We have a regular following of kids that come in to make a pizza,” Weaver says.

Other items on the kids’ menu include spaghetti, ravioli, cheesy noodles, and  hot dogs and chicken chunks for children who have trouble stepping out of their comfort zone. Every meal includes garlic bread or a choice of chips or applesauce.

We couldn’t avoid stopping next door at Charlie’s Homemade Ice Cream before heading home. It  was a sweet ending to a fun evening.

Bottom Line: Grown-up pizza lovers will enjoy sampling the varieties of Charlie’s award winning pizza, and kids will love the chance to assemble their very own pizzas. Fine Italian entrees offer something for more adult palates, too. Great food aside, parents will also love knowing that Charlie’s was among the Top 50 Cleanest Restaurants in Toledo in 2012!

Kid friendly: Yes
To avoid wait: Anytime….minimal wait on weekends after 6:30pm.
Noise level: Moderate
Bathroom amenities: No changing stations
High chairs: Yes
Got milk? Yes, as well as milk, Hawaiian Punch, lemonade, iced tea, Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, and Cherry Coke
Kids’ Menu: Yes, and kids can assemble their own cheese and toppings.

Karen Zickes is a mom of three active children and freelance writer who resides in Holland. She can be reached in c/o