It’s had a more than half-century run at Cross Country Plaza in Columbus, but the once-popular pizza and Italian food restaurant Deorio’s has closed its doors for good at 3201 Macon Road.
The eatery was known for its pizzas, grinders and Italian dishes such as spaghetti and lasagna. Online reviews indicate that Deorio’s has experienced some high and low points in recent years, although it still maintained a loyal following.
“We hate to lose them. They’ve been here 55 years. It was basically a mutual decision that the family made to close it,” Cross Country Plaza property manager Vickie Smith said Monday.
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The eatery quietly shut its doors in mid-June, she said, with the restaurant space also suffering from some plumbing issues. The family of longtime owner Joan Thompson, who died in January 2014, had been operating it since then.
“You know, the restaurant business is a hard business to be in, and you have just about every restaurant you can think of up in north Columbus,” Smith said. “So it’s hard for the locals to compete, especially when you’re not restaurant people ... They made the decision to close the restaurant and not continue to operate it.”
The owners of Deorio’s could not be immediately reached Monday. But family friend Paul Voorhees, the founder of the Ranger Joe’s military supply stores, confirmed that the Italian restaurant had become difficult for Thompson’s family to operate.
“I hate to see it go out. I grew up with the Peluso family that started that,” Voorhees said. “We all went to Benning Hills Elementary and Baker (High School) together and we’re all still friends. I raised my kids (eating at the restaurant). My daughter went to school with Gus’s children.”
Voorhees was reached by phone at Willy Good Pizza and More at 7042 Moon Road, a restaurant started by Willy Patterson, the former head cook at Deorio’s. While he’s 72 years old and retired from Ranger Joe’s, Voorhees purchased Patterson’s business in January amid the pizza veteran’s bout with cancer.
“I’m trying to save family and friends a job. I’m just doing this to keep people working. I don’t run it,” Voorhees said. “Willy will come back sometimes for a day or two, but he has a hard time standing because the cancer was in his legs and the surgery was pretty radical.”
Smith at Cross Country Plaza said she is beginning to market the former Deorio’s space, although she concedes it will have to be completely renovated for a new tenant. It’s just under 2,000 square feet.
“We’re open to putting anything in there,” she said. “We wouldn’t mind seeing another restaurant in there and we’ve got several people we’re talking to about it, but just nothing that’s come through yet.”
The former El Vaquero Mexican restaurant space on the hill at Cross Country Plaza, which has been vacant since early January, also may be getting closer to being occupied again, Smith said.
“We’ve got two really good prospects looking at it and we feel one of the two of them will come through, I would say, within the next 90 days at the latest,” she said.
And while Voorhees did purchase Willy Good Pizza and More to keep Patterson’s people employed, he said buying Deorio’s was not an option. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t mind using the Ranger Joe’s name for a possible pizza operation at some point.
“I would be interested one day in putting in some Ranger Joe’s pizza places,” he said. “If I did Ranger Joe’s Pizza, I would take these (Deorio’s and Willy Good Pizza) recipes and franchise it out. We have property off three different military bases, one of them at Fort Bragg. It’s just land, but we could build anything.”