Columbus has lost a pizza great. Emilio “Mel” Joesph Ranalli died on Friday, January 26 at the age of 98.
Ranali was the owner of the iconic south end pizza joint, Johnny’s Pizza. With it’s crispy, grease filled pepperoni’s and unique cornmeal coated crust, Johnny’s was an institution for working class families like my own for decades.
Johnny’s Pizza was the food of my childhood. We spent a lot of time in the neighborhood, visiting my grandparents who moved to the South End in the 1950s and remained until they passed away just a few years ago. We had had Johnny’s Pizza at so many family gatherings, from birthday parties to Sunday suppers.
The first location opened in 1953 and was located on Parsons Ave. in the city’s south end. Like my grandparent’s, Ranalli’s dedication to the neighborhood would continue for decades. He would go own to own the restaurant for 47 years.
In addition to owning and operating the pizzeria, Ranalli was also an Army Veteran, having served in World War II. Ranalli’s visitation will be held February 5 at the John Quint Treboni Funeral Home, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a celebration of life service to follow.
Food has the power to bring people together and the pizza from Johnny’s did just that. Ranali’s legacy will live on in everyone who remembers exactly how incredible his food was.