'Za Rules

Wherefore art thou, Romeo's Pizza? In three new cities soon.

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Medina's Wizard of 'Za, Sean Brauser, and partner Jeremy Galvin continue their march toward world pizza domination with plans to open Romeo's Pizza locations in Amherst and Solon before summer's end, and Strongsville by the end of the year. Their kingdom promises to be a peaceable one, its populace cheerfully sedated by massive slabs of gooey, intensely seasoned pies, at least several of which come with prestigious pedigrees.

Take the meat-loaded Butcher Shop pizza. We fell in love with this bad boy during a visit to Brauser's original Medina location (3825 Pearl Road, 330-723-6111). A combo of savory-sweet tomato sauce and top-quality pepperoni, bacon, sausage, meatballs, and finely diced ham on a freshly made crust, it took the title of Best Gourmet Pizza in the Midwest in 2002 and 2004 from the Mid-American Soft Serve and Pizza Show.

Then there's the Great Ranch and Potato number -- declared America's Greatest Gourmet Pizza at the 2004 American Pizza Championship in N.Y.C., its tender crust slathered with bacon-ranch sauce and groaning beneath a cargo of buttery roasted potato wedges, fennel-scented Italian sausage, and toasted almond slices sprinkled with ranch seasoning. We dug into this show-stopper at Romeo's Westlake location, open since January at 2064 Clague Road (440-331-1155).

While Amherst and Solon will be the guys' first franchised shops, don't look for expansion to spoil them. Galvin, who describes their business plan as a chain of "frandependent" pizzerias, promises for each the individualized service of an independent, combined with the consistency of the big franchises.

Hudson hoopla . . . Beginning Tuesday, June 14, visitors to Hudson's First & Main retail center can grab a seat on the new 50-seat patio at upscale Vue Restaurant & Lounge (49 Village Way, 330-650-1883). The alfresco option won't be limited to dinner: Executive Chef and partner Gregg Korney is launching lunch service from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, starting June 7.

At the same time, that stalwart of the Hudson fine-dining scene, The Inn at Turner's Mill (36 E. Streetsboro Street, 330-656-2949), has scrapped its midday operations. Official word is that the Inn hasn't even noticed the competition from all the neighborhood newbies like Vue, Exec Chef Shawn Monday's nearby Downtown 140 (140 N. Main Street, 330-656-1294), and Brandt Evans' Blue Canyon Kitchen in Twinsburg (8960 Wilcox Drive, 330-486-BLUE). The Turner's Mill source declined to elaborate.

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