Voted “Best Pizza in Ottawa County,” Port Clinton’s historic Bell Mell Tavern’s award-winning pizzas are baked using the same generation-old recipe in two Peerless CW61P Deck Ovens
Over 45 years ago, historic Bell Mell Tavern in the Ohio lakeside town of Port Clinton decided to start offering pizza. It was one of the first shops in town to do so, and pizza has been a mainstay in the popular gathering spot ever since.
In April 1976, the owners purchased a Peerless CW61P as the pizza side of the business continued to grow. And when the bar expanded and remodeled their kitchen to keep up with that growth, another Peerless CW61P was purchased and installed.
“This bar started doing pizza almost a generation ago,” said owner James Russell. “It was one of the first pizza places in Port Clinton. And we still use the same recipe to this day. We haven’t changed a thing. The owner’s brother, it was his recipe for the sauce and the dough. The following ownership continued to use the same recipe. I bought in as a partner around 1979 and we’re still using that same recipe to this day.”
Since then, that popular recipe has more than made a name for itself. Over the years, Bell Mell’s pizza has been voted “Best Pizza in Ottawa County” and continues to be a popular choice for pizza eaters in Port Clinton and beyond.
“We continued to use the same recipe in a little, small corner space with our first Peerless Oven,” Russell explained. “It was only around 12 by 16 feet, and it was always about 165 degrees in there. We really needed a space saver, and Peerless provided that for us. We remodeled the north side of the building to put in a kitchen where there used to be a barber shop. Our volume was picking up, so we needed to do something different. We bought another Peerless, and expanded and remodeled to add other food besides pizza. But pizza has always been our mainstay.”
Peerless’s space-saving design was crucial. “We’ve ended up putting so much equipment in there that we’re right down to the foot as far as space goes. I consider these ovens to be smaller than some of the other ovens on the market, but they fit perfectly into our kitchen environment,” he said.
The expansion was another chapter in the history of the tavern, which was opened in 1935. The building was originally a passenger train station for the Norfolk and Western Railroad, but while much has changed since then, Russell said choosing the Peerless CW61P was one he would make again today.
“We got a second one, and since then we really haven’t had that much maintenance on either of them,” he said. “We haven’t any problems, like replacing major parts. They’re built really simple, and they’ve held up wonderfully. We do a big volume here, whether it be for eat-in or carryout. We have quite a reputation because we never change anything. We put plenty of ingredients on, and we never skimp on anything. We use the best ingredients on our pizza, and we do really well with that. “
Russell went on to say that if he ever needed another oven, Peerless would be his choice.
“If I ever needed another oven, I would go nowhere but Peerless,” he said. “I wouldn’t even look at another design or another model. There’s nothing out there that compares to a Peerless. They’re local, and they’ve always taken good care of me. I wouldn’t consider even an estimate from another company — I’d go right back to Peerless. When I show people the kitchen, I always tell them about our Peerless ovens. I would recommend them to anyone else who was looking to start a pizza business.”
Bell Mell Tavern
Jim Russell, Owner
307 Fulton Street
Port Clinton, Ohio 43452
1 (419) 732-2760