Inspired by the classic Italian trattoria, or casual restaurant, A Tavoola brought this concept to Cincinnati as an eatery that offers shareable bites in a less formal setting. Now with locations both in downtown’s Over-the-Rhine and in Maderia on the East Side. Pizzas, pastas and other shareables dominate this menu and there are more than a few good drinks to try. A Tavoola brings a concept to areas that really benefit from having something like it, and I like the concept for its welcoming interior.
A chain that usually can be found in nice suburbs of cities across the United States, The Melting Pot bases its menu off of a pretty different menu item: fondue. Whether food is being cooked in cheese, or a hot broth, or you’re feeling a dessert and the food is in chocolate, the restaurant specializes in the simple love of a romantic dinner meant to be shared among a couple or a small group of people. It’s not a place where you go lightly, the prices are a bit higher and the attire is certainly a little nicer, but the end result is a very pleasant experience.
As one of the most upscale dining options in Dayton’s Oregon District, Roost Modern Italian is the favored creation of Chef Dana Downs, one of the best chefs in the city. The spot doesn’t occupy a lot of real estate, but in its short time in operation the restaurant has driven a huge following for its refined menu. The innovative concept takes numerous classic Italian dishes and gives them a contemporary tint with some refinement. It’s not always easy to get in, but there’s a good reason; the restaurant blends European flavors with Midwestern palettes.
As a bookend to the Oregon District, Franco’s Ristorante Italiano foregoes the more modern feel or nightlife option of many of its counterparts in order to be more of a classic nicer Italian dining establishment. Chief on the menu are pastas of just about all kinds in just about any way you would like them. Distinctly more low-key than many of the other places in this part of town, but no less quality to be sure. That said, the food is good, the professionalism of the staff is top notch and the price points really aren’t that bad. Franco’s would be an experience best shared with a few friends or maybe a date.
Opened by the owners of next-door Holy Grail at Cincy’s upscale The Banks development, Santo Graal is an Italian concept with one very cool idea: Pizza by the slice at The Banks — it’s novel, especially with all of the bars that bring people out en masse to this area. It’s hard to get out of most of the restaurants here without paying a pretty penny, if you can manage the crowds especially on the weekends when just about every venue is shoulder-to-shoulder. In that context, $5 for a slice of pizza seems like a pretty good deal. The pizza here isn’t going to blow your mind away, but it’s another take on the “drunk food” business model for a different city.
Almost hidden within the Mall at Fairfield Commons in the east Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, you nonetheless don’t want to miss Spinoza’s Pizza for its great salads and even better pizza pies. The spot has an extensive menu of pies and salads to go along with them, and the sit-down nature of the business makes it an ideal place to bring some friends and enjoy a good pie. The pizzas you will try here are certain to be memorable.
As the bustling Pittsburgh metro area has grown, its insatiable appetite for pizza has meant the fast growth of a lot of pizza shops around town. So it has been with Pizza Milano, a medium-range delivery and dine-in pizza chain which has now grown to five locations around the city. This spot’s take out pizza business is a boon both to college students and people around the city who love to dine in, and while you’ll find something a little different at each location, it’s all-in-all a pleasant place to eat.
The Spaghetti Warehouse is a small chain that has trickled into the Midwest and South since being founded in Dallas in 1972. It’s a particularly unique concept too; usually set up in a very industrial-feeling space, you set foot inside the expansive restaurant and find yourself surrounded by classic memorabilia, a trolley to dine in, and altogether a very homey feel. Live music permeates the are in the evenings and the former warehouse altogether gives off something of a gritty, genuine vibe. The Italian specialties within are good.
The St. Anne’s Hill historic district just east of downtown Dayton holds many interesting surprises. While the well-traveled routes of Oregon District and Wayne Avenue are only a mile away, most people who go there never make their way this direction. In that environment, humble, neighborhood establishments like New York Pizzeria thrive. Focused on delivering pizza and Italian classics to the surrounding neighborhoods, New York Pizzeria makes good on a delicious and always likable pastas and sandwiches. Often passed by, I say it’s a good spot for this neighborhood.