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Few foods are as fabled or fickle as the tomato. Too much water and they spot, too much sun and they rot, and the ones in the grocery store always pale in comparison to those you buy off a tailgate or on the side of the road. That’s where you’ll find Dick Capuano most days [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Few foods are as fabled or fickle as the tomato.

Too much water and they spot, too much sun and they rot, and the ones in the grocery store always pale in comparison to those you buy off a tailgate or on the side of the road.

That’s where you’ll find Dick Capuano most days from late April to early September. His homegrown tomato stand adorned in traditional Italian green, white, and red is on the same stretch of land his ancestors settled more than a century ago.

“I grew up here. Mom and Dad always had a garden, so I always had a rototiller in my hands,” he recalled. “I love tomatoes, and once people have a homegrown one, they keep coming back for them.”

You won’t find San Margherita on every map, and if you drive through too fast, you might miss it entirely. The tiny unincorporated village, just west of the Scioto River, was founded by Italian immigrants who toiled in the nearby quarry. They eventually built homes and planted gardens along the edge of what is now Trabue Road. Most of the original settlers had ties to the same province in the old country, whose patron Saint Margaret inspired the name of their new community.

“Everyone who lived here between the two tracks grew something, and maybe had chickens, a hog, or a cow. It’s how they got by and survived,” Capuano explained. “It’s how San Margherita stayed San Margherita. Everyone had their own grapes and made their own wine, they grew plenty of vegetables, and they all had plenty to eat.”

Development is slowly swallowing those plots of land and the heritage of those who once lived there. There are only a handful of descendants of the first families still living or working in San Margherita. Some of the land remains idle, and still supports farms like Capuano’s, where his better years have boasted upwards of nearly 2,000 plants. Most of these are varieties of tomatoes, but various peppers and signature grapes are always in high demand.

“My time is up October 15, which is after the end of the season,” he explained, hoping that the land’s new owners might let him keep planting depending on their timeline for development. “I really don’t know what’s going to happen next year.”

It’s not the first time Capuano has faced such uncertainty and seeming futility. During his tour in Vietnam, it was his responsibility to remove roadside mines and clear the way for convoys, only to do the same thing the following day after fresh mines were planted under the cloak of night. A firefight earned him a Purple Heart, but he’s put more than his share of blood and sweat into his tomato stand only to see it threatened by another invisible enemy.

“I used to sell out of the garage,” he recalled. “But in 2005 I moved closer to the road and the stand has been here ever since.”

Capuano keeps it simple and predictable. Crops grow on the same soil year after year. He turns under the plants to go back into the soil over the winter and repeats the process the following spring, planting fresh tomato plants entirely by hand.

Only tomato enthusiasts can truly appreciate the depth of his bench, like baseball cards lined up on a giant table waiting to be discovered by a new generation of loyal fans. From contemporary classics like Early Girls and Carolina Gold to vintage heirloom varieties like Kellogg’s Breakfast and Gigantesque, if you can’t find the perfect taste and texture of tomato, you’re just not looking.

“I pull them before they get too big and start to split, then let them ripen the rest of the way on my porch before bringing them to the stand,” he explained. “But the rain we’ve had the past couple of weeks combined with the heat means this is the last of them.”

Don’t count Capuano out too soon. His cousin Joe still has a plot of land just down the road, and though it’s increasingly hard for anyone his age to plan too far ahead, one year at a time is as good a plan as any. He’s technically been retired as a carpenter for nearly three decades already, and despite the long hours and hot days in the field and at the stand, he’s not quite willing to let it go just yet.

“When I retired, I decided to go into my garden as my little hobby, and it just kept growing,” he said. “It’s hard work in the field, but it’s also peaceful here in the shade. I guess you could call it my man cave.”

 

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Food & Drink

Cold Front Incoming: 2 new spots for frozen treats in central Ohio

Mike Thomas

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Fans of frozen treats in central Ohio are in for a double scoop of good news.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream has announced plans to open its first central Ohio location in 2020 at 1515 Gemini Place, just north of Polaris Fashion Place.

The Pennsylvania-based ice creamery has 150 rotating ice cream flavors, with 24 offered each day. All of Bruster's ice creams are made in-house.

Can't wait for 2020 to get your frozen fix? Check out Chilljoy Frozen Treatery, a new concept slinging Hawaiian shave ice and Johnson’s Real Ice Cream on the go.

Chilljoy's frosty ices are served with traditional and tropical syrups, purees and toppings of your choice. Catch this operation on the go, as all of these treats are served straight from a classic 1959 Chevy delivery van.

To find the Chilljoy van or view its offerings, visit www.chilljoyft.com.

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Food & Drink

Frankly, you’ll love the new hot dog restaurant open now in Graceland

614now

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Hot-diggity-dog, there's a new hot dog stand in central Ohio! Links-N-Lemonade has completed its transition from food truck-only to brick-and-mortar, slinging creatively-topped dogs in the Graceland Shopping Center.

Links-N-Lemonade's menu consists of several hot dogs topped with different sauces and sides like cole slaw, coney sauce, and fries. Customers can opt for the classic all-beef dog or go for the veggie option.

Guests can choose from predetermined loaded hot dogs or customize their own with up to 10 toppings. Fresh-cut fries, both loaded and not, and fresh-squeezed lemonade are also offered.

Owner Damon Owens began serving his all-beef, quarter-pound dogs out of a food cart in 2011 with hopes of opening a restaurant soon thereafter.

Columbus Dispatch reports the recession slowed him down, but income from a coveted spot at Tanger Outlets Columbus off Interstate 71 put him in position to buy a food truck in 2017. From there came the 128 Graceland Blvd. restaurant, which opened in June.

Damon continues to operate his food truck, having just made an appearance at the Columbus Food Truck Festival.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information visit linksnlemonade.com.

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Food & Drink

“Fun, casual joint” coming to Dublin area very soon

614now

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There will be one more "fun, casual joint" in the near future. Roosters Wings will open a new location in the Dublin area on September 3!

This Week News reports the chicken spot will take over the former Logan's Roadhouse at 7110 Sawmill Rd.

Roosters has been the reigning champ in the Best Wings category of ColumBest for years on end.

This will be the 41 Roosters location throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

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