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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

Clintonville Brunch Crawl: We dare you to squeeze all 3 stops into 1 day

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Clintonville is lovely this time of year, especially when you make three separate stops for brunch. 

Whether the weather is gracing the charming little burgh with a healthy dose of vitamin D or giving it a couple spins around the Lazy Susan that is Ohio’s climate, a trifecta of morning food destinations is sure to keep your mood afloat.

BLunch  • 2973 N High St.

blunchcolumbus.com

Yes, we know that Columbus now is home to a Drunch AND a BLunch.

Snicker all ya want—if you do, you’d be missing out on one of the culinary scene’s welcome newcomers—a half-day cafe that carries the comforts of a First Watch, but with the sophisticated execution of Tasi or Katalina’s.

The White Family has decades of hospitality under their belt—the family owned Galena’s Mudflats until recently, and dad Jeff has been running the OSU Faculty Club for the past 20 years.

Those two were training grounds for son Jeff, once a young, eager dishwasher and now head chef for the White’s new “daylight eatery and bar.” Mom Jane, despite her own admission that in the family’s tavern-running days breakfast didn’t get served until halfway through afternoon, now relishes an intimate spot where people can maintain their own balance between booze and breakfast.

A full-bar at brunch is a rarity in the peculiar little burg, and positioned near Lineage, Old Skool, and Condado, BLunch could be the perfect starting point for a casual Clintonville crawl.

Then again, you may not have another stop after Chef Jeff gets done with ya. He and the White family have concepted a bennies-and-batter focused menu, where you’ll be sure to come back after a healthy amount of indecision. Me? I’ve been dreaming about the Bananas Foster pancakes (topped with ice cream) and the huevos rancheros over masa cake for weeks. – Travis Hoewischer

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Dough Mama • 3335 N High St.

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Dough Mama is the top of my list for my favorite breakfast joint. I love so much about this place.

The atmosphere is super chill, laid back, and inviting. The food is so so good. I would call it comfort food with an extra sprinkle of love and thought.

From pie to salad, it’s all good.

They use a variety of local and seasonal ingredients and support some of my favorite local delicacies with Dan the Baker bread and Thunderkiss coffee … YUM! They also have a variety of vegan and gluten-free options.

I am smitten with the Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy muffin. This place is my go to for a yummy drippy egg, roasted potatoes, salad, a sweet treat and a perfect cup of coffee.

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My husband loves Grammie’s Sammie and a piece of Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. I somehow manage to splurge here and feel really really good about it.

Their menu has some great staples but they also always have specials that look and are amazing.

Right now they serve both lunch and breakfast during the day and I’ve heard it through the grapevine that they will soon be open in the evening and serving dinner. I cannot wait to see what delicious dishes they create for that menu. – Jana Rock

Baba’s • 2515 Summit St.

babascolumbus.com

Baba’s is my go-to breakfast spot in Columbus. You can grab a breakfast sandwich on their homemade griddle muffins (aka little pillows of heaven), order a rack of ribs, or in the spirit of Alabama Worley, have a slice of perfect pie and a cup of Thunderkiss coffee.

Their delicious baked goods are made in house, they smoke all of their own meats and their produce and coffee are all sourced locally, though their espresso will send you to the moon.

The service is fast, their team is super-friendly and there are never any pretentious vibes in the super chill atmosphere they have created on the corner of Hudson and Summit.

They’ve made a beautiful impact in their short existence in the SoHud neighborhood, fostering local artistic connections and bringing beautiful new mural art that rotates different artist from the community throughout the year. Don’t forget to grab one of their perfect cinnamon rolls for later. — Vanessa Jean Speckman

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Food & Drink

Harvest Pizzeria sowing last seeds in German Village

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Eight years ago, Harvest Pizzeria cropped up in a small space in German Village. Today, the local pizza chain announced the closure of its flagship location.

Harvest Pizzeria German Village will open its doors for the final time on Saturday, April 27th.

“Despite the success of Harvest in German Village and our strong ties to the neighborhood, the owner of the property will not honor our renewal of the lease,” wrote founder Chris Crader in an email. “…the landlord’s demands for a new lease at a higher rate would not allow our little pizzeria to remain viable.

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Crader added that he is proud of the strides Harvest German Village has made over the years, and thankful for the community that’s supported it. He hopes they can return to the neighborhood when the right spot presents itself.

As far as the employees go, Crader wrote that with the success of the other locations, the German Village workers will be able to join a team at another restaurant.

“Harvest sincerely thanks all of its loyal supporters and we hope to see you at our other locations soon,” wrote Crader.

This news follows the announcement of the Grandview Harvest closing back in February. Read more here.

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Food & Drink

Crawfish boils claw their way into Columbus Saturday

Mike Thomas

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What’s the deal with crawfish boils? Sure, they’re delicious, but as a true land-lubbing midwesterner, my knowledge of this particular culinary phenomenon is fairly lacking.

That said, I definitely can’t tell you why there are multiple crawfish boils going down this Saturday. Best not to overthink it—just enjoy the experience!

Pecan Penny’s |113 East Main Street
Saturday at 4 PM – 7 PM

Sponsored by Brewdog, downtown BBQ joint Pecan Penny’s is kicking off patio season with an all-you-can-eat Crawfish boil, complete with giveaways and a DJ.

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Rehab Tavern | 456 W Town St
2 PM – 6 PM

Rehab’s own 4/20 crawfish boil kicks off at 2:00. Your $15.75 entrance fee will net you a pint of beer in addition to all-you-can-eat crawfish and fixins’!

Can’t make either of these, or want to try the boil experience before committing to a large-scale event? Check out Kai’s Crab Boil or Boiling Seafood Crawfish—both on Bethel Road —for first-rate seafood experiences you won’t soon forget.

Why are there two crawfish boils on the same day? Why are there two crawfish restaurants on the same road? We may never know, and honestly, who cares? Crawfish is the bomb! Just put on your bib and get crackin’!

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