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Strip Mall Surprise: Italian gem tucked away in Reynoldsburg

Aaron Wetli

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Welcome to Strip Mall Surprise, a place to celebrate the history, atmosphere and cuisine of some of the best restaurants in the 614. There are only two requirements: delicious food and a strip mall storefront. For our inaugural edition, we traveled to Scali Ristorante in Reynoldsburg for some of the tastiest, authentic Italian food in Central Ohio.

Owning a restaurant has always been Frank Scali’s dream, and he found the perfect partner for that endeavor in his wife Judy. The couple met while working together at an Italian restaurant (the former Baci Ristorante on South High), and it’s safe to say that food is in their blood. Frank’s family hails from Southern Italy and Judy’s from Northern Italy and those influences marry (literally and figuratively) into their relationship and culinary styles.

Opened in 1993, Scali is the kind of restaurant where regulars become friends and friends become family. The Scalis chose to open their restaurant in Reynoldsburg because there were no Italian restaurants on the east side at the time. The Scalis attribute their success to making connections, friends and lasting relationships.

For seating options, Scali has a cozy dining area, full-service bar and counter that looks directly into the kitchen. The kitchen is clean and open, and the chef and his crew run a tight shift while laughing and joking with the talented and tenured wait staff.

Scali also offers a quality array of wine for dining in and retail wines to go. For dinner, we chose a bottle of 2010 Rosso Di Montalcino which had a medium body with hints of spice and fruit. Like most wines on the menu, the price was right and the bottle was unique.

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THE APPETIZER

The Shrimp Cognac was exactly what it sounds like. Recommended by our server Andrea, it featured large shrimp sautéed in Cognac and topped with Gorgonzola—rich and creamy with a smoky finish.

ENTREES

Our philosophy going into the evening was to not pick items (food or drink) that we could find at other local Italian restaurants. We knew that Scali served authentic Italian cuisine so that is what we ordered. Megan chose the Vitello Saltimbocca.

Thinly sliced veal topped with prosciutto, cooked in a white wine butter sauce and topped with sage, this dish is every bit as enticing as it sounds. The food came out of the kitchen piping hot, and the textures and flavors complemented each other supremely. While this dish was filling, it was not overbearing.

I ordered the hearty, mouthwatering Brasciole—Frank’s favorite dish to make. For those not familiar, this dish is comparable to a meatloaf but consists of sirloin stuffed with salami and capicola ham, and mozzarella, Romano and provolone cheeses—all baked together in a red sauce. This entrée is a Master’s level class in the union between meat, cheese, sauce, and pasta—and you need to study the syllabus.

DESSERT

At this point in the evening, we were reaching maximum capacity, but Judy talked us into looking at the dessert menu. We weren’t planning on ordering anything, but our meal was impressive enough to warrant taking a peek.

The delicious Cannoli filling consisted of ricotta cheese, chocolate chips, cinnamon and vanilla and was custom made by Judy, who also makes the Tiramisu and Panna Cota. (If this was the Cannoli from The Godfather, I can understand why Clemenza wouldn’t leave it in the car.) 

So there you have it, a delectable and authentic Italian dinner served by a locally owned family business that just happens to be in a strip mall. If you find yourself east of route 71 (or in the Eastern Time Zone), make a reservation at Scali Ristorante – you won’t be disappointed.

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Food & Drink

Riesling and Relaxation: Dublin’s new wine bar puts hospitality first

Mike Thomas

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While a spontaneous trip to the Napa Valley might be out of your budget, fans of wine in Central Ohio can experience a taste of the California lifestyle right in the heart of Dublin.

“I spent a lot of time on the west coast in my previous professional life, and it has just become the inspiration for the vibe in the space,” explains Coast Wine House owner Dustin Snow, who recently opened shop after pivoting out of a career in corporate retail. “We want to transport you to a different place, and the kind of optimism and pace of life in California is something that we wanted to bring here as much as we could.”

Since opening their doors in late 2019, Snow and his wife and business partner Molly had a clear vision for their business. Turned off by the decidedly highbrow atmosphere of the traditional wine bar, the two hoped to create a relaxing, unpretentious environment for their guests to enjoy.

Photos: Olivia K. James

“People are drinking wine a lot. They’re drinking it at home, they are drinking it [while] out to dinner, but it didn’t seem like they were really going to wine bars,” Snow says of the research that he and his team undertook before opening Coast. “Through that research, we developed a space that was just as much about the wine as it was about creating a really approachable, relaxed, comfortable environment.”

Even from the street, the homey, welcoming nature of Coast Wine House is immediately obvious. Converted from an old residential home near the heart of Old Dublin, the interior of the space charms with its rustic hardwood floors, dinner table-style seating, and inviting hearth.

“Our number one thing is that we want you to feel like you’re coming into our home and sharing a glass of wine with us, as opposed to bellying up to a crowded bar,” Snow says of the wine house’s laid-back vibes.

Not exactly a wine connoisseur? No problem. You won’t find the words “fine wines” used anywhere at Coast, nor will a sommelier try to drill you with hard science about tannins and terroir. Instead, Snow’s hospitality-first approach focuses on the stories surrounding individual winemakers, helping the drinker understand the unique values behind each product.

Above all, Coast Wine House explores the potential of wine to serve as the centerpiece to meaningful social interaction. To that end, Snow knew that the modern, resurgent Dublin would serve as the perfect home for his business.

“Dublin is doing everything right to get people to live here, to play here, and to work here. Bridge Park is evidence of that,” he says. “There are a lot of young families moving outside the outer belt, and [Dublin] is becoming a model for this sort of post-suburban community that I think a lot of other communities from around the country are going to look at Dublin and say, ‘OK, what are they doing and how can we replicate that?’”

To help promote exploration, the menu at Coast typically features 15–20 wine-by-the- glass options. Visitors can also sample 2 oz. pours, either just to taste, or for a “make your own flight” experience. For the casual wine drinker, there are plenty of familiar favorites (Cabernet, Chardonnay) with plenty more that might be less commonly known—a Kerner from Northern Italy, Aglianico from Southern Italy, or the Carignon from Santa Barbara, to name just a few.

With apologies to the TGIF set, you won’t find margaritas or cheap happy hour deals here. What Coast does offer is a lineup of classic cocktails that speak to the winemaking tradition, highlighting ingredients like sherry and vermouth—both of which are actually fortified wines. For the ardent hop heads, Coast keeps a selection of locally- produced brews on-hand as well.

A menu of light shareables joins the mix, currently featuring such classic, wine-friendly staples as cheese, olives, and hummus. Snow plans to grow this portion of the menu in time, but emphasizes that the fare on display will never amount to full-size entrees.

Coast’s in-house bottle shop has around 130 wines from around the world in stock. Whether you take one to go, or open it right there, Snow and his team will help you select the right bottle for any taste or occasion. Right now, a Piquepoul de Pinet is one of his favorites.

“Piquepoul is a dry white wine out of Southern France. It is bright, it’s refreshing, it’s got a good balance of citrus and minerality, and it’s really, really well-priced,” he explains. “It’s very approachable—one that we would call a ‘porch pounder’ around these parts.”

For a sample of Coast’s wine-centered social environment, check out one of its special events. Past events have included an exclusive 12 seat dinner highlighting four to five wines of a particular winemaker, or an engagement featuring $10 flights showcasing wine-producing regions from around the globe.

Looking for a place to enjoy a glass of wine without the pretensions of many wine bars and specialty shops? Just head for the Coast.

To learn more, visit Facebook, and be sure to check coastwinehouse.com.

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Food & Drink

Lent Lowdown: 5 of our favorite Friday fish spots

Mike Thomas

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Not having grown up in the Catholic tradition, I have little firsthand experience of Lent. To me, a consummate junk food junkie, this time of year has meant a chance to snag a discounted filet-o-fish from McD's and not much else.

Not content to wallow in ignorance through another season of Lent, I took to Google to learn the meaning behind this religious observance. While I'm still a few credits shy of a degree in theology, good old Wikipedia managed to shed some light on the history and tradition behind this time of prayer, penance, and self-denial.

Even if some basic research yields a wealth of knowledge on the subject, the widely known facts remain essential to the experience of Lent. If you're observing tradition, you're probably giving something up for 40 days. You might be fasting, or spending more time in prayer. But for all the faithful, a big unifying factor is the "no meat on Friday" rule that typically leads to an uptick in fish consumption.

Looking for the best places to score the goods on these meatless Fridays? 614NOW has you covered. Refer to this list of favorite local establishments that are ready to serve your Lenten needs.

Old Bag of Nails | Multiple Locations

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkbCLjYn9kF/

This popular central Ohio chain stocks plenty of seafood favorites year round, but Lent is truly their time to shine. Dinners, platters, or po' boys - blackened, Cajun, or fried. This menu is overflowing with the sea's bounty, but the star of the show is the British Style Fish & Chips ($13.99).

Queen's Table | Find the truck

The official meal of Comfest—The Fish Boat—is actually available year-round, but it's not the easiest to come by. Queen's Table operates as a food truck throughout the year, so be on the lookout for the Columbus seafood classic next time you need a lent-friendly lunch. (Sites like street food finder are a big help in tracking down your favorite mobile eats.)

Mitchell's Fish Market | 1245 Olentangy River Rd, Columbus

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtoboFwAQUF/

Need I say more? For a high-end Friday night out, you really can't go wrong with this campus-adjacent seafood joint from Columbus' culinary king.

City BBQ | Multiple Locations

Each year on honor of Lent, Columbus' BBQ favorite adds fish to their normally red-meat centered menu. Now through April 4, dishes featuring southern-fried catfish and Atlantic smoked salmon join the party. City BBQ's catfish is some of the best around, and is definitely worth seeking out at least once during this limited annual appearance.

Rooster's | Multiple Locations

https://www.instagram.com/p/BurXnaJgR_e/

We all know it's a fun casual joint, but did you know they have fish on the menu? Easily lost in the shuffle between dumpster fries and the biggest wings around, Rooster's generously-sized battered fish sandwich comes in at a very wallet friendly $7.59. And after all, cheese-covered tots are Lent friendly, aren't they?

Of course, fish fries will be going down across numerous churches throughout the season. This handy list from WBNS will help you find one close to you.

What are your go-to places to eat during Lent? Let us know in the comments.

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2 Columbus chefs in the running for top culinary award

614now Staff

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For the first time in eight years, Columbus chefs will vie for coveted honors from the James Beard Foundation according to Columbus Monthly.

Celebrating its 30th year in 2020, the James Beard Award is considered one of the culinary field's highest honors. Ray Rays Hog Pit owner James Anderson has been named as a semifinalist for the honor of "Best Chef: Great Lakes," while Spencer Budros, co-owner of Pistacia Vera, was nominated for Outstanding Baker.

The last time Columbus chefs were considered for an award from the foundation was 2012, when chefs Richard Blondin and Kent Rigsby were named semifinalists.

Finalists for the awards will be announced on March 25.

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