There is something notably special about walking into a mom-and-pop restaurant. It may be your first visit, but they still make you feel like family. I always imagine Grandma is in the back cooking, and cousins are working the host stand. Most importantly, they contribute so much to their local communities and have added to the vibrant food scene in their city for decades. These mom-and-pop Italian restaurants are homey and rich with history and happen to have some of the best chicken Parmesan in Columbus.
•Villa Nova Ristorante is a time capsule of 80s nostalgia with brass teapot-lined shelves, stained glass light fixtures, and framed Italian landscapes. The restaurant, located in Old Worthington, has been around for over forty years, possibly why it feels like someone’s Nonna has blessed the kitchen. Villa’s Chicken Parmesan is surrounded by a well-seasoned crust layered with house-made tomato sauce and LOTS of melty provolone and mozzarella. The tomato sauce (or should I say “gravy”) is thick and slow-cooked, pulling out the meaty and acidic flavors of the tomato that beautifully clings to the crisp chicken as you perform a cheese string pull. Delicioso!
Must have – Villa’s cheesecake, beautifully encapsulated in a buttery graham crust, is a must- even if you must take it to go!
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•Scali Ristorante, located in an unassuming shopping plaza in Reynoldsburg, is one of Columbus’ best-kept Italian secrets. The open kitchen concept allows guests seated at the bar to watch the action as pasta is tossed and plates are garnished. Scali’s pollo Parmigiano is well-seasoned, and the all-white meat is juicy, finished with melted provolone, and brightened by the herbaceous tomato sauce. Scali perfectly executes this classic Italian dish, allowing the diner to taste the individual layers crowned in homemade sauce. This meal will transport you to southern Italy and is best enjoyed at a long table with friends and family.
Must have – Scali’s tiramisu is one of the most authentic I have had outside of Italy
•Morretti’s has developed a cult following for Mom-and-Pop Italian. They are so popular they have two locations, Dublin and Upper Arlington. Moretti’s Chicken Parmesan starts with a chicken breast pounded thin, lightly breaded, and topped with hearty tomato sauce. Large sauteed mushroom slices and a heaping amount of melted shredded mozzarella finish the dish. Moretti’s sits their Chicken Parmesan directly atop their house-made spaghetti, so it is easy to get a little of everything in each bite. The sauce’s texture, earthy mushrooms, and fresh Italian herbs make this chicken Parmesan a standout.
During the holidays, it is especially important to support our locally-owned restaurants. Grab a plate of comforting Chicken Parmesan or buy a gift card for a future meal.
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