When we travel and stay over in a city away from home, we like to get referrals from locals to local restaurants and to local specialty cuisines.Â Local restaurants that are not national chains that serve the same food everywhere in the country (or world for that matter).
They don’t have to be fancy.Â In fact, the less fancy the better.Â We really like mom and pop, family owned types of places.Â We have been to a lot of places over the years, and we can’t remember a single time that we have been disappointed.Â In fact, some of the best meals we have had have been in some of the most unassuming places.
This past weekend, we traveled through six states to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.Â On the return trip, we stopped in Columbus, OH.Â Or actually in a suburb, Reynoldsburg, which is just east of Columbus.Â We asked the manager of the hotel, where we stayed, to give us a referral and without hesitation she mentioned the name of a nearby Italian restaurant.
We were at a highway exit that had 34 eating establishments within spittin’ distance of each other, and nearly every single one was a national chain.Â The place where we ended up was tucked away in the back of a tiny strip mall.
Scali Ristorante, Reynoldsburg, OH (picture from their website).
Unassuming on the outside.Â Family owned.Â Packed with patrons.
They let us sit at the bar and eat since there were no tables available.Â This is actually one of our preferred spots to eat since you can usually get a lot of information from bartenders.
It was obvious that this bartender, Andrea, loves the owners, loves the people with whom she works, and, most importantly, loves the food.Â She talked about her love of her family’s Italian food, and her love of the Scali family’s food.Â She also poured a mean glass of great Chianti wine.
We proceeded toÂ have some of the best Italian food we have ever eaten.Â And that’s saying something since we live in a community with a lot of great Italian restaurants.
We started out with some of their homemade baked bread that is served warm and buttered.Â It was so good that we went ahead and had more of it by ordering the Bruschetta.
Bruschetta – in season tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and Romano cheese – all fresh and served on their homemade bread.
Heaven on bread.
Lu Lu – penne pasta tossed with shrimp, crab, and fresh tomatoes in a Marscapone cream sauce.
Marscapone cream sauce.Â Tender shrimp.Â Perfectly cooked pasta.Â If I close my eyes, I can still taste it.
Liguini with Clams – liguini tossed with olive oil, garlic (lots of garlic), white wine and fresh clams (fresh, sweet, cooked to perfection).
Fresh, sweet, perfectly cooked clams.Â Lots of tender, sweet garlicky clams.Â Fresh garlic, sliced very thinly throughout the pasta and nestled into the clam shells.Â Possibly the best Liguini with clams that we have ever eaten.
Homemade Cannoli – baked pastry shell filled withÂ Ricotta cheese, chocolate chips, cinnamon, vanilla, and dusted with powdered sugar.
The cannoli shells are filled to order.Â AsÂ they should be.Â Cinnamon in the filling.Â Perfectly good.Â
The owners and their children were busy working together in the restaurant.Â The husband’s parents cook a lot of the items from scratch every day.Â Many of the items are old family recipes.
They also have a great wine list.Â There are some items that are off-menu for regular patrons, and they even have bar-type seating overlooking the kitchen area.Â If we ever make it back, we will be sitting in these seats.
I have nothing against national chain restaurants, but if you want to experience something a little different, try to find places off the beaten path.Â Local places where food is a passion for the owners.
If you’re lucky, you might find a place like Scali Ristorante.Â If we lived nearby, we would visit again and again until we had tried everything on the menu.Â We might just plan future trips east so that we can stop again.
Thank you Scali family for feeding these weary travelers.Â We had a memorable trip and enjoyed your great food and hospitality!