Intricate notes emanating from a nearby piano. Steam rising off a teacup as it sits on a delicate saucer. Signs of old-world elegance permeate every corner of Mozart's Bakery and Piano Cafe, and owners Anand and Doris Saha wouldn't have it any other way. The European-trained couple have been slinging their famed sugary delicacies in the Columbus area for more than 20 years, after honing their skills in some of Europe's best restaurants and hotels.
However, even their most frequent diners will be astounded by their new, expanded location in a formerly abandoned Beechwold restaurant. While guests still get to enjoy more than 80 European delicacies?some of which helped earned Columbus Monthly's Best Dessert in Best of Columbus 2014?they can now do so on a patio or in one of many rooms stocked with the aforementioned pianos. And even the menu has gotten a slight makeover, with an extensive breakfast selection of savory strudels, quiches, and omelets as well as lunch and dinner entrees including angus burgers, authentic schnitzel, beef stroganoff, and chicken paprikash. The Columbus Dispatch praised the latter for its "excellent sauce of sweet paprika, cream and chicken stock that tastes house-made."
But as proud as the Sahas are of their elegant, continental cuisine, they take just as much pride in helping the community. They were recently honored with the first Columbus Small Business Community Heroes Award from Direct Energy for their fund-raising contributions. The funds have gone toward aiding many different parts of the community, a few of which are a local food pantry, programs for senior citizens, and after-school activities for children.
Old Blue Eyes casts his piercing gaze across the red-walled dining room as the opening strains of “Strangers in the Night” drift into the ears of diners seated at tables dressed in white linens. The aura of a refined 1960s club permeates every nook and cranny of Trattoria Roma, thanks in part to the assortment of framed Sinatra records and photos displayed behind the bar and the ever-present Rat Pack tunes playing throughout the day. Since its opening 22 years ago, the eatery's owners have fostered a cozy-yet-refined atmosphere bolstered by authentic Roman cuisine forged from local ingredients. This tradition continued eight years ago when veteran employee Shawn Mason took over the restaurant’s reigns from the original owners. Though he brought his own brand of hospitality to the mix, he made sure to uphold the kitchen’s tradition of high culinary standards.
As Shawn cheerfully chats with regulars scattered throughout the dining room and at the bar, his partner, chef Matthew Prokopchak, can be found architecting Italian eats with his crew in the kitchen. Having grown up learning the conventions of Italian cooking from his mother and aunts, chef Matthew integrates some of his family’s recipes into the menu, imbuing his dishes with a sense of history and tradition. He assembles his arsenal of fresh produce –from lush tomatoes to fragrant basil– from local farms. While the menu remains largely unchanged throughout the year, each night the friendly service staff sidles up to tables to detail the day's seasonal specials via verbal recitations or interpretive dances.
Amid the dining room’s ruby walls, a series of Orfeo Tamburi lithographs depicting post-WWII Rome––reportedly the only complete Tamburi collection in the United States––hang in elegant frames. The décor works in concert with the savory wafts of garlic emanating from the bustling kitchen to evoke a vintage Italian atmosphere.
Basilicata proudly refers to itself as the instep of Italy. Its pedestrian nickname, however, belies its scenic and gastronomical riches—the volcanic vineyards, the cliff-cut coastlines, and the ancient, gnarled olive trees that inspired recipes passed down for two generations until they reached the kitchen of Giorgio Italian Restaurant. In 2008, the recipes stood the test of time when Giorgio was named one of the Best New Restaurants by Columbus Monthly. Currently, Chef Todd McCall curates and expands upon these family recipes for menu items such as bolognese sauce and meatballs.
Giorgio's Mediterranean influences extend to its décor, where crisp white tablecloths stand next to a grapevine mural and a rustic wall-mounted wooden wine rack. On the outdoor patio, pots of parsley, basil, and lemon verbena bloom at tables' edges.
At a monthly jazz night, cool rhythms and melodies drift through the eatery. Just as regularly, wine tastings strike an education-entertainment balance as Giorgio's oenophiles pinpoint flavor notes and teach diners how to tell red wine apart from bourbon simply by sniffing it.
Racks of obsidian and golden bottles line the monolithic wine wall of Camelot Cellars's rustic boutique, bringing together varietals crafted by the winery and selections from around the world. Beneath chandeliers and brick facades, guests clink glasses of aromatic vintages and play favorite xylophone songs on themed tasting flights served atop the smooth contours of the locally hewn wooded bar. Small plates of cheeses, meats, and bread also gather nearby, cleansing palates and bringing out the wine’s subtler tones. Nearby, the convivial sound of good cheer emanated from the Tuscan Table and the private Tuscan Room, which house large groups and may be rented out for gatherings.
Not satisfied to fill their casks with only their own brews, the winery also aids clients in handcrafting their own artisan wines. With the help of a resident expert, prospective vintners assemble their preferred style of wine, leaving it in the capable hands of the winery for 6–12 weeks. Each bottle is then identified with a custom label, making perfect keepsakes for weddings, parties, or obedience-school graduations.
Divine De-lites owner Kim Herring didn’t set out to become full-time baker. “I was really more of a cook,” she says, “but then whenever we had family functions I always baked stuff.” But not just any "stuff"––breads and cookies that had family and friends raving. For nearly 10 years, others tried to convince her to turn her part-time passion into a career, and when the economic downturn led her to leave her job in the corporate arena, she decided to do exactly that.
To craft her treats, Herring employs family recipes––including one for a much-lauded banana bread––and formulations she developed herself using organic and local products whenever possible. Cookies are her No. 1 specialty, which she whips up in flavors such as oatmeal apricot, peanut butter, and almond butter with fig, and can be made gluten-free, sugar-free, or disguised as salads to suit a range of dietary concerns. But it’s her chocolate-chip cookies that are the real crowd pleaser. “They’re kinda crispy on the outside, but when you break ‘em open they’re real soft on the inside. And [there are] lots of chocolate chips.”
Barrio Tapas Lounge's executive chef sweeps from Spain to South America by preparing a rotating menu populated by Spanish fusion tapas. The restaurant’s gustatory gurus plumb the depths of the ocean to plate mahi-mahi and shrimp, and landlocked dishes lavish chili and butter-sage sauces on meat ranging from chicken to veal. A spread of cheese and charcuterie treats the senses to goat's- and sheep's-milk cheeses alongside paprika- and garlic-cured meats. The lengthy list of Argentinean and Chilean wines doubles as 2018's list of must-have baby names.
The dining space mirrors Barrio's artful approach to tapas, its leather couches and cow-spotted cushions set beneath high, wooden ceilings. During the restaurant's opening buzz, a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch highlighted the interior’s “industrial fixtures and natural surfaces designed by George Acock,” including “a sweeping bar that features tables made of thick slabs cut from trees in North Carolina.”