Sturdy, huge, and basking in the warmth of candles suspended overhead, the community table inside Mia Cucina's Powell outpost is an apt metaphor for the community that frequents the restaurant. At both locations, a sense of hospitality vies with the aromas of house sauces to charm those who walk through the doors. Children—who dine gratis on Mondays and Wednesdays—peruse a specialized menu with mazes and games, absorbing trivia about Italy's climate, its inventions, and the volcanoes that spew marinara sauce. Adults scan their own menu, which embraces Italian staples along with more updated plates, from chicken parmesan to pesto-rubbed mahi-mahi fillets.
When they aren't browsing the cuisine, their eyes might linger on the shelves of the floating bar, where wine bottles and glasses levitate over the counter instead of bogarting the chairs. The surrounding wall mimics gray stonework, adding a rustic cellar ambiance to the setting, though the white cloths draped over each table bespeak modern sophistication. The murmur of conversations between families, friends, and couples pervades the genial space, where Mia Cucina insists "everyone's Italian."
Dough flips through the air, releasing a cumulonimbus of flour as it lands softly in the hands of chef David Zadnik, who crafts the crucial ingredient each day with help from local ingredients and family recipes. The heritage of the eatery doesn’t just shine through in culinary formulas; the walls at both locations shimmer with old family photos from David's basement and glossy sports memorabilia. Strains of Frank Sinatra spread out smoothly behind conversations in dining rooms dappled with warm wood accents, occasionally spilling out to an outdoor patio or across the Westerville location's outdoor bocce-ball court. Guests sit down for pastas, sandwiches, and suds from Great Lakes Brewery and Peroni, often unaware that these tables held a victory dinner for pugilist Buster Douglas when he returned from defeating Mike Tyson in Japan, but before he picked up his victory dry cleaning.
Every morning, Rita's Italian Ice's dessert-makers show up to work and start smashing fruit to bits. They extract the juices, natural sugars, and sweet flesh of each to infuse into their freshly-made italian ices. The ices pair well with custards and creams for mixed treats, or serve as refreshingly cool treats on their own. The staff even take small groups on behind-the-scenes tours of their kitchens, teaching the secrets to freezing mango juice into a silky-smooth texture or milking a banana.
Fans of battered appetizers will appreciate Mudflats' expansive selection. Dunk fried pickle chips into vats of ranch ($5.49), or try the potato skins ($6.99), full loaded with melted cheddar, crispy bacon, and sour cream. For those preferring a lighter bite, opt for a signature salad such as the Sunburst ($9.99), a fresh and fruity favorite with baby spinach, fruit, feta, red onion, nut brittle, and homemade cinnamon Tabasco vinaigrette. You'll also find a sizable list of sandwiches and burgers.
The expert teppanyaki chefs at Ichiban use their iron griddles as the primary tools in building a menu that sizzles with steaks, seafood, and noodle dishes, and a sushi bar that unfurls with makimono. Although the sushi wears its Japanese pride on its seaweed sleeve, both steakhouses also boast a streak of avant-garde international influence, with such offerings as the seared salmon roll––salmon skin and cucumber topped with seared salmon and salsa ($13). The Crazy roll's deliciousness makes diners believe that their tongues are flavor magnets with morsels of shrimp tempura, avocado, flying-fish roe, and spicy mayo ($7). Hibachi dinner entrees—such as the filet mignon and scallops ($22.95)—arrive with an entourage of sides that include two pieces of shrimp tempura, vegetables, and steamed rice (substitute fried rice for $1.65).