With menus directly inspired by the flavors of Italy, three Columbus restaurants offer students an authentic Italian dining experience, no passport required.
Marcella’s Italian Kitchen on North High Street in the Short North, Due Amici located on Gay Street in downtown Columbus and Giuseppe’s Ritrovo at the corner of Drexel Avenue and Main Street in Bexley all feature quality Italian cuisine available on a college budget.
Marcella’s became the second Italian restaurant in the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’ family when it opened in 2007, joining its more upscale sibling, Martini Modern Italian.
Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, was inspired to try his hand at a second Italian eatery during a trip to Tuscany where he and his family stayed with a woman named Marcella, said Dain Cooke, general manager of Marcella’s in Short North.
Cooke described the menu at Marcella’s as traditional Italian cuisine, adding that some of the recipes used in the restaurant came from Marcella herself.
“It’s all about the simple ingredients, great quality ingredients and just making sure that we’re authentic to the dish,” Cooke said.
As more of a “bustling, Italian cafe” than a formal restaurant, Cooke said Marcella’s attracts an eclectic mix of patrons, creating a high-energy atmosphere characterized by ambient noise and the enthusiastic sharing of meals facilitated by extra plates present at every table.
The restaurant’s lively energy, close proximity to campus and award-winning happy hour makes it an attractive destination for Ohio State students, Cooke said.
“Our happy hour, we’re voted best in the city on a couple different publications, offering about 60 percent of the menu at half price from four until six o’clock Monday through Friday,” Cooke said. “That’s a great offering for the students if they’re on a budget or wanting to just come in and get some small food real quick before they go home and study.”
Further down on the No. 2 COTA bus line is Giuseppe’s Ritrovo. The owner and executive chef, Giuseppe Mangano, opened Giuseppe’s in 1996 with his wife, Vesna Mangano, said Sean Ward, bar manager at Giuseppe’s.
“Giuseppe is from Reggio Calabria, which is a southern town in Italy,” Ward said. “Most of his food is focused around his history of cooking and family meals in Italy.”
With all of the sauces, pastas and baked dishes made to order in the restaurant, Ward said the extra care and detail Giuseppe puts into his food is what sets the restaurant apart from others in the area.
Giuseppe’s location, directly across the street from Capital University, has resulted in the menu being friendly to college students.
“There is a lot of stuff on the menu that is catered to students,” Ward said. “Our lunches are very affordable. They’re very comparable to other spots on the block. And then for dinner you can come in and get like a $10 to $15 entree, have a beverage and be out of the restaurant on 20 bucks if you choose.”
Due Amici, which means “two friends” in Italian, opened on New Year’s Eve of 2004 by partners and friends Jeff Mathes and Don Ziliak. In contrast to Marcella’s and Giuseppe’s traditional Italian menus, the food found at Due Amici features a more contemporary twist to traditional Italian favorites.
“It’s evolved to way more of what we call ‘modern Italian,’” Mathes said. “It’s kind of a fusion of Italian food and food from all over the world.”
While the menu, which currently features Latin spices incorporated with the flavors of classic Italian dishes, changes about three times a year, the restaurant’s co-owner believes that the trendy, urban atmosphere is what attracts most guests.
Mathes said the restaurant’s happy hour, which is offered Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., and brunch specials attract many OSU students, while the restaurant’s location on the No. 2 COTA bus line makes it accessible from campus.
“We do a happy hour where we offer all of the pizzas and all of the appetizers on our menu for half off and we do drink specials,” Mathes said. “And we do a brunch, that’s actually pretty popular with OSU students already, on Saturday and Sunday where we offer brunch-specific items, like more breakfast-type items, paired with either a Bloody Mary, a Bellini, or a Mimosa for $16.”
Editor’s note: The story was updated on Oct. 22 to correct that the Cameron Mitchell Restaurant located in the Short North is Marcella’s Ristorante. The article originally named it as Marcella’s Italian Kitchen.