Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
Bourbon House 45 - Warren, OH
For those of us over the age of 50-something seeing restaurants come and go is an occupational hazard. The places we knew and loved have gone by the wayside as new ones rise to take their place. Then it’s their turn to fade away. The Niles “Strip” was restaurant row for the Mahoning Valley from the 1950’s through the mid-eighties. One by one they all went away. And then there was one!!
Abruzzi’s Café 422 has been a stalwart through it all. The business was started in 1939 by Guerino "Greenie" Abruzzi and partner Orazio Rossi. They moved the business to the current location in 1949. Their new building evoked that mid-century something between art deco and rocket modern and old style Italian villa. Among its quirks were live trumpet serenades for those celebrating special occasions. It was legendary for its homemade bread and hot peppers in oil. Of course, the menu was heavily Italian. Eventually it was taken over son Robert who continued the traditions. In 2005 he decided it was time to retire.
Enter Serdar Dede who decided to buy the business after a stint as manager at Opus Restaurant (now the Chop House) next to the Avalon Inn in Howland. Those of us that visited Opus knew he and his brother were capable managers and ran a tight ship. But what do a couple of middle-eastern guys know about spaghetti? There were more than a few raised eyebrows in the community. I gave it six months.
I was wrong. The Dede family are the quintessential restaurant entrepreneurs. He revised the menu keeping the most popular items on the old menu while adding some new choices. The hot peppers and homemade bread are still there. Some of the new things have mid-eastern overtones like its kabobs which are actually very good and fit into the menu. Another great consumer choice! More importantly, he is a gracious host. He welcomes all customers as long-time friends. He makes you feel glad to be there.
His improvements were slow and deliberate. When I first talked to him he told me that he believes in pay as you go. Over the years he redid the dining room; built a patio; and upgraded the bar. The bar is my favorite part of the restaurant with both stool and regular chair seating depending on the level. It is classy without being pretentious.
On our last visit my wife had the Eggplant Parmesan. It has been and continues to be a house specialty. Outstanding. I had the Veal Parm made with real veal rather than chopped veal. The sauce is very good. The veal was delicious. I can tell you it was one of the better meals we have had there over the years.
Service is good. The wait staff is capable and hard-working if maybe a little stretched. That seems to be the norm everywhere you go today.
The 422 keeps it prices in check. Any restaurant worth anything does not come cheap. The 422 is more than competitive in pricing to comparable area restaurants. Its standard price for a glass of wine is under $6.50 which is a fair price given some places are approaching $10.00…they have to make their money somewhere!!!
The 422 is not the fanciest restaurant in town with the fanciest food. But it gives the Mahoning Valley what it wants and it does it consistently well. For my money, it is probably the best overall restaurant in its category in the area.
Last time I checked it takes reservations. It has a sister restaurant in Boardman which I have yet to try because going to Niles is an old habit that dies hard. We will have to give it a go and review it separately.
4422 Youngstown Road, SE
Warren, OH 44484-3396
Tel: (330) 369-2422
Fax: (330) 369-6431
The Cafe 422 - Niles