Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
Bourbon House 45 - Warren, OH
Do not go to Combine Brothers Bar and Grille if you want faux Tuscan scenery or a 20-page embossed color menu with thousands of options for Americanized versions of Italian food, wine, and beer. Certainly don’t go if linen tablecloths and napkins or a server who wants to be your new best friend while possessing a limited knowledge of the menu are at the top of your list.
Go to Combine’s if you want authentic Italian food with generous portions, no-nonsense, professional service offering advice on all menu options, and squeaky-clean dining areas and restrooms.
The Hermitage restaurant is among a very short list of go-to Shenango Valley restaurants for my Italian wife, Mary Michael, and me. Combine’s ribeye steak is usually the salve when we get the Combine’s itch.
I hate to admit this but Combine’s tasty steak matches any prime cut of beef charcoaled on our Weber domed grill. So Combine’s is especially appreciated while the Weber is hibernating during the winter.
Combine’s 8-oz. boneless, marbled ribeye beauty is grilled to our taste, served with pasta and sauce of our choice, and accompanied by fried greens, chile peppers, marsala mushrooms and a tossed salad.
Also included is a legendary Combine’s hard-crusted roll. The softball-sized gems are made daily with six ounces of dough from mother Justine’s recipe. Most everything from the dough for the rolls, pizza, and focaccia, to the cheesecakes, biscotti, soups and stocks, to the sausages, meatballs, and about two dozen pasta sauces is made from family recipes on-site.
Mary’s steak arrives cooked medium, mine is medium rare—Magnifico! We have never considered steak sauce.
Mary prefers angel hair pasta with only olive oil and garlic while I usually get angel hair with pink pepper sauce. The pink pepper is a combination of alfredo, which is fresh cream, butter, pecorino, romano and parmesan cheeses, mixed with diavolo, which is a hot and spicy tomato sauce with zucchini, onion, cayenne and crushed red pepper.
Pink pepper is just spicy and cheesy enough for me. Diavolo melts my molars while the alfredo is simply too much cheese. Pink pepper is Combine’s most popular sauce.
The meal is a reasonable $23. Like most other patrons, we most always carry home leftover pasta. It is almost as good the next day. A $4 plate-sharing fee for entrees is waived with additional purchase of any appetizer.
When dinosaurs roamed the earth I could eat an entire Combine’s meal in the restaurant. Those were my long distance running days when my metabolism equaled that of a caffeine-addled hummingbird. Those days are long gone.
Mary’s mother, Lena Michael, our ultimate food critic, enjoys the pasta fagioli, fried greens, and, of course, the hard-crusted rolls. Still enjoying good food at age 95, Lena, a former longtime caterer and baker in Sharpsville, savors the tastes, distinguishes different herbs and spices, smiles with joy and gives us the thumbs-up sign when we share some Combine’s with her.
The steak feast is one of Combine’s most expensive menu items. Pasta dishes go for about $12 and include the salad and a roll. Individual portion sizes of seven ounces dry pasta that swells to about 13.5 ounces when cooked are based on what each of the Combine brothers can eat at one sitting. Most patrons, however, walk out the door with their to-go boxes filled with enough pasta for several more meals.
Since the brother’s revised their menu several years ago and eliminated a deep fryer, calamari is no longer offered. We miss the delicacy that was accompanied with a spicy, chunky marinara sauce.
Chicken wings are also missing from the menu. Baked wings were on the menu years ago as part of a linguine dish but are no longer offered.
Can you imagine a successful restaurant in the U.S. without the God-forsaken greasy, boney wings?
I can. Good for the brothers.
Combine’s opened in 1989 in possibly the city’s oldest existing commercial structure on Rt. 18, or South Hermitage Road. It was built originally as a general store in the 1920s and hosted several bars and restaurants before Combine’s.
Combine’s design of an industrial art deco interior suggests an appreciation of classic fundamentalism, machine technology and the region’s iron and steel industry.
It lets the quality food speak for itself, loud and clear.
2376 South Hermitage Road
Hermitage, Pa. 16148
Combine Brothers Bar and Grill
by: Dick Davis