Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
Bourbon House 45 - Warren, OH
Going to most restaurants dozens of times over the years my wife, Mary Michael, and I get a feel for certain favorite dishes and recipes. We certainly enjoy their food, drink, and atmosphere but tendencies usually hone in on only a few tried-and-true favorites.
Not so at Leo’s Ristorante and Banquet Center in Warren. Its seasonal menus offer special dishes that entice us to try them and expand our palate at the expense of standard Italian favorites.
Take a recent mid December visit to Leo’s. We arrived that Saturday evening thinking of certain tasty past winter dishes; me the tagliatelle with crab, basil, tomatoes and garlic, or its seafood brodetto, which is loaded with succulent seafood. Mary had the beef and veal tortelacci or chicken saltimbocca alla romano on her mind.
But two new, seasonal items jumped from the menu. Snapper cartoccio, which is snapper baked in a paper sack with carrots, celery, lemon, thyme with a side of toasted Israeli couscous took center stage for me. Mary mulled a few goodies then focused on the pork chop Milanese, which is Beeler Farms pork with arugula fennel and a baby carrot salad accompanied by lemon and parmesan risotto.
The snapper is on Leo’s winter menu while the pork chop is a December selection. Leo’s staff knows the menu, is customer friendly, and helps clarify the new items. We decided to try them.
But first to our table were Mary’s gin gimlet and Leo’s opening act of warm, crusty bread, and ciabatta mini-rolls along with the star of the show, Corto extra virgin olive oil. We savor chunks of the bread and rolls soaked in the heavenly olive oil with grated pasta cheese--Mama Mia. We try not to overindulge as the main attraction is prepping in the wings.
California-grown Corto is as good as any olive oil we’ve sampled during three trips to Italy. No kidding.
Olives are grown and olive oil produced by the Cortopassi family in Lodi, San Joaquin County, in northern California's Central Valley. Wine lovers may recognize Lodi, which is best known for being a center of wine production and sometimes called the Zinfandel Capital of the World.
Grazie, Leo’s, for providing this world-class olive oil to your patrons. We bought from your lobby shelves about a dozen liter bottles to use as Christmas gifts. Plus several more bottles for our own enjoyment found their way into our car.
Mary’s gin gimlet needs a little more Rose’s sweetened lime juice; it’s just a touch too tart. No problem, it is corrected. I am the designated driver tonight and don’t imbibe.
Like many others we miss Chris, Leo’s former long-time mixologist who died unexpectedly two years ago during the holiday season. Chris three years ago perfected Mary’s gin gimlet with lime juice, fresh mint, and Gordon’s gin on the rocks. He suggested Gordon’s, a “well” gin for its special taste instead of top-shelf gins. Mary sampled it and agreed.
Chris always had a warm hello and big smile for everyone. Shortly before he died, we were the proud recipients of his famous homemade, holiday peanut brittle. Rest in peace, Chris.
We got a culinary Christmas present with our entrée selections. Both the snapper and the pork chop were aromatic and outstanding, cooked just right---tender and flavorful. And they were bountiful. Mary’s pork chop could double for a Brontosaurus chop.
My toasted Israeli couscous was a yummy surprise. Israeli couscous is larger than regular couscous, which is a whole grain-like food made from semolina flour. It tastes somewhat similar to barley, and, because it's toasted, has a slightly nutty flavor. Being rather bland on its own, Leo’s chefs added mushrooms, spinach, and a roasted onion broth. It was a magnificent taste treat.
The couscous and risotto presentation in metal bowls with small handles was just as impressive as their taste. The visual appeal of Leo’s array of oval, oblong, and rectangular plates adds a touch of sophistication.
Since our entrees were so large, we took home some of our main course, chosen sides of pasta fagioli, and skipped salads and desert. Prices for the feast were a very reasonable at $26 for the pork chop and $27 for my snapper. Most dinner prices are in the $20 range while pasta dishes range from the low to high teens.
Leo’s has a mammoth wine cellar and extensive variety of cocktails and beers. If you can’t find your favorite libation at Leo’s, you probably need to find another favorite libation.
Usually we visit for a late lunch on a Friday when prices are about 20 percent less and entrées appropriately smaller than dinner but still very much satisfying. We ask for veteran server Kindra, who keeps us up to date on specials and supplies the bread and rolls to bathe in that exquisite olive oil.
Mary and I often share Leo’s roasted beet salad, which includes Maytag blue cheese, Marcona almonds, arugula, and balsamic with fresh beets, and its Affogato desert, which is vanilla ice cream “drowning” in espresso and accompanied by a biscotti. (Affogato means “drowned” in Italian) It is like a decadent coffee float.
Many know Leo’s Italian roots from a 1930 grocery on Youngstown’s East Side. What started with Pasquale “Patsy” and Louise Strollo, evolved to the former Parkman Road Dairy and today to Leo’s Ristorante and Banquet Center operated by the DelGarbino and Strollo families.
We are sure that Patsy and Louise would heartily approve of the current Ristorante. Magnifico!
7042 E. Market St.
Warren, OH 44484
Leo's Ristorante and Banquet Center
by: Dick Davis