Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lola’s Baci…An Italian Bistro

Last Saturday evening we set out to celebrate our friend, Kathy’s birthday. Her actual birthday had already passed but we hadn’t had the opportunity to celebrate with her yet. If you listened to her husband Donald, he would tell you that Kathy’s birthday celebration was going on two weeks. My response was, “Point?”

We planned to have dinner and then take in the concert at Creekside. I don’t know the name of the group that was playing, but they were Beatles impersonators. Right up our alley. Kathy wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before and she’d heard about a place in downtown Gahanna called “Lola’s Baci”. We were all game. So Julie had called and made reservations for six.

Bob and I arrived first. Lola’s is located in a little strip on Granville Street. You might easily miss it. Just look for the Gahanna Pizza Plus sign. That’s the easiest way to spot it. The restaurant is at the end of the strip, with only a doctor’s office between it and the alleyway. It’s a quaint, small restaurant with a couple of tables on the patio surrounded by a white picket fence.

Outside the door is a chalk board easel with the day’s specials listed on it. (We were later to find out that the specials tend to sell out quickly.) Several of the specials gave us pause as we were about to enter. First listed was Lobster Ravioli. Yum! My eyes landed on a “Sweet Corn Risotto with Pancetta and Scallops”. Oh my. If this was a sign of what was waiting for us inside, give that door handle a yank and let’s get in there quick!

Upon entering we had to wait a few moments before someone came to seat us. Then there seemed to be some confusion because there were six of us. I became a bit alarmed because it did not appear that they were prepared for us, even though I knew Julie had made the reservations the day before.

While we waited, we had a moment to look around. Lola’s is a small space, divided into three small dining rooms and the kitchen. It feels much like an Italian aunt’s home. Very quaint and cozy.

We were eventually seated at a table next to the kitchen, which had a bench against the wall seating 3 and three chairs across the table. The table/seating space is pretty tight in this room. But this table was going to work just fine for us. It sort of felt like sitting at the dining room table. When everyone arrived and got settled our waiter introduced himself. By this time the restaurant was beginning to become pretty busy.

We ordered a lovely red sparkling wine (I’ve forgotten the name but I loved it) to toast the birthday girl. We also ordered two of the appetizers called “Arancini”. These are “Italian Rice Croquets, filled with Cheese and Capacola Ham, then fried to a Golden Brown $6.” Wow! I could have probably eaten both orders myself! They were so incredibly good. And Kathy and Donald have traveled to Italy several times and said these were absolutely authentic. I’ll take her word for it. I just knew they were delicious!

Our server brought us a basket of bread that was pretty darn good. The only problem was that with six people it disappeared quickly. We requested more several times, but our server was pretty overwhelmed and forgot. In fact, in addition to the lack of bread service, when he brought our water he only brought five. He explained that they were waiting for clean glasses to come out of the dishwasher. It took us practically badgering him until we got the sixth glass (poor Donald) much, much in almost too late.

On to the entrées! We were informed that the Lobster Ravioli special listed on the board outside was gone. :-( So while Kathy and Bob were deciding on their plan B, the rest of us ordered.

Donald started with a cup of the “Tuscan Minestrone: This is a Vegetarian’s dream! A savory Vegetable Stock provides a sea for Carrots, Green Beans, Cabbage and Potatoes. Black, Red, and Canelli Beans also provide depth within this classic. Crowned with Pesto Crouton. Cup $3.50” He said it was quite good. And I took his word for it since there wasn’t a drop left in the bowl!

Bob and I decided to share a cup of ”Lola and Joe’s Wedding Soup: Tender, White Meat Chicken and tiny Meatballs are accompanied with Pastina, Carrots, and fresh Seasonal Greens in a tantalizingly complex Chicken Broth sprinkled with Pecorino Romano cheese. Cup $3.50.” It was absolutely delicious. I’m not quite sure what the greens were; something curly and quite firm. I commented to Bob that this soup didn’t have meatballs but it was delicious anyway. In writing this I see that it indeed was supposed to have them. But even without them I couldn’t complain. It was very good.

Kathy, Julie and I decided on the “Sweet Corn Risotto with Pancetta and Seared Scallops”. What a delightful choice! It was truly awesome. Like, totally awesome! The risotto was so perfectly cooked that it just about brought tears to my eyes. The sweet corn was such a perfect foil for the salty chunks of pancetta that dotted the dish. And the scallops…oh the scallops. Poorly cooked scallops can ruin you and put you off of them for a very long time. These however were divine; absolute heaven. I think I heard Kathy moan a time or two. Yes, they were that good!

Bob had “Papa Loreto’s Spaghetti with Spicy Italian Sausage and Peppers: Fresh Spaghetti is tossed with Homemade Sausage, from a small Italian-owned company in Cleveland; lots of Peppers and Red Sauce. Papa didn’t make the sausage, but Joe says it’s just like his Dad’s! $13”. I must say that I know firsthand that this was also quite tasty. The sauce was nicely spiced and the dish was full of chunky slices of good sausage and generous with the promised strips of sautéed sweet peppers. The pasta was perfectly cooked.

Donald went with the “Manicotti: Prepared in our kitchen filled with Ricotta, Mascarpone, Spinach, Roasted Red Peppers, and Peas, and baked with Joe’s Red Sauce and Lola’s Béchamel Sauce. $11”. I didn’t taste this, but Donald said it was really very good. The dish looked like traditional Italian fare. And Donald knows his Italian, so I trusted him on this.

Last but definitely not least, Patrick chose the “Veal Parmigiana: The most tender cut of Veal is coated with House-made Bread Crumbs — kicked up with Panko and Asiago Cheese, seared in Olive Oil, topped with Shaved Parmesan, and baked to tender juiciness beneath Joe’s Red Sauce. $17”. Both he and Julie raved about the veal, saying that it was so tender that no knife was needed to cut it. The veal was served with rigatoni and spinach on the side. It looked absolutely marvelous.

All in all it was a grand dinner! Albeit not a quick one. We watched several smaller groups come in and be seated, order, and be served before we had our dinner served. But we were a larger group, with several of us having ordered the risotto. I feel relatively certain this was the cause of part of the delay, and it was well worth the wait. We were celebrating (did I mention it was Kathy’s birthday celebration? I won’t tell you what number it was because I value my friendship with her. I also don't want her to hurt me.) so we really weren’t in a hurry and had much to talk about to occupy the time. (Even though we were late for the concert.)

Lola did stop by and asked how “her” food was. She is quite charming. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to meet Joe. Maybe next time. Because I am absolutely certain there will be a “next time”!

Lola’s Baci…An Italian Bistro
100 Granville Street
Olde Gahanna, Ohio 43230
Phone: 614.473.9931 Fax: 614.478.1610

Sunday and Monday ~ Closed
Tuesday through Thursday* ~ 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
*Closed during period between Lunch and Dinner
Friday ~ 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Saturday ~ 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

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1 comment:

  1. I can help with the wine we drank to toast Kathy's birthday -- it was Rosa Regale from Banfi, described on the bottle as a "sparkling dolce red wine ... soft and deliciously luscious ... with hints of rose petals and rasberries." We also enjoyed a white wine from Banfi, Fumaio IGT, a chardonnay and sauvignon blanc blend, with "flavors of grapefruit, pear, and a hint of tangerine." With the heartier dishes we had Melini Chianti Classico Isassi DOCG, a dry, ruby-red wine with clean clear flavors that set off the tomato sauces beautifully.