Due Amici: Top Columbus Restaurant Has Youngstown Roots
The lesson to be learned is that no matter where you go; no matter what you do; no matter what happens in the world…there is ALWAYS a Youngstown connection.
A friend of mine recently moved to Columbus permanently as a result of job requirements for both he and his wife. I bumped into him at the Poland post office a few weeks ago as he was doing some local business back home. I asked him for his Columbus restaurant recommendations. Without hesitation, he answered Due Amici. I laughed because I am currently working closely with one of the owners of Due Amici bringing some new businesses and development to the Mahoning Valley.
I met Jeff Glavan through Lowellville Mayor James Iudiciani. Jeff is an architect who likes dumpster diving into urban planning…and is pretty damn good at it. He also likes the restaurant biz…and he is pretty damn good at that too. I knew that he was originally from Youngstown. What I didn’t know was he attended Boardman High School…which is my high school, and that he graduated in the class immediately before mine. Who knew? How did I not know this guy?
After graduating from Kent State University’s College of Architecture (one of the top architectural schools in the country), he moved to Columbus. Under his leadership, his firm headed up the design projects for one of the major fast food chains in the country. From there he moved on to successfully designing and putting together retail and industrial development projects.
But through it all there remained a fascination with restaurants. His first venture into the food and beverage industry was a restaurant/bar/club operation in Columbus adjacent to the Nationwide Arena. By any measure, it was a huge success. But success of the business does not necessarily mean success with your partners, and there was a parting of the ways with Jeff making a solemn vow…never again.
Three months late he was at it again after being approached by two friends to join a new venture in the Gay Street dining district…a block away from the Capitol Building…called Due Amici. In Italian, it means two friends. But now, at least in spirit, it was the three amigos. That was 15 years ago. Over that time, Due Amici has become one of the top restaurants in the Columbus area.
These three guys: Jeff Mathes, Don Ziliak, and Jeff Glavan, have brought together the three areas of expertise needed to make an up-scale restaurant successful: a knowledge of food, a knowledge of management; and a knowledge of style. Due Amici is a great space.
Located in what once was three adjacent store fronts, it is the epitome of rustic modern architecture…taking those buildings with those weathered brick walls and stone foundations mixing in modern décor to make a complete package of wonderful. It is stunning with cream chairs and banquettes with dark accents.
The bar is in the center. The dining room is to the left. The banquet space is to the right. All open onto the street with sidewalk seating for those warm summer nights. The menu is Italian eclectic with less emphasis on the Italian and much on the eclectic. The offerings are well thought out with just the right number of choices as opposed to being overwhelmed. I don’t care what anybody says…you can’t do justice to a five-page menu.
I can sum up the food in three phrases: forty-minute chicken / three-day Tiramisu / one hundred-day limoncello. It takes time to make good food, and they are not afraid to make good food. We started our meal with an antipasto plate with well selected cheese choices including two types of blue cheese. Where does one find red olives?
Three of us shared three main courses. I chose the Chicken Marsala on a bed of risotto. It was unlike any chicken marsala I have had anywhere. It takes forty minutes to prepare. They warn guests if they order this and have to be at the theater in 20 minutes…it ain’t gonna happen. You know the marsala is there, but it is not overwhelming allowing the chicken to be the star. The chicken skin was crisp and char tasting…almost like eating a crispy smoky candy. That in turn made ordinary chicken into something spectacular along with a restrained marsala sauce that added just a hint of flavor. It is the best chicken dish I have eaten out in a long time.
My friend chose the grilled pork chop on cous-cous. I tend not to like pork chops because they dry out. Not here. Somehow you forgot you were eating pork…it was that good. It will be my choice when I return. My other friend ordered the plebian Chicken Parmesan. But it wasn’t so plebian. It is their best seller, and it is easy to see why.
For dessert we shared a piece of Tiramisu. Oh, my goodness. The server advised us it takes three days to make. You can taste all three days. It must take that long to absorb all the rum. After the first bite, it was clear to me this should be illegal.
We finished the boffo meal with a house specialty that may or may not be available to the public at large…a homemade limoncello. I am not a limoncello fan. We had been drinking quite a bit. But the folks at the restaurant said we needed to try this. It takes a hundred days to make. Tim Mackness, who mans the bar but is just as good in the kitchen, said he keeps it frozen for thirty days. One sip in its slushy magnificence is enough to knock you on proverbial behind. This one gets two: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Perfect. BTW, Tim is a great guy to share some conversation when it comes to all things food and drink.
What struck me the most about Due Amici is the family atmosphere displayed starting with the owners and working its way down through the entire staff. We are used to that here in Youngstown because of the abundance of family restaurants we have in the area. These folks are not blood family…but they all share a common passion for good food, good drinks, in a great atmosphere. That is a common bond. That carries over to the patrons, many of whom are our state public officials. (If I am ever looking for my state rep…I would start here). It is a place to see and be seen without the pretense. A few sips of the limoncello, your new BFF will be the guy sitting at the bar next to you.
My friend who lives in Columbus was right. Due Amici is among the best in the city. And it is good to know that at least part of its roots reach across the state to Youngstown.
By: Mark Mangie
67 E Gay Street
Columbus Ohio 43215