Cameron Mitchell Does it Again

Want someplace fun to grab some good Italian food anytime of night? Try Marcella’s, the newest member of the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants family. Reminiscent of an Italian café, the restaurant opened its doors this spring in the Short North. Floor-to-ceiling windows adjacent to the bar area are removed in fair weather for an open-air feel. A brick accent wall, aged wood floors, clean white tile, and an orange pressed tin ceiling add to the Old World feel. The dining room is separated from the kitchen by a mock salumeria – with meats and cheeses displayed in deli cases.

Complementing the décor, the mood at Marcella’s is relaxed and convivial – perfect for the Short North. Dish towels serve as napkins and maps of Italy are printed on the paper place-settings. Selections from Marcella’s all-Italian wine list are served either by the glass-size (quartino), half-bottle (mezzalitro), or bottle-size (litro) carafes. Rather than stemware, the wine is then poured into quaint tumblers, sending the message that atmosphere is more familial than formal.

The focus at Marcella’s is on sharing and service. Small plates are stacked in the center of each table so that patrons can share appetizers, pizzas, and entrees as well. Assistant General Manager Jenn Rossi tells me that she’s even seen guests passing plates between tables, making new friends as they enjoy dinner. Dining Room Manager Chrissy Pannunzio and the wait staff provide service that is just the right mix of attentive and fun. For appetizers, Marcella’s offers cold and hot small plates. Start with the Shaved Prosciutto and Ripe Melon ($4), or the Calamari ($7), which comes with both marinara and a wonderful creamy roasted garlic aioli. The pizzas feature tasty toppings and some of the freshest-tasting crust I’ve ever had. Try the classic Four Cheese, or the lovely Margherita, with tomato, mozzarella, and basil ($9 each). Even better yet is the fantastic Pesto Shrimp Pizza, with roasted tomato and tangy goat cheese ($10).

Marcella’s offers half a dozen Pasta dishes in manageable servings ($10 each). The traditional Capellini al Pomodoro, with fruity blistered tomatoes, basil, and garlic, is delicious, and even better when you add chicken or shrimp. There’s also a spicy Penne alla Arrabiata, and the Ravioli Mezzaluna, stuffed with rich goat cheese and topped with smoky Italian bacon. Or, you can select a nice entree, like Seared Salmon ($15) with glazed carrots and arugula vinaigrette, or the Skirt Steak ($17) with sea salt potatoes and gremolata butter. The Chicken Giardiniera ($12) is also quite flavorful – crispy pan-seared chicken in a lemony broth, topped with pickled carrots, cauliflower, red pepper, and celery. You really can’t make a bad choice for dessert ($5). The Profiteroles is a lot of fun to share – pistachio, chocolate, and honey vanilla gelato, each sandwiched in a miniature puff pastry and doused with warm chocolate ganache. The thoroughly excellent Cherry Crustada is a must-try, with a buttery almond crumble and honey vanilla gelato. And the Double Chocolate Torte, topped with chopped pistachios, is so deliciously rich, it just might make you swear out loud. Marcella’s certainly makes its point: a restaurant doesn’t have to be rigid or stuffy to serve good food. What’s also great about Mr. Mitchell’s latest venture is that you can drop in for a thoroughly enjoyable appetizer, dinner, and a dessert, yet not be so
stuffed that you’ll have to be wheel-barrowed out to the valet.