Mezzo Italian Kitchen - Middle Ground

130 Creekside Plaza, Gahanna, OH (614) 476-9900

 
WHAT:
Tucked away in a plaza in the heart of Gahanna you’ll find the hidden world of Mezzo. First impression: opulence. It was dizzying, hypnotizing almost walking into this eatery. One can’t resist the sophisticated allure of the bar. We found it bustling with a rich tableau of urbane 40-somethings all nestled in their spots – cozy dark booths, and the focal point, a gleaming black swirled bar speckled with pale-pink lamps. A backdrop of live musicians added even more texture to this milieu. We started our party with the red house-made sangria, freshly fruity and just a little bit bubbly, before beginning the jaunt to our table. We sauntered past Chef Ben Geltzer, formerly of Bexley Monk and Hyde Park, who was busily expediting dinner plates from an open kitchen. We were led though cavernous aisles plush with velvety drapes amidst mixtures of brick and terra-cotta hues, all the while observing an ever-growing cosmopolitan crowd settling into their tables. The ambiance of Mezzo had us captivated before we even tried one taste.

WHO:
A multitude of owners are invested in this locale, close to its third anniversary; a second Mezzo is soon slated to open in Dublin. It was general manager Jon Cohen who we had the pleasure of meeting this evening. When asked what makes this Italian restaurant stand out from the rest in Columbus, he’s quick to point out the spot’s ambiance. There are three aspects that contribute to a stellar dining experience, he says: great food, great service and great ambiance. The trick is putting the whole package together.

WHEN:
Dine at this Italian kitchen for lunch or dinner. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinnertime starts at 5 p.m. all week. Closing is at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

WHERE:
Mezzo is tucked in the heart of old Gahanna, one mile east of I-670 and I-270. There are plenty of parking options: street, valet and an underground parking garage, which is free most evenings. This eatery is a bit hard to find, but look for the pond and fountain. Mezzo sits back on the right. As with most places, reservations aren’t required, though strongly suggested.

THE TEST:
Stereotypical Italian fare this is not; the menu here showcases dishes laden with fresh produce, seafood and sauces, not all of the tomato kind. We first dabbled in the Mezzo Tasting Trio, a plate of fresh mozzarella fritters, lightly fried risotto balls seasoned with a touch of rosemary and gooey cheese in the center, all set atop garlicky luscious pompodoro sauce; braised meatballs, so fine they tasted creamy; and a jewel of a centerpiece – a scallop blanketed in prosciutto, bedded on a polenta cake, subtly tasting of truffles. We found this starter to be a good representation of what you’ll find on the menu here. We rounded it out with the house salad, the La Casa Insalata, standard, but tasty with mixed greens, Gorgonzola cheese and vinaigrette.

Before our second course, we were treated to a glass of Forefront cabernet, such a remarkably dry, earthly vintage from Napa Valley, we were caught off guard. It paired well with the Wild Mushroom Pizza that soon arrived. Homemade crust, hot out of the-brick oven, this paper-thin pie came to us heavenly with meaty-rich wild mushroom and cheese flavors, each perfectly balanced with a thin layer of marinara sauce. A sugary port reduction drizzle pulls all the flavors together. Other notable pizzas include: Bianco, with artichoke hearts and red peppers; Duck Confit, with poached duck and arugula; and Porchetta, with pulled pork and pistachio fig jam.

We were excited to see how wildly delicious our third course might be, curious just by viewing all the boundless menu options: veal cannelloni, gnocchi, walnut-crusted trout, chicken scallopine picatta and more. We were excited to be presented with Ciopinno, an Italian seafood stew that’s not easy to find. Mezzo’s version came brilliantly crimson with visible spices and seafood so plump, the dish was picture perfect. We dipped right into this zestful bowl with a ciabatta crostini leading the way.

The highlight of our meal, and certainly one of the best we’ve had, was the Lasagna Al Forno. So simple was this dish, but its construction made all the difference. This pasta plate came loaded with smoky-tasting cheese firmly layered upon a pile of seasoned beef and veal. The meat was a critical element because it stood on its own, not simply as filler. And the syrupy balsamic vinaigrette reduction drizzled over top elevated the dish to a whole new level.

We couldn’t visit any place without perusing the dessert menu. We put our faith in our server with his own selections: Lemon Tart and Chocolate Cake. Both options you might find anywhere, but these had a twist. The Lemon Tart was unique in that it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet. The lemon crème was more of an accent to the sugary graham-cracker crust – not the other way around. We also loved the Chocolate Cake, sort of a gourmet Hostess Cupcake, torte-like dense and cool with a creamy center of Mascarpone mousse. Try any dessert with a Mezzo coffee drink. Our Caffee Mezzo, with Frangelico and Creme de Cacao, warmed us immensely.

We departed anxious to come back for another experience. See for yourself. We’re sure you’ll be impressed 360 degrees.