Carfagna’s has deep roots in Columbus. It’s easy to think of it as a place that’s always been on 161, until it was all dressed up in fancy pants and moved to Polaris. That’s not the real story, though. Carfagna’s Columbus story began in 1937 with a store on Cleveland Avenue that offered meat, deli meats, and some groceries. Since then, the company has moved, opened catering services, bottled and sold its own pasta sauces, and yes, moved again to a palatial estate in Polaris.
Change is therefore an integral part of the history of Carfagna.
Its new markets is an empire. If the old operation on 161 felt welcoming and cozy, the new spot looks…big, to begin with. It features a modern bar, deli, liquor store, and a brilliant pasta mosaic mural. It’s new and shiny and lively; well equipped with the pomp of the bustling suburbs on the north side.
But while the digs are sparklingly new, his restaurant’s menu is classic in a way that borders on kitsch. Spaghetti, lasagna, veal parmesan, minestrone and meatballs are all present and catered for. Traditional family approaches have been preserved in the new location.
So, in the entrees, you’ll spot classics like calamari and bruschetta. the Trio of meatballs ($9.95) is a good starting point for further exploration. As the name suggests, one order includes three meatballs, and they’re well done; fork tender, not rubbery and soft. A friendly tart sea of coagulated marinara gives them interest and depth, along with a crown of finely grated cheese.
That same sweetness that works so well in meatballs can be found elsewhere on the menu, in something more meaningful like the Lasagna in the oven ($17.95). One order yields a giant brick of pasta with a layer of caramelized provolone on top. Below are solid layers of red meat sauce and ricotta. When it comes to lasagna, it’s a straight shooter, boasting ample levels of sauce and cheese that make it a home-cooked comfort food.
A less conventional dish might be something on the lines of a Creamy Chicken Pesto ($17.95), which features sliced grilled chicken breast on a rolled-up bed of flat pasta fully dressed in a greenish basil sauce. The flavor profile is more like a more pervasive cream sauce than a fiery pesto.
The menu has a variety of options which include many more pasta dishes, gnocchi, salads, subs and pizzas. In the pizza section, the Sicilian ($15.95) is generously topped, so much so that its cut-away pepperoni wobbles along the edges with capicollo, red peppers, and enough homemade mozzarella to provide a good safety blanket to keep the components on board.
All in all, these are Italian-style comfort food, and Columbus has a significant following and appetite for it. The timing may be off, indicative of the size of the new project or the tightness of the job market. But it’s time to explore homemade bread and butter that relieves hunger pangs.
The new project is located at 1440 Gemini Place. The restaurant part of the establishment is open every day for lunch and dinner; and closed on Sundays (but the market in which it resides has hours on Sundays).
For more information, visit carfagnasrestaurant.com.
All photos by Susan Post