Restaurant of the Month: Pompilios Restaurant and Colonel Pomp’s Tavern

pompilios tortellini

An Italian gem awaits you at Pompilios in Newport, Kentucky (a few minutes from Fountain Square). The famous toothpick scene in the movie Rainman, with Dustin Hoffman, was filmed in the bar at Pompilios….and has kept visitors and locals pouring in for years!

Pompilios features a bar, Colonel Pomp’s Tavern, at the front, a bocci bar out back (complete with bocci-ball court), and an old world Italian restaurant in between.

The bar area is the happening spot for satisfying a thirst. You will see one of the best tied-house back bars in the Midwest, built the year FDR entered the Whitehouse—1933, when Pompilios opened for business. Colonel Pomp’s Tavern features period photos of the 1930s, but the bar area itself is that old, and a step back in time. The scene from Rainman was filmed in that very place, for an even richer taste of history. Colonel Pomp’s features a good number of Greater Cincinnati’s very best craft beers on tap, which visitors love to try.

The tavern also on Thursday or Friday features live music from an assortment of talents featuring boogie woogie, acoustic Americana rock, jazz, blues and more.

Go there and experience Colonel Pomp’s and grab a table and have a meal too, lunch or dinner. Pompilios features some of the best red-sauce dishes around. Pompilios has a slew of Taste of Cincinnati winners on their menu, so ask your server about the “Blue Ribbon” dishes. Also, the place has been voted into the Italian Restaurant Hall of Fame.

Pompilios makes EVERYTHING from scratch. The ravioli is hand-made, either meat or cheese. There are six sauce choices for ravioli, Bolognese meat sauce, along with marinara, regular meat sauce, meatballs, Alfredo, Puttanesca, and you can also add Italian sausage.

The Italian sampler, a favorite of the Rainman crew, is a Taste of Italy, with lasagna, meat and cheese ravioli, eggplant parmigiana and Italian sausage and meatball (both made in-house, as well). The sampler runs neck and neck with the meat-sauce lasagna as the best seller on the menu. It’s been a house specialty for decades.

Those wanting veal, steak or seafood will find a number of dishes, including veal parmigiana, filet mignon, shrimp scampi, linguini with clams, salmon gorgonzola, and more. Two favorite dishes are: the brasciuole, tender round steak seasoned with Italian spices, rolled and baked with marinara sauce and served with spaghetti; and the eggplant parmigiana, breaded, baked layered with parmesan and provolone cheese, and served with rigatoni and marinara. Serious yumminess, and quite reasonably priced!



Cactus Pear…Southwestern cuisine in Clifton…minutes from downtown


Cactus Pear is Cincinnati’s premier Southwestern Bistro, offering the best food with the most exciting flavors, from both sides of the border, since 1992. They pride themselves on using only the freshest ingredients, and strive to prepare menu items in ways that just can’t be found anywhere else.

Cactus Pear offers standard items like tacos, fajitas, nachos, enchiladas and burritos….and creative, tasty selections not found at other southwestern restaurants….wraps and burgers, noodle dishes and seafood offerings. There are some unexpected sandwiches, too, like the spicy shrimp po boy, the Tex Mett and the Aztec Tofu. For a little something different, try the beef enchiladas served on blue corn tortillas, and if you are a fan of kale they’ve got a delicious kale and mushroom enchilada that will delight your taste buds. The chefs are happy to accommodate dietary restrictions or recreate a meal vegetarian or vegan, so don’t be afraid to ask.

There are plenty of small plates and salads to enjoy, as well as lighter fare, like quesadillas and soups. Plus, you can end your meal with some flan, key lime pie or the fried ice cream sundae!

Cactus Pear is located in Clifton, and is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. Weekly happy hours include Margarita Mondays (a Key Magazine personal favorite!), Brewsday Tuesdays ($3 draft beers!), Wine Wednesdays and Thirsty Thursdays, and reservations are available. Drop by Cactus Pear for a southwestern dining experience like no other.

A taste of success at the Western & Southern Open for Palomino


Generally at the Western & Southern Tennis Open, you expect the food to be fun, to be tasty, but not necessarily to be fine-dining. But this year, Palomino Restaurant and Bar, located in Downtown Cincinnati, had their first appearance at the Open – and it was a Grand Slam.

Nelson Castillo, General Manager of Palomino, said the decision to participate at the Western & Southern Open was definitely the right one. “There was a huge impact, bringing fine-dining to the Open” said Castillo, who greeted many new visitors as they entered the tent at the ATP. During the week they were at the Open, reservations went up at the downtown restaurant, and more interest in the restaurant was expressed by so many. He saw lots of repeat customers throughout the week at the ATP…coming back again and again for the tasty offerings.

Palomino served up their Chop Chop Salad, Rigatoni Bolognese, Tiramisu, and the biggest hit of the week, Beef and Salmon Sliders. They sold over 750 dozen sliders, and the popularity spiked interest and sales, many ordering the full-size versions at the restaurant. Marketing of the restaurant in Key Magazine Cincinnati, radio, and at the Western & Southern Open really gave them a leg up.

“We will definitely be back at the ATP next year,” said Nelson Castillo…. “It was fantastic!”.

Restaurant of the Month: Mita’s

Mitas artJose Salazar, chef and restaurateur, is opening his latest venture, Mita’s, in August. Located at 501 Race Street (5th and Race) in the Dunnhumby building, Mita’s will feature a Spanish and Latin American menu.

Decorated to evoke the feeling of South American and Latin culture, Mita’s will serve both classic and contemporary cuisine, such as tapas, ceviche, main entrees, salads, cheeses and cured meats, all created by Chef Salazar in his indomitable style. Salazar’s love of fresh, seasonal ingredients with local flavor are sure to be highlighted in this new menu. There will be a full bar, highlighting Spanish, Portuguese and South American wines – no Italian Reds or California Whites here! 30 seats will be available to enjoy at the bar, and there will be 100 seats in the dining area. Mita’s will open for dinner service to start.

“Mita” is what Salazar calls his Columbian grandmother, and this new restaurant is inspired by his relationship with her. Salazar’s wife, Ann, is opening the restaurant alongside him. Keep an eye out for the grand opening of Mita’s, a sure delight for the downtown dining scene.

Rascals’ NY Deli

Rascals Pastrami ReubenEver feel the craving for an honest-to-goodness, New York-style deli sandwich but figure, hey, I’m in Cincinnati so it’s not going to happen? Well, surprise – you’re wrong! You can get that true NY deli taste right here in town, at Rascals’ NY Deli.

Rascals’ has it all: delicious rye bread, premium deli meats, lox and whitefish, matzo ball soup, and of course, Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda. They were inspired by the great delis around the country, from the Carnegie Deli in New York to Corky and Lenny’s in Cleveland. The vast menu features all the classic deli sandwiches you know and love, as well as burgers, blintzes, soups, salads, fish, bagels…if you want it, they’ve got it!

Looking for the best Reuben in town? Rascals’ has it! They were voted “Best Reuben” by Cincinnati Magazine. They also were voted “Best Brunch”. Rascals’ serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner and are proud to offer up their killer breakfast sandwich every day, featuring 2 fried eggs, a potato latke, American cheese, Russian dressing and strawberry jelly on a bun. What a way to start the day! They also have some seriously delicious brisket, traditional chopped liver and for those wanting to go outside the deli box, lamb, brisket or chicken gyros. Don’t forget to order a piece of homemade kugel (noodle pudding) or a knish!

Rascals’ has a terrific catering menu, a Shabbos carry-out menu (kosher-style), shiva menus and you can also purchase their deli meats by the pound. What a great way to get your deli fix satisfied any time of the day or night. Stop by Rascals’ NY Deli, one mile north of Kenwood in Downtown Blue Ash. Once you’ve had that Reuben, you’ll never order one anywhere else again.

Barresi’s…a true Italian gem

restaurantofthemonth1-2015In the restaurant biz, being around for 50+ years is staying power. Visitors looking for exquisite, authentic Italian dishes, both northern and southern regional specialties, will find them and more at Barresi’s.

Veal (vitello) is the house specialty at Barresi’s. “It is so hard to find good veal dishes in this town (or perhaps outside the Big Apple and Philly and a few other enclaves of Italian ethnicity), pounded perfectly thin, melt-in-your-mouth, treated the right way, cooked the right way,” says owner and chef Sarah Wagner. “I’d say those (veal) dishes are what locals know us for and come here for time and time again.”

There are five veal entrée specialties in all: classic marsala, the mushroom sauce with pine nuts and marsala wine; a hospital nutrition endorsed heart-healthy piccata al limone, sauced in butter, white wine, lemon and capers; francese, the veal dipped in seasoned fresh egg, and sautéed over gentle heat in butter and lemon; sentino, finished with asparagus, mushrooms and crabmeat in a cream and cheese sauce; and parmigiana, in marinara sauce capped with parmesan and provolone cheeses.

Of course, you could choose pasta, such as the lobster ravioli in sauce Cardinale, and topped with lump crabmeat: or gnocchi in pesto ala Barresi, which is a creamy pesto with a touch of Alfredo sauce added to the basil-oil base; or chicken alla panna, done up over fettuccine and in Alfredo sauce, the add-ins including sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and scallions.

Or try what Wagner characterizes as Barresi’s biggest crowd-pleaser, the chicken & crab gorgonzola. “People may have the impression of gorgonzola cheese being strong and pungent, but our sauce is mellow and mild and absolutely bursting with flavor, and we have guests, regulars, who come here and never look at the menu and that’s their dish, every time,” Wagner said.

Dinner salads are a showcase feature at Barresi’s as well. The fried calamari Caesar tops the list, and is a mainstay. A special heart-healthy selection is the Mediterranean grilled tuna, featuring a bed of spring greens, mixed with kalamata olives, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, capped with sear-grilled medium rare wild-caught tuna, and accompanied by prosecco vinaigrette.

Families with small children may want to know that Barresi’s features a play area filled with “quiet” toys, away from diners, where kids are welcome while mom and dad relax over a meal.

Check out the Tapas Wine Bar at Barresi’s. You can cozy around the fireplace and enjoy the intimate atmosphere. You’ll find a slew of whites and reds by the glass or bottle, along with small plates for sharing and nibbling. Our Key magazine favorite is the carciofini al boungustaio, sautéed artichoke hearts in a garlic and EVOO sauce. The appetizer version of the lobster ravioli is a yummy choice as well, as are the zuppa di mussels and calamari fritti.

See you at Barresi’s for genuine Italian cuisine, made from Barresi family recipes.