A Taste of Old World Italy

“Si Cucina Al Minuto” is the motto of Trattoria Roma Ristorante and Bar, an old-school Italian restaurant located at 580 Walnut St. across from the Aronoff Center. Owner Salvatore, known as Sal, Aracri translates, “We cook by the order.”

Fresh is the word at Trattoria. Every day, cooks make fresh bread, sauces, mozzarella and pasta. As a result, the restaurant has attracted many loyal customers over 26 years that it has been in business. Trattoria offers breakfast and lunch in addition to private parties and catering services.

Step inside the restaurant and you immediately note the bricks on the wall, the red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and Chianti bottles with candles dripping wax. The ambiance is charming and comfortable, with seating for 96 people. An Italian music CD plays in the background. Customers tell Sal they feel like they are at home in the restaurant, which include pictures of Italy on the wall.

Starting out with a restaurant offering pizza by the slice next to Nicholson’s Tavern and Pub, Sal came from a family who immigrated to Cincinnati from the southern region of Calabria, Italy. His parents owned a restaurant in Italy. Like father, like son—except originally it was a big family; Sal had five brothers and four sisters. Growing up in the restaurant business, they learned dishes passed on to them. Sal started in the kitchen and worked his way up.

Four brothers Salvatore, Dominic, now deceased, Quintino, now deceased, and Antonio opened an Italian restaurant. Sal says, “Downtown accepted us.” In 1993, they moved to another location closer to the Aronoff Center and have become part of the downtown fabric. In addition, they converted to fine dining hoping to attract some of the patrons who attend Aronoff for Broadway musicals or other entertainment events.

Some of Sal’s largest volume days have been associated with such musicals as Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Mama Mia showing at Aronoff. His one regret is that weekly shows now begin at 7:30 p.m. shortening the time patrons have to come home from work, change and drive downtown. Sal would also like to see more entertainment venues in the center city.

One of Trattoria’s features is its 29 lunches under $10.00. That is a deal not easily found in many restaurants downtown or in the suburbs. Sal welcomes restaurants that draw more people. Some of his regulars even speak Italian with the owner.

Favorite customer dishes are lasagna, cioppino—a fish stew—and gnocchi alla bolognesi.

“We’re trying to bring our downtown back,” Sal says.