Pat Giammarco has created an amazing fusion of food and atmosphere in downtown Toledo. Like a proud parent, Giammarco steers me around his restaurant, first showing off the gleaming, immaculate-looking steel surfaces on which his artisan pizzas are crafted, then it’s down into the depths of the restaurant’s interior to check out the bread and pastas being hand-rolled from scratch. “We’re a scratch restaurant,” his right hand man and executive chef, JT, assured me. “Everything is made from scratch. Everything is as local as possible.” Giammarco disappears from the interview time and time again to make sure every detail of the evening is perfect for his many guests and diners, and it’s still early on a typical Friday night. He’s apologetic each time he dashes away, and sends his staff over to make sure I am being cared for. It’s exciting to see someone who cares so much about the quality of his restaurant’s appeal.
From Italy via Detroit
High-energy and good-natured, Giammarco is an Italian immigrant whose parents settled in Detroit when he was 10. With a hearty handshake and quick with a sly wink to reward astute observations, the owner makes you feel like a best friend within moments of meeting him. “I don’t want to say anything negative, but we think we’re the best Italian restaurant in the area,” Giammarco said simply. Reinventing great Italian food in Toledo, the gregarious impresario is also determined to focus the interview on what M Osteria is achieving and not worry so much about his other business dealings. Of course, you can’t exactly mention the Giammarco name without bringing up that his nationwide chain, Marco’s Pizza, is one of the most successful businesses to emerge from the Glass City. And though pizza is on the menu at both, the difference between running the two entities, Giammarco said, is “the difference between speaking English and Chinese.”
The best thing on the menu
I get down to brass tacks when I first meet JT, who is responsible for much of the eatery’s inspired menu, asking him what most folks order when they stop in. “The best thing on the menu is our tortellini,” he assures me without having to put much thought into the matter. “We do a five-hour braised brisket, let it sit overnight, after it comes out of the oven, pull it all and roll in our house-made ricotta, our house-made créme fraîsch, a little parmesan, house-made veal demi, roll all that together and then hand roll tortellinis stuffed with the mixture.” If that sounds delicious, I promise it’s even better than that. “We try and change up the menu, but our customers won’t let us get rid of it,” JT said, with a proud papa shrug of his own. That doesn’t mean ignore the rest of the menu though, which features salads, antipasti, paninis and plenty of classic Italian options with a haute flair. Everything looks good as the servers bring out plate after plate with generous portions of high-quality, fresh food. Giammarco and JT explain that the menu changes every three-four months, seasonally and there’s always something new to try.
Naturally, the question arises if M Osteria and Bar will become a chain like Marco’s, as clearly Giammarco has a knack for duplicating success. The restaurant, since opening in 2015, has quickly become a mainstay of the downtown food and art culture scene and would probably take off in any other location it tried. But that’s not going to happen. “This is it. One great location. If you want to eat at M Osteria, you’re gonna have to come to Toledo, Ohio,” Giammarco confirms. If you find yourself without a conversation to engage in, spend some quiet moments taking in the beautiful stylings of the 140-year-old building. Totally restored and brought up to code, the ambiance of the restaurant mimics its food: a fresh and exciting new take on an old idea. The exterior wall features a mural showcasing a cathedral and canal of Venice, put up by the Toledo Museum of Art to highlight one of the paintings in its exhibit. It’s a sort of “mood advertising,” that adds a splash of authentico and romance to M Osteria’s location. With close access to plenty of Toledo’s biggest attractions including the Huntington Center and Hensville, delicious food for most budgets and a convenient parking lot right next door, M Osteria should be one of your go-to downtown dining experiences. M Osteria’s Tortellini Pasta: (serves six) For the pasta (do not substitute dried lasagna, use fresh dough) 240g All Purpose Flour (approx. 3.0 cups) 12g Salt (approx. 2½ Tsp. ) 12g Olive Oil (approx. 2½ Tsp. ) 180g Whole Eggs (aproox 3 Whole Eggs) 240g (approx 13 Egg Yolks) Blend the flour and salt together by hand. Slowly add other ingredients until a dough is formed. Beef Tortellini Filling: 2lbs. Braised Beef 1 ½ cups Ricotta ¼ cup créme fraîche ¼ cup veal demi glace ¼ cup fine herb Salt, pepper and champagne vinegar to taste.
11:30am-11pm, Monday through Friday 611 Monroe St. | 419-214-4222. mosteriatoledo.com