at The Butler Institute of American Art
524 Wick Avenue
Youngstown, OH 44502
1201 Youngstown-Warren Road
Niles, OH 44446
I UNDERSTAND YOUNGSTOWN might not be at the top of everyone's travel list. I know that Warren and Niles certainly aren't, unless you've got family there, in which case, why have we not met, or, are we related?
That said, chances are you've passed though Pittsburgh or Cleveland or will sometime in your future. If you do, and you've got a car, and you've got a day to spare, perhaps you'll make the trip. At least that's your justification for reading this.
Winslow's Cafe at The Butler Institute of American Art is nowhere near as pretentious as it sounds, I promise. You do not need a monocle, a cane, and a fur coat to enter, though, that would be hilarious. Winslow's, simply, is a food counter of sorts that serves the museum, albeit deliciously. It's quick, it's cheap, and it has an awesome black bean burger with soft chipolte cheese that goes well with their sweet, spicy corn relish.
The museum itself is pretty great too. My mom, who teaches Physical Therapy at YSU, and I always wind up passing through both Winslow's and the museum each trip I make home, probably because both are so thoroughly enjoyable. The Butler, for a small museum, has a sprawling collection of American art worth seeing.
For dinner, Alberini's actually sits in nearby Niles, about halfway between Youngstown and Warren on the appropriately named Youngstown-Warren Road. To say that Alberini's is the best Italian restaurant in the area is an understatement. To then note that the area is full of first and second generation Italian immigrants makes the prior statement a high compliment.
For me, I will admit, the family connection is strong--my grandfather sold Richard Alberini the land to build his restaurant decades ago. Since then, it has thrived; the two good friends remained so for many years. Richard passed away recently, though, and our dinner was my grandfather's first visit to the restaurant without his friend roaming its dining rooms.
To sum it up, the menu at Alberini's is Italian food at its most perfect. Everything you should expect--the sauces, the recipes, and gnocchi handmade and cooked like should be. In fact, it may be the only place I've ever eaten Italian food in this country that tastes like it does in Italy. High compliment, certainly. Of course, I'm entirely biased. But, if you make the drive and don't agree... well, the ghost of Richard will ruin your meatballs for eternity. I promise.
MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: I always seem to, yes.