A Long Drive But Well Worth It: Martino's on Vine, Cincinnati, OH
The drive from Kokomo to the Hampton Inn and Suites on Vine Street in Cincinnati was as painless as the earlier leg and we made it to our room about 3:30pm...in time for a walk down Short Vine at the edge of the University of Cincinnati campus. We found Martino's on Vine and took a quick peek inside in anticipation of our meal later on. While it had the feel of a sports bar, we could also see a dining area away from the bar with booths and tables, one of which was going to be our spot that evening.
At the time we were there, Short Vine was undergoing a pretty major facelift with new condos, new sidewalks and a general makeover. The area certainly had the feel of a college campus, lots of kids wandering about and some youth-based shops and a concert venue theatre. It was remarkably busy for a Tuesday afternoon and it was an interesting walkabout.
After freshening up at the hotel, we made it back to Martino's at 6:30ish and had no trouble finding an out-of-the-way booth and were greeted by our server, Kayla. We ordered a bottle of their house cabernet and once again were challenged to make a decision as this Martino's menu is quite extensive as well. We were interested to see that homemade gnocchi was an option and because that's something our family makes, we were tempted to try it. Carol asked Kayla if we could get a small sample plate and Kayla accommodated us so we opted for Baked Ziti (Carol) and Sausage Saccotino (for me) as our entrees. The red sauce on the gnocchi and both entrees was fantastic...a family recipe once again. And while Carol was only able to finish half her generous portion of the ziti, I polished off my saccotino, even though it too, was very large. Both entrees were fantastic and the salad, garlic bread and breadsticks were a great accompaniment, as was the wine. All in all, a great meal in a relaxed atmosphere.
At some point during the evening, we told Kayla our surname and thankfully, owner Martin Angiulli found time to come see us at our table so we were able to share our reason for our visit that night. It was during that conversation that we found that this Martino's is named after Martin's father, Martin, Sr.
The name Martin in Italian is, of course, Martino so because the family felt that Martino's is easier to pronounce and possibly remember than "Angiulli's", they opted to name the restaurant as they did.
An interesting aspect of the Martino's on Vine story revolves around how the business got to Cincinnati. Martin's son Marty (Martin III) attended the University of Cincinnati on a football scholarship and Martin, who owned a restaurant in Ford City, PA, decided to expand and opened Martino's on Vine to be closer to his son. He retains the business in Ford City, called Night Court, and travels between the two establishments regularly. So the fact that Martin was in town the night we were there was not lost on us. We feel fortunate to have met Martin and had a chance to get to know him and his family.
The Angiulli's are from Bari, Italy, a coastal city near the “toe of the boot” and Martin's father came to this country as did my grandfather, looking for work and settled in Pittsburg, PA, working in the coal mines. Martin, pictured left, remembers growing up in a “family” neighborhood, just as I did and though our surnames are different, this Martino and I have much in common. I was reminded of the bonds that Italian families had in this country in the early part the 20th century, living closely in ethnic neighborhoods in cities and in small towns like Roanoke, Illinois. Just as music and other art forms can connect people who don't even know each other, our common heritage can nearly instantly make us feel like a part of a new family. It did for us this November evening. And I have a deep instinct that your name doesn't have to be Martino to be treated thusly at Martino's on Vine. I think the warmth of the Italian seed buried within the Angiulli family comes out with each meal served. You can taste it...you can feel it.
Carol and I thank Martin, Marty, Patty, Belinda, Kayla and all the folks at Martino's on Vine for another wonderful memory and while we hope the rest of our “Martino's” experiences live up to these first three, it will take some doing. But we look so forward to the journey. See you next time!
Excerpt from Good Life Destinations