South Toledo Italian restaurant still a must-try.
Short ribs from La Scola Italian Grill.
It’s been open for a little more than eight years, but step into La Scola Italian Grill and it feels as if you’ve entered an old-school Italian establishment that’s been around for decades.
The vibe is apparent immediately. Dim lighting, old black and white photos on the walls, low, jazzy music, and a swanky but not stuffy lounge and bar area match up with fantastic customer service and exemplary cuisine.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★½
Address: 5375 Airport Hwy.
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday; 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average price: $$$
Credit cards: AE, Disc, MC, V
Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Outstanding; ★ ★ ★ ★ Very Good; ★ ★ ★ Good; ★ ★ Fair; ★ Poor
Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants.
The Blade pays for critics’ meals.
It makes this South Toledo restaurant a must-try if you’re not already a “regular.” And there appeared to be plenty of those on our two visits.
As we enjoyed the ambience while noshing on menu items prepared by Chef Moussa Salloukh, who is also a partner at the restaurant with Gus Nicolaidis, we had few complaints, and the ones we had were minor.
MENU: La Scola Italian Grill
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Both men tout laundry lists of experience in the food-service industry as well as culinary traditions centered on the love of family and food.
We started with garlic mussels ($11.99) and a roasted date flat bread appetizer ($9.99). The mussels were served in a light broth with a delicate lemony feel, accented by slivers of garlic and red pepper flakes floating in the sauce that gave it a slight punch. The sauce sopped up nicely with warm, crusty Italian bread that a companion said reminded her of her mother’s. The bread appetizer was top-heavy with prosciutto, a roasted date and almond spread, and chunks of salty feta cheese. It was finished with fresh basil and a balsamic glaze, which made for a solid sweet and savory partnership.
Daily and weekly specials are highly recommended. A beef short rib dish ($18.99) was fall-apart delicious, accompanied by crispy potato cakes and a plate adorned with a fan of colorful vegetables. An 8-ounce flat-iron steak ($20) special topped with wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and the restaurant’s signature porcini mushroom butter, was tender and served with rosemary redskin potatoes. It had a slight chewiness to it — we recognized we hadn’t ordered the filet — but the flavors melded superbly.
Osso Bucco di Maiale from La Scola Italian Grill.
We raved about the Osso Bucco di Maiale ($21.99) on the first visit. Not only was the pork shank visually appealing, it was perfectly seasoned, and my dining companion noted, “absolutely delectable.” It is normally served with rosemary-roasted potatoes, but she asked if she could have a vegetable instead and was delighted that the server brought her garlic greens that looked wonderful next to the zucchini and summer squash.
Tiramisu from La Scola Italian Grill.
I was also a fan of the veal piccata ($22.99), which featured crispy veal with a rich sauce that mixed wine, parsley, lemon, garlic, and capers. They didn’t overdo the lemon, which was appreciated.
Chicken Bandierra and margherita flatbreads from La Scola Italian Grill.
The La Scola trio ($16.99), a plate with homemade lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and creamy fettuccini Alfredo, got mixed review. One dining companion didn’t like the lasagna or chicken parm, noting that they were too dry and too spicy. Another thought it was pretty close to authentic Italian. Everyone agreed the Alfredo was delicious; it was light without being sauced to death.
A friend told me the pizza ($12-$13) at La Scola is amazing, so we decided to order one as an appetizer on our second visit. When we couldn’t decide between the chicken bandierra and the margherita, the server recommended the happy hour flat breads — miniature versions of the pizzas at half the price that let you try more than one.
They were equally worthy, it turns out, and my friend was right. The dough was crisp and warm, and the toppings on each were chosen perfectly, especially the bandierra which featured grilled chicken, bacon, tomato sauce, caramelized onion, and mozzarella, and was then striped with pesto, Alfredo, and tomato sauce. If you want to stop somewhere for just an appetizer and drinks, they have some pretty good deals between 5 and 7 p.m.
I wasn’t planning to order a vegetarian dish that night, but when the server said the butternut squash ravioli ($15.99) was a staff favorite, I decided to give it a whirl. Great choice; it was rich and warm, and topped with almonds, a sherry butter sauce, and a dollop of fresh goat cheese. I tend to shy away from squash dishes because they are sometimes overly sweet, but I was delighted that this one tipped the scales toward savory.
The seafood portofino ($21.99) was the evening’s winner. Shrimp, clams, mussels, and calamari were encased in a slightly spicy red sauce, and served over noodles. The sauce was tomato-y without being overwhelming. Our server didn’t come by this time offering freshly grated Parmesan, but frankly, we barely noticed and didn’t think to ask. It stood on its own.
If you’re not a foodie, describing noodles might seem odd, but you have to give credit where credit is due: the linguini was perfectly done. A noodle that is too firm or too mushy can ruin an entire dish, no matter what else is going on.
We ordered a chocolate souffle ($6) that was topped off with a giant strawberry and oozed warm chocolate from the inside. No one registered a complaint.
The caramel pecan tiramisu ($7), made in-house, was an interesting adventure. On a first visit we dug in, only to find that the mandatory thin layer of espresso-soaked ladyfingers was nonexistent. Something was missing.
Puzzled, we ordered it on the second visit and all the ingredients were there. It was fantastic.
Spoons were licked clean.
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