In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants began to arrive in the Mahoning Valley, settling in places like Youngstown, Warren, Lowellville and Niles.
They brought with them their culture, and an abundance of food – including pasta. That food has become a staple of restaurants everywhere, including in Trumbull County. To that end, there’s the Italian Food Trail through the county that offers a variety of pasta, pizza, sandwiches, desserts and other cuisine.
The food trail afforded me the opportunity to revisit some of my old haunts, like the Sunrise Inn on East Market Street in Warren. In my salad days as an intern at the nearby Tribune-Chronicle, I was the one usually sent out of food runs, which included the Dairy Queen up on Elm Road (where I was close enough to the drive-in that I could tune in its radio station to listen to a little of whatever movie was playing), Sunrise or Brother’s Pizza – another stop on the food tour. Sunrise is famous for its pizza and fried chicken, and although there is usually a wait for a full pizza (they recommend ordering about 45 minutes in advance), there are an abundance of slices available.
Sunrise, like most other pizza places in the Mahoning Valley, serves what’s become known as Brier Hill pizza – its name taken from the Youngstown neighborhood where the first Italian immigrants settled. It’s a simple dish, born of poor immigrants trying to stretch a buck as far as they could. It’s pizza with red sauce, peppers and Romano cheese.
If you’re looking for a sandwich or a hot meal on the go, swing by Jimmy’s on Belmont Avenue in Liberty, just past the Youngstown city line. When research for other projects takes me downtown to the library or Tyler History Center (as it did last weekend), I try to stop at Jimmy’s for an Italian Deluxe, which contains prosciutto, salami and capicolla. They also sell lunchmeat by the pound and have a full complement of desserts, including cassata cake, biscotti and other cookies.
There are plenty of opportunities for full meals as well. My wife and I visited Vernon’s in Niles. We’d never been before, but it’s by the same owners as V2, a casual bistro/wine bar in downtown Youngstown. Vernon’s is a different experience with full meals including seafood, steaks and, yes – pasta. I had the gnocchi, and my wife had the drunken chicken (chicken with pasta in vodka sauce). And of course, we had dessert. She had tiramisu and I had cannoli.
Prior to our meals, we also had Italian wedding soup, another staple of Italian food in the Mahoning Valley. It’s a mixture of dark greens, pastina or orzo and small meatballs. We made sure to have a cup (and yes, we had some at our wedding).
Whether you’re looking for a quick meal on the run or a fancier affair, there are plenty of opportunities along the Trumbull County Italian Food Trail.
For more adventure, Find It Here. at Ohio.org.