Mezzo serves straight-forward, hearty Italian fare that straddles both the Old World and the New in historic Dublin.
Is there anything more comfortable than sitting on a well-appointed patio, wine glass in hand, surrounded by friends and family? The only thing more comforting, in my book, is the addition of Italian food. If that's true for you, then you'll find comfort at Mezzo, part of locally owned Taste Hospitality Group, which also operates Hubbard Grille and Wine on High in the Short North.
Almost everything here is either classic Italian or Italian-inspired, with many dishes you've seen before. I suppose it fits the suburb. After all, Dublin is the kind of place one moves to feel safe and comfortable. It's not surprising that any night of the week you will find Dubliners packed around Mezzo's sinuous copper-topped bar or on the patio with friends and family.
Also inviting is the pretty interior of the place—exposed red brick, tile or dark hardwood floors, rough wood planks on some walls and exposed beams above. This is an old building in the historic district, and much of its charm has been preserved. The space is not large, but it's been put to good use and packs in as many customers as possible, including on a side patio and a two-tiered patio in the back. The best space inside is a semi-private table for eight or 10 in the front, flanked by many little shelves with upright wine bottles arranged floor to ceiling—not to worry, they are glued in place.
Servers and hosts do a commendable job here, but at times the servers seemed distracted by the hustle and bustle around them—almost like my teenagers when they're transfixed by their phones.
Begin your evening with one of nine well-made craft cocktails like the Boulevardier ($12), a take on the Negroni made with house barrel-aged bourbon, vermouth, bitters and a slice of orange. The cocktail list expands during happy hour with the addition of three drinks spiked with “house-infused vodka”—usually a bad idea. Here, a blueberry lemonade infusion with fragrant lavender ($6) is on the sweet side but quite refreshing.
The wine list is well-curated, mostly American and Italian. Prices are on the high side, but on Tuesdays all bottles are priced 30 or 40 percent off (remember: Ohio law permits you to take a sealed bottle home). Sangria ($9 glass, $32 pitcher) makes an appearance on the menu; while not exactly Italian, the sangria here is citrusy, not too sweet and the wine flavor shines through.
Of the starters, you'll be comforted by logs of zucchini fries ($8) in a crisp Parmesan and flour crust. They come accompanied by ramekins of ranch and marinara, but are better served with just a bit of lemon. An equally good starter is prosciutto-wrapped shrimp ($15)—four large, fresh prawns served with a salad of little tomatoes, arugula and a Gorgonzola purée. The crispy cured meat is a great foil to the seafood. Like the zucchini, it's better without the sauce. I'd also recommend the charcuterie board with its grilled bulbs of sweet cipollini and zingy ginger apricot jam to go with Grana Padano cheese, soppressata, prosciutto and other meats. My suggestion is to lose the Grana Padano, which is to real Parmesan what Busch Light is to craft beer.
While not in the conversation of the very best pizzas in town, Mezzo's pies are at least worth trying. Carne ($14) combines pepperoni, Italian sausage with a spicy kick, ham and bacon. Speck is smoked Italian ham, but on the speck pizza ($14) it's more like bits of salty, smoky bacon—still, pieces of sweet dried figs and tart semi-dry tomatoes add a nice balance. And I hope I'm not insulting anyone's mom, but Mama D's Soup ($5 cup, $8 bowl), a thick mix of tomato, sausage and the tiny hollow pieces of ditalini pasta, was too acidic and too salty for my taste.
The pastas at Mezzo don't stray far from the standard offerings. Lasagna ($18) and carbonara ($16) are well-executed; the pasta is cooked correctly and the sauces do not overwhelm. The best of the lot is gnocchi primavera ($16) in a bright green pesto with peas and asparagus. The little potato and flour dumplings are just right—not too chewy, not too soft.
Entrées range from salmon and scallops to chicken, veal and steaks. The recipes are mostly tried-and-true, but solid. Unless one overcooks the meat (not the case here) veal piccata ($26), thin cutlets of the pale meat sautéed in butter with lemon, white wine and capers, is hard to argue with—a classic for good reason. Steaks here are also properly grilled, and come with toppers like Gorgonzola, caramelized onion or mushroom touched with rosemary. Steaks include a tender flat iron ($26), filet ($39) and strip steak ($46). Prices might seem high, but the plates are filled with nicely paired accompaniments, like Parmesan risotto and grilled asparagus or haricot verts and roasted pesto potatoes. In addition, I can report that the place serves fish that's quite fresh, including the menu's grilled salmon with a corn and quinoa salad ($23).
It's nice to see a cheese board listed under desserts where it belongs. Though taleggio is a wonderful cheese, the rest are uninspiring for a $13 board. No fruit-based desserts are offered, which is too bad (maybe in warmer weather?), but Mezzo's version of tiramisu ($8) and a relatively light lemon mascarpone cheesecake ($7) are very good.
Named after the word “middle” in Italian (think mezzanine), Mezzo seeks a balance between Old World tradition and New World cuisine. While the menu leans more to the Old World than the New, the food here from executive chef Jeremy Cook and his team is certainly better than middling.