FOOD

Best New Restaurants 2022: Pelino's Pasta

At their 49-seat restaurant, Vinny Pelino and his wife, Christina, serve a prix fixe menu with house-made semolina pasta as the main attraction. The scratch desserts are not to be missed.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Vinny and Christina Pelino of Pelino's Pasta

Sorry, secondi, but at Pelino’s there are no steaks, veal Marsala or chicken Parmesan. Rather, at this intimate, 49-seat restaurant on King Avenue, Vinny Pelino and his wife, Christina, serve a prix fixe menu that showcases house-made pasta, using imported Italian semolina flour, as the main attraction.

Here’s how it works: Diners may choose from either a three- or four-course menu. Both menus include a choice of antipasti, pasta and dessert. The four-course menu includes a filled pasta as well. Pelino’s changes its menu monthly, but cacio e pepe, featuring gemelli pasta tossed tableside inside a wheel of Pecorino Romano, is always available. One month, you might find lobster-stuffed cappellacci bathing in a delicate lobster bisque. Another month might feature carbonara with guanciale imported from Rome and eggs laid by pasture-raised chickens on Vinny’s family farm.

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Pelino’s is one of the rare restaurants in which you should absolutely request a seat at the bar. Not only are the emerald-green bar chairs cozy, but you’ll easily be able to interact with Vinny, who will chat at length about the history of a pasta dish or about his mom, who pitches in at the restaurant from time to time. Both Vinny and Christina have an easygoing, knowledgeable front-of-house demeanor, a true highlight of the overall experience. 

Ravioli di gamberi: Argentinian red shrimp from Coastal Local Seafood, organic parsley, shrimp crema from Pelino's Pasta

“I’m one of 11,” Vinny says. “Growing up in such a large family, it was kind of an expression of love to share food with someone. That kind of hospitality is something I crave and want to share.” Indeed, at Pelino’s, you feel the love.

Side Dishes

Al Dente Debate: If Pelino’s has one hot topic among Yelp critics, it’s the “al dente” pasta debate. (Al dente means “to the tooth.”) Many of us in the U.S. have grown up eating overcooked pasta, but in addition to cooking time, the flour matters. Pelino’s toothsome pasta employs semolina flour, which is naturally higher in protein than, say, all-purpose flour, and results in a yellow-hued pasta with a firmer texture that really grabs onto a sauce. “Not everyone’s used to it, and they’re allowed to not be used to it. If you grew up eating industrial pasta and cooked it for 15 minutes then, yeah, it would be a shock. But our concept is to keep things as authentic as possible,” Vinny Pelino says. “You want to have that firmness. You don’t want the pasta to be soft in the way that it doesn’t allow anything to adhere. Once it absorbs too much water, it can’t possibly absorb anything else. You’ll notice that when something’s cooked al dente. … The sauce itself will adhere a little bit better.”

Yes to Dessert: No diner leaves Pelino’s without dessert, which is part of the prix fixe menu. All desserts are made in-house by head pastry chef Christina Pelino, and they are not to be missed. Her tiramisu, which never leaves the menu, arrives playfully presented in a Moka coffee pot. And if you see a dessert accompanied by Christina’s cloud-soft amaretti cookies—order it. You’ll wish Pelino’s sold them in batches to-go, but it just means you’ll have to make return visits.

Pelino’s Pasta

245 King Ave., Dennison Place

614-849-6966

This story is from the February 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.