Columbus Monthly’s Best New Restaurants 2023: Bar Cicchetti at the Westin Great Southern

Located in the heart of Downtown, this hotel restaurant from celebrity chef Fabio Viviani offers refined yet accessible Italian fare.

G.A. Benton
Columbus Monthly
Bar Cicchetti's Polpetti Di Fabio are hefty, ricotta-tenderized meatballs.

Expectations are inescapable with Bar Cicchetti, owned by celebrity chef, serial restaurateur and native Italian Fabio Viviani. Given the restaurant’s name and Viviani’s Italian background, you’d expect Bar Cicchetti would showcase cicchetti—Venetian-style, happy hour-compatible finger foods.

Well, not so much. Additionally, the bright, largely brown and beige eatery in the Westin Great Southern Columbus hotel opens well before happy hour, at 7 a.m.

Our advice: Check expectations at the door and just enjoy the impressive hospitality, stylish cocktails and excellent Italian dishes from this casual-looking, upscale establishment.

Clockwise from center, Bar Cicchetti's Polpetti Di Fabio, strozzapreti verde, Pistacio Smack cocktail, rosemary and olive focaccia, white wine and Calabrian chile campanelle

And order the grilled octopus—a dynamic composition of attracting opposites that stars tender seafood and roasted potatoes with crackly exteriors. Notes of tongue-tingling agrodolce (Italian sweet-and-sour sauce) arrive via cooked-to-sweet onions, vinegar and pickled onions. Add raw celery playing off sautéed garlic and spicy, funky ’nduja sausage, and you have a destination-worthy dish.

House-made, non-cliché pastas stand out, too. Lumache neri teams supple pasta shells blackened by squid ink with fine seafood and lobster-roe butter; strozzapreti verde is basil-greened cavatelli with fennel, sausage and tomatoes topped with a runny egg yolk.

Bar Cicchetti offers thick yet crisp, boldly flavored Roman-style pizzas, too, plus a terrific tiramisu whose parfait-style presentation defies expectations.

Pistacio Smack cocktail at Bar Cicchetti

Bar Cicchetti

310 S. High St., Downtown, 614-228-5300,

Side Dishes

Have a Ball: Meatballs—“polpette” in Italian—are popular in Italy, but not with spaghetti (that combination is an Italian-American creation). The menu’s Polpetti Di Fabio are hefty, ricotta-tenderized meatballs enhanced by garlic, basil, parsley and black pepper. Served with crunchy grilled bread and lively tomato sauce, the lovable dish warrants its Italian name.

Time For a Bargain: Bar Cicchetti is a high-end restaurant that thoughtfully offers lower-priced versions of scaled-down menu items for flexible diners. During happy hour (Monday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m.), those meatballs are $12 (regular price: $18); at lunch, the delectable strozzapreti verde, which is $27 regularly, is only $16.

Check In: Bar Cicchetti’s décor is unshowy and modern, but the hotel it inhabits—Westin Great Southern Columbus—is a Downtown showpiece built in the 1890s. Echoing the architectural style of Louis Sullivan, the big and beautiful red-brick landmark also houses an eye-popping lobby/atrium and the venerable Southern Theatre.

This story is from the 2023 Best New Restaurants package in the March 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.