Creekside escape: Mezzo
Feeling stressed? Do as the Italians do -- set aside a few hours for a relaxed lunch with good food, good company and plenty of wine at Mezzo in Gahanna.
When the weather's nice, try to grab a table on the brick patio. With the picturesque Big Walnut Creek winding past and the Creekside fountains burbling in the background, it's an ideal setting for some laid-back lunching.
If you're not so much a nature gal, sit inside for a completely different experience. A long, curvy, granite-topped bar sets the scene in the low-lit and lively space, outfitted with rich woodwork, exposed brick and vibrant colors. Some neat art has been created out of kitchenware, like chandeliers ringed with dangling silver spoons and a ceiling piece incorporating silverware and brightly colored plates.
Ask for one of the chic, Hollywood-style black leather booths, where you can pack into a semicircle seat and pretend you're very important celebrities. Inside or out, you'll find white-tablecloth-covered tables and an attentive wait staff who never tries to rush things along.
What to eat
A few of Mezzo's most popular dinner specialties are streamlined for the lunch menu, like Penne Prima Vera with roasted vegetables and an herb cream sauce ($11) and Chicken Marsala, topped with shitake mushrooms and paired with mashed potatoes ($14).
A standout dish for both lunch and dinner is the Sauteed Sea Scallops ($16), with four plump shellfish and sauteed zucchini resting atop a mound of outstanding sweet corn and bacon risotto. The creamy, complex, sweet-and-salty risotto is the star of the dish -- quite a feat when you're competing with sea scallops. But those shellfish are actually improved by soaking up some of the smoky bacon goodness, and the rich concoction is undercut a bit by a drizzle of champagne vinaigrette.
Other lunchtime options range from vegetarian pasta dishes to pressed panini sandwiches and thin-crust specialty pizzas.
For lighter appetites, the entree salads are excellent. The Crab Cake Salad ($13) pairs a meaty and flavorful bell-pepper-flecked cake with a heaping mound of mixed greens and matchsticks of roasted beets, carrots and peppers. The salad is doused in a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette with a nice bite-it's a perfect portion for lunch, and leaves room for dessert.
What to drink
You could order a cocktail, but Mezzo prides itself on an extensive wine selection, so stick with a glass of Italian pinot grigio or chardonnay with your lunch -- the seafood- and chicken-heavy menu lends itself well to whites. Or, spring for a bottle of prosecco for the table. The light and airy Italian bubbly is known for its giggle-inducing powers.
And you should definitely save room for dessert. Opt for classic Italian picks, like tiramisu or cannoli, or go for the light Lemon and Raspberry Parfait, with layers of lemon cake, lemon mousse and fresh raspberries. Linger even longer with one of Mezzo's Caffe Biancos, spiked with Baileys Irish cream and Godiva white chocolate liqueur.
130 Creekside Plaza, Gahanna