Another fine meal at Lola's in Gahanna (CMH)
No, Michael Symon doesn't own this. This is a little "hole in the wall" in the Columbus suburb of Gahanna. Lately, with 2 kids in college, we have been feeling the economic pinch and have had to downsize the cost of our meals out significantly. This place fits the bill perfectly without sacrificing taste or quality. Lola is run by a little Italian couple and the food is homemade from family recipes. They recognize returning patrons by name and there is no Olive Garden feel here, either in menu or cost.
The place is very small, maybe 12-15 tables tops and waits can be long, but very much worth it. We visited last Saturday and only waited 10 min for a table of 3 at 7:00, which says more about the economy. There are 3 small rooms complete with Italian oriented decorations and you feel like you are sitting in someone's dining room, with white tableclothes. Almost immediately upon being seated, we were served delicious warm, fresh garlic bread.
We shared a large cesar salad, which came with shards of parmiggiano-reggiano and homemade dressing, which definitely had a base of anchovies, like a good cesar should. My brother had a bowl of the traditional Italian wedding soup, which was very hearty, very hot and tasty. Mother had the eggplant pamesan ($14), accompanied by a pasta. Brother had the spaghetti, peppers and sausage ($12), which tasted like Italy. My gnocchi ($12) were homemade covered in a good red sauce with chunks of hot Italian sausage and shards of parmiggiano-reggiano. Was this nouvelle Italian? Nope, pretty much your basic "old time" Italian favorities. What made it special? The execution of the preparation, the lightness of the pasta, the knowledge that you were getting the best of ordinary menu choices.
So, the good news is that if you can't afford the $100 meal, there are still options in Columbus for local, independently owned, homemade family style restaurants. That's saying a lot in a city that proudly boasts every chain known to mankind.