This newest outpost of rustic Italian communal dining is located in Polaris at the spot of the recently closed Mitchell restaurant Maritini Italian Bistro. The interior remains relatively unchanged. They painted over the tacky wine bottles on the wall, keeping the color scheme and floor layout similar to Martini. There is also substantial seating in the cafe area in front of the bar.
The menu features numerous small plate selections that are the Italian equivalent of tapas. There are many hot and cold small plates, including eggplant salad, zucchini parmesan, giardinera, roasted peppers with mushrooms, Caprese salad and melted romano pecorino with bread and apples to dip fondue style.
I sampled the assorted olives and a cheese plate. The assorted olives were green cerignola (sweet, citrus flavors), picholine (a French green olive redolent of grass, nuts and a vibrant acidity), Gaeta olives (a small, black olive that is soft and faintly bitter) and Beldi (a small, wrinkled, salt-cured Moroccan varietal with six weeks worth of your R.D.A. of sodium). The olives are served warm and make a great accompaniment to a glass of wine.
The cheese plate comes in three and five cheese versions. I sampled the aged goat cheese (which was dry and crumbly as opposed to soft and creamy with a crisp acidity supporting the floral undercurrent of the formaggio), Pecorino di Pienza (a soft sheep's milk cheese with rich buttery notes) and Taleggio (a strong, stinky cow's milk cheese with an even runnier consistency than the Pecorino). The cheese was served with a truffle honey, brandied cherries (which are divine), and apricot with red peppers.
My main course was the brown butter and sage gnocchi (pictured above). The potato pillows were served in herbed brown butter with onions and walnuts. The presentation was pleasant, and the flavors were earthy and restrained.
Marcella's also offers a ton of pizzas that were very good. The vegetarian friendly options include Margherita pizza, a zucchini, mushroom, tomato and olive pizza, a mushroom pizza and four cheese pizza.
The wine list all comes from the boot. The big city concept of quartinos is starting to catch on in Columbus. I first saw quartinos at a Chicago establishment aptly named Quartino a few years ago. A quartino is a small wine serving vessel that fits a quarter of a bottle of wine. Marcella's also serves wine by the half and full liter. All of these portions allow for great pricing and pour size of wine for dinner or drink and snack before you're out doing whatever it is that you do. I hope quartinos start popping up all over.
The service was helpful, all the while trying to learn the details opening a new restaurant. The best idea for dining here would be to eat as a group and to share appetizers and entrees because the portions are small, meant to be ordered en masse and slightly expensive, so a group might offset the investment cost. Alas, I am a dolt who went solo, so I'll have to keep it in mind for next time.
Check out the pictures below.