Breezes stream in, swirling aromas of garlic and flowers on the patio of Mezzo Italian Kitchen. But this Gahanna Creekside restaurant - which can easily claim one of the most scenic patios around town - has more than heady scents to distinguish it from the rest of the outdoor-seating pack. In fact, its standout features are boundaries of eye-candy-like swaths of water.
Thus on one side of Mezzo's patio, ducks blithely slice Vs through the greenish ripples of Big Walnut Creek, which is further equipped with paddle boats for alternate fun seekers. On another side of Mezzo, man-made waterworks geyser up in spurts, sparkling at night with white lights. These are sights that frequently attract cameras and crowds and make for an unforgettable backdrop to an al fresco dining experience at Mezzo.
Mezzo's patio is not just about the water and the smells. Its comfy, brown wickery chairs are also privy to strings of candle-tipped lights, a wide firepit to ward off the evening chill (obviously not in much use lately) and a slight indoor/outdoor interface that during recent visits has allowed tunes from decent live instrumental bands to leak pleasantly outside.
Oh yeah, and there's a ton of bright, fragrant flowers and bushes in huge pots and planters positioned all around the patio's perimeter.
These all combine to produce some very unique porchy seating to enjoy Mezzo's easy-to-like Italianate cuisine. And so I did just that, all the while keeping a sun-, heat- and humidity-drenched eye on more seasonally appropriate, i.e. lighter fare.
For a roundup of irresistible nibbles that could serve as either a substantial shared snack or a fun entree, you can't beat the Mezzo Tasting Trio ($14). On a voluminous platter came:
Three big boy meatballs (good - soft, pliant, not made with a crapload of filler) in a dark and rich red sauce.
A large and soothing triangle of golden brown and crusty fried polenta with a pocket of gooey cheese.
Three golf-ball-sized mozzarella fritters gilded with a creamy wild mushroom sauce.
A huge single shrimp bound in a thick, smoky and crispy bacon blanket also cradling lagniappes of gentle crabmeat.
Call that appetizer a Mezzo must.
Salads are a natural for summertime patio noshing. Mezzo's Caesar ($6) was OK if not memorable. It had homemade (but not flavorful) croutons, romaine hearts and a mayo-based, garlicky dressing bereft of lemon or anchovy flavor. While it wasn't overdressed, neither was it properly tossed, leaving a bit of DIY action for the eater.
More interesting was the Arugula Salad ($6). It softened the peppery and bitter notes of its namesake greens with daubs of creamy goat cheese; thin, deep-fried sweet shallot rings; dried cherries and a poppy-seed vinaigrette. Sure it was busy, but in general it was an easy-to-slam-back success. Still, similar to the Caesar, it needed some plateside tossing.
Ditto for the entree-sized Grilled Scallop Salad ($14). A colorful mix of thin pear slices, strawberries, spinach, parmesan cheese and three deeply seared and black peppery scallops was a light and quite satisfying summertime meal.
Pizzas were pretty darn good here, too, especially when the generously sized, thin and crispy pies were bargain-binned for $5 during happy hour (5-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday). Try the zesty and salty meatfest Raguso or the veggie-tastic Verde with its mild but rich pesto sauce.
For dessert, go with the nice and light, homemade Tiramisu ($6) - but tell them to skip the industrial chocolate sauce.