Specials live up to the name at terrific new Gallo’s on High
Regular menu items shine, but be sure to watch out for the Clintonville eatery’s limited offerings
Seated outside at Gallo’s on High in Clintonville on a recent beautiful late spring evening, I heard Billie Holiday singing “We’ll Meet Again” through a patio speaker. I’d been fully vaccinated, had apparently weathered the worst of the pandemic, and was reflecting on my transition from throes-of-the-coronavirus, to-go-focused eating to enjoying the hospitality of this terrific new restaurant.
The relaxing, cafe-style patio ambience blended with lively chatter, twilight and the perfect tune (“We’ll Meet Again” is famous for cheering up World War II-enduring Britons) to greatly improve my mood. Was this a delicious return to “normal”?
Smiling and efficient servers would soon bring undeniably delicious items to that patio. During later visits, the tasteful jazz devolved into 1980s radio hits, but the fare brought to me on the patio, as well as to tables in the upscale-pub-like dining room — which is spacious, handsome and offers sports-tuned TVs and a backlit bar — would always be rewarding at this youngest member of the Gallo’s family of restaurants.
While nearly as casual as Gallo’s Tap Room — a top-tier sports pub — Gallo’s on High (which borders Hot Chicken Takeover) resembles its more ambitious sibling, Gallo’s Kitchen and Bar. So does its well-executed cuisine, which could be thumbnail-sketched as “Italian-leaning contemporary American bistro fare.”
Specials should command attention. Menu perusal — which will include tempting, added-too-late-for-this-review dishes on the recently expanded menu (I’m looking at you, cioppino) — can be facilitated by libations selected from a compact but above average wine list or an inviting cocktail menu.
And fine facilitation it’ll be if you order the Arriving at John Glenn ($12), a refreshing, Aviation-style cocktail made with Watershed Four Peel gin, or the Greenlawn Grave Robber ($12), an aptly enlivening spin on the Corpse Reviver shaken with Watershed apple brandy. Savoring either with Gallo’s good gratis bread service (remember bread service?) — warm, crusty loaves presented with balsamic-blotted olive oil — is a foolproof dinner beginner.
Among specials I’d happily target again: a spicy lump crab cocktail that didn’t offer much spice but had so much excellent sweet crab flattered by citrus that its $10 price amounted to a steal of a deal that included greens and a crinkly Parmesan tuile; zucchini fritti ($9) — hefty squash segments encased in crunchy, golden-brown sheaths that tasted like they’d been enriched with cheese; and pan-seared branzino ($26) — skillfully seared fish enhanced by a wine-lemon-butter sauce, plus sides of lemony broccolini and herb-kissed rice pilaf.
The regular menu is packed with winners, as well. These include comforting and flavorful homemade meatballs ($12); Neapolitan-style pizzas fashioned with scratch-made dough (try the Tripel Pigs with salami, capicola and bacon, $14); and first-rate brined chicken wings with a garlic-lemon-pepper sauce ($9). Add a Caesar salad ($8), distinguished by a nice vinaigrette rather than topped with the kind of gloppy, mayo-bound dressing that has become all too common locally, and these starter-style dishes become a meal.
No salad was needed with the rib-sticking and large pasta Bolognese ($15), an entree highlight. Bolognese aficionados — we know who we are — are unlikely to find a better restaurant version of the soffritto-bolstered, wine-fortified, long-cooked classic Italian meat sauce in Columbus.
But don’t sleep on the expertly roasted, locally raised, lemon-and-garlic-charged Over the Moon half-chicken ($22, with righteous fries). Ditto for the attractively plated blackened scallop risotto ($28) — four spicy shellfish dotted with roasted-beet coulis and partnered with buttery asparagus plus a creative, garlicky and inhalable sweet potato risotto.
If the chocolate pot de creme ($7) is offered, get it. Spooning up that luscious chocolate custard with lovely whipped cream and chocolate-covered espresso beans amounted to — as did dining at this restaurant in general — a delicious return to better than normal.
Gallo's On High
4215 N. High St., Clintonville