|Cosecha Cocina, one of the culinary bright spots in
Columbus’s Italian Village before the COVID
pandemic forced it close in 2020.
I’ve always thought Columbus’s Italian Village neighborhood was older than it was; in reality, the truth is it is and it isn’t. The Italian Village moniker isn’t even 50 years old, but the area dates back to the 19th century. And contrary to its current moniker, the area, just outside of downtown proper and bordered by High Street on the west, the railroad tracks on the east, East Fifth Avenue to the north, and I-670 to the south, has been home to a number of ethnic groups over its lifespan, including Italians, obviously.
Back in the old days, Italian Village was home to a wide variety of industries, including Wonder Bread, The Clark Grave Vault & Auto Equipment Company, Smith Brothers Hardware, and the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company. Remnants of that industrial past still remain (namely, the Smith Brothers and the Wonder Bread buildings), but the focus of the neighborhood nowadays has changed, become both a residential and culinary destination area for locals and visitors alike.
For this week’s 614ortyplatter, I thought I’d give a bit of a musical guided tour what exists culinarily in this up-and-coming Columbus neighborhood. As Italian Village overlaps with Columbus’s Short North neighborhood, I will focus mainly on the more exclusively Italian Village eateries with this list, and I promise it will be more than a tasty-enough list (playlist embedded at the end of this post.)
1) “Italian Village” – Todd Eckart: The perfect starting song I figured was a song that matched the neighborhood name. Described as “part wistful crooner, part country song-smith, and equal measure rock-n-roll heart throb” on his website, the Minnesota-based Eckart deftly displays that blend of musical styles on this track.
2) “The Fox In The Snow” – Belle & Sebastian -and- 3) “Egg Sandwich” – The Macpodz: In many ways, Fox in The Snow (the Italian Village coffee shop/bakery) has developed as precious a reputation as the Glasgow-based band from which they drew their name. However, precious is hardly a bad thing here – both the band and the bakery have produced some excellence and a considerable fan base in their respective fields, with a dozen well-received albums from the former and delicious treats such as the Souffled Egg Sandwich, Blueberry Galettes, and Buttermilk Biscuits. In fact, their Egg Sandwich is so good, we decided we needed to dedicate our third song to it alone, with The Macpodz (an Ann Arbor-based band who describes their sound as “Disco Be-Bop” and equal parts Frank Zappa and Miles Davis) doing the honors.
4) Tåsi – Reflect: The first of several solo and collaborative singles, this Austin, TX-based rapper (otherwise known as Marlon Hedrick) sports a unique heritage, hailing from Saipan (the largest island of the Mariana Islands Commonwealth) with a Filipina mother and White father. Spelled without the Chamorro “å”, Tasi Cafe has been a popular breakfast and lunch staple of the Italian Village/Short North area for 15 years now, being the last of several restaurants in the area founded by the Rigsby family.
5) “Village Market” – Deep Sea Peach Tree: Another nice match of band and eatery. The New York-based Deep Sea Peach Tree has blended a a surf rock sound with more dreamy, jazzy vibe ever since their 2016 debut. Ever since its debut in 2014, The Market Italian Village has blended grocery store, beverage depot and restaurant to varying degrees, and made a fun little pivot to combat COVID restrictions with its Dairy Dose remake, which offered summery takeout fare like fancy hot dogs and fries.
6) “Mission” – Catfish and the Bottlemen: This Welsh band dates back to 2007, but it took several years before they debuted with an album (“The Balcony” in 2014). Now with three albums under their belt, the band’s songs are a staple on radio, including on Columbus independent radio institution CD 92.9. For awhile, the Italian Village Annex was where the Short North-based Mission Coffee ran their roasting operations and educational classes; however, COVID has temporarily closed the Short North location and made their Annex their hub for all things coffee.
7) “Suedehead” – Woodhouse: Another one of those mystery bands that don’t have a heck of a lot of information on them on the Internet despite two album releases, Woodhouse nevertheless does a pretty nice cover of the debut single from the Manchester-born Morrissey. From our neighborhood lens, Woodhouse would be a reference to Woodhouse Vegan, which started as a pop-up in 2016 and was among those at the forefront of the vegan and plant-based wave of restaurants which have blossomed in the Columbus metro area the past couple years.
8) “Zaftig” – Paul Meyer: We go to France for this tune from Paul Meyer, who is considered one of the country’s premier clarinetists, dabbling both in classical and modern music styles. Thankfully, you don’t have to travel that far to get to the Italian Village brewpub of Zaftig Brewing, a brewery whose focus is on higher-gravity beers and whose second location in Italian Village features an in-house restaurant.
9) “Little Rock” – Reba McEntire: McEntire has been one of country music’s most enduring stars, with nearly thirty albums to her credit and ventures into movie acting and Broadway. “Little Rock”, from her 1986 album “Whoever’s In New England”, is but one of 32 singles to top the country charts. 27 years after that event, Little Rock Bar made its appearance in Italian Village, adding a hangout spot for the locals to what was still a then-developing neighborhood.
10) “Pizza” – OOHYO: A name that could be pronounced “O-hi-o” if you stretched it a bit, the artist known as OOHYO (also known as Woo Hyo-eun) was born in South Korea, but you wouldn’t know it from the near lack of accent on her English-language synth-pop songs like Pizza, originally released as a single in 2017. Not counting the co-located Short North/Italian Village pizzerias, Italian Village sports two pizza-oriented places in Del Baggio Pizzeria and GoreMade Pizza.
11) “The Seventh Son” – Willie Dixon: Dixon really needs no introduction, being instrumental in fashioning the Chicago jazz and blues scene in the 1940s and 1950s as a songwriter and performer. On this track, he does both, composing the tune for Willie Mabon and playing the double bass. Fourth and Fourth is the home for Columbus’s Seventh Son Brewing, which was one of the first of the third wave of craft breweries to establish a home in the metro in 2013.
12) “Los Dos Hermanos” – Vicente Fernandez -and- 13) “Aloha ʻĀina ʻOiaʻiʻo” – Hāwane Rios: Like many breweries, Seventh Son’s food is provided by any of a flotilla of mobile food trucks in the area. Two of the most familiar food trucks here are the taco-oriented Dos Hermanos, which has been patrolling the streets since 2012, and the Hawaiian with a modern twist fare of Aloha ‘Aina. Representing these two vendors is none other than iconic Vicente Fernandez, known as “El Rey de la Música Ranchera (The King of Ranchera Music), and Rios, a native Hawaiian hailing from Waimaea.
14) “Take Me Home (Wankelmut Remix)” – Saint James: According to Soundcloud, Saint James (as in Peter St. James) hails from Vancouver, but many of his songs have been recorded on a Swedish record label, including this pleasant electronic jam recorded in 2016. Perhaps its only fitting that we end this Italian Village oriented list at none other than St. James Tavern, which in its early days was known by its regulars as a neighborhood bar without a neighborhood, with its surroundings being somewhat abandoned. Nowadays, its “No Crap On Tap” motto is just one of many reasons why the bar has become a popular destination for folks even beyond traditional neighborhood borders.