Monday, September 22, 2014


Sometimes, my husband Jack and I are really slow on the uptake. Make that really slow; Vasilios Restaurant & Pizzeria is celebrating 30 years as we speak - but would you believe our visit in mid-June was our first time there? Sure, we've driven past the place countless times, usually - as was the case with our first visit - on our way home from poking around somewhere in Ashtabula County. 

On this occasion, we'd been to historic Ashtabula Harbor and Geneva-on-the-Lake, where we enjoyed a large appetizer platter at the Old Firehouse Winery. We weren't terribly hungry when we got to Vasilios, but we figured we could get something to nibble on and take the rest home for later.

There's a banquet room that can handle up to 60, and one of the big attractions here is pizza (the first thing diners encounter - pun intended - is the pizza stand right at the entrance). The restaurant is open and airy, and in good weather there are a couple of small cafe-type tables outside. Admittedly, the views of busy highways are less than
spectacular there, but hey, we didn't come for the scenery; it's food we're most interested in.

Breakfast is served here all day, for the record, and for me, that's a Martha Stewart good thing. That's the main reason I like Bob Evans, to be honest (that plus the fact that they're extremely generous with the buy one, get one free breakfast coupons). Neither of us enjoys eating breakfast at the "regular" time, but put that incomparable sausage gravy and biscuits in front of me any other time and get out of the way!

Here, though, we stuck with non-breakfast foods; in part, that's because we figure it's pretty hard to totally ruin bacon and eggs so that's not a good choice for review, and partly because we were in the mood for something a bit more substantial. And unlike Bob Evans, this place has a liquor license (I don't know about you, but eggs and beer just don't mesh). There's no beer on tap, but that's fine with us; it always tastes better in a bottle (and the beer and super-frosty mugs are just the way I love it). Several wines are available as well, including Canyon Road, one of our favorites.

Because pizza is a specialty here, we ordered an Old World to take with us when were done (a medium 12-inch for $8.50 plus $1.50 to add pepperoni). We both ended up getting linguine with clam sauce ($9.50) - red for him and white for me. 

I got wedding soup, always a favorite, to start - and the broth was delicious. There wasn't much of those tiny round things (orzo??), but the chunks of chicken, meatballs, greens, onions and carrots were generous. Jack ordered shrimp gumbo, which I normally don't care much for, but it was quite good and had a noticeable kick. Italian dishes are a specialty here, by the way - everything from veal, chicken and eggplant parmesan to ravioli to stuffed shells to gnocchi.

The linguine entrees were totally non-standard, topped with chunks of celery, black olives, onions, mushrooms and clams. My white sauce didn't have much of a distinct flavor, but it was good - and Jack liked his quite well. The bowls were huge, and we each brought home more than half of our orders and even had enough to share with our daughter Chris and her husband Jerry next door. As for the pizza, it smells and tastes very much like our favorite Brier Hill-style at Sunrise Inn in Warren, but with a thicker crust. Outstanding!

We didn't waste much time going back, and once again it was for a very late lunch after taking photos at several of Ashtabula County's 18 covered bridges. Several other folks were here as well - always a good sign when a place is busy other than at peak dining hours. 

This time, I settled for broiled whitefish, choosing my favorite soup in the world, wedding, instead of a salad. Jack picked the seafood platter with fries (salad instead of soup). The platter, a reasonable $9.95, contains four scallops, three jumbo shrimp and whitefish.

The soup was quite tasty (truth is, I don't recall ever eating a wedding soup I didn't like), but the fish was a bit of a disappointment. It was described as having a "light" red sauce, which I interpreted to mean not thick and heavy like pasta or marinara (I'm not a fan of red sauce and fish; both of us absolutely love linguine with clam sauce, but we disagree on what kind. I'm a white, he's a red, and never the twain shall meet.

As it turns out, the sauce here was very tomato-flavored and bright red - and the whole thing was covered with chunks of zucchini, onion and green peppers (all good) plus those funny olives that I think start with a K (not so good; give me a green olive by itself or in anything, but that's as far as my olive-loving goes). Actually, the sauce was very flavorful - but for me, just not on fish, please. Once I scraped most of that off, though, the fish itself was quite good. There were three substantial-sized filets, and I took quite a bit home to be consumed happily by Jack the next day.

All was good with the fish platter, except turns out one of the items on it was smelts, which is not one of his favorites. The breading was relatively heavy and crispy, so I threw caution to the wind and tried one - not bad at all, although I won't say they'll ever be a favorite seafood dish.

Vasilios does have a posted list of daily specials: Monday, it's a combo eggplant and chicken parmesan; Tuesday, chicken marsala; Wednesday and Friday, all-you-can-eat fish; Thursday, eggplant rotellini; Friday, Greek spaghetti; and Saturday, Italian platter. I expect the specials change occasionally, though, so if you want to make sure your favorite is on the menu, give them a call before you go.

If you go:

Vasilios Restaurant & Pizza
500 Trumbull Ave.
Cortland, Ohio 44410
(330) 638-3718


Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday