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Tucci’s Wood-Fired Bistro - California Flair

35 North High St., Dublin, OH (614) 792-3466

Tucci’s has gone great lengths to brand itself as the quintessential California bistro. Open since 1998, the menu here has cultivated from typical “Italian” fare into offerings trending toward health-consciousness and being characterized by the freshest and leanest ingredients available. Not only is the restaurateur fashioning his locale as a superior dining spot, he’s become an innovator of serving wine. This is the only restaurant in Ohio diners can explore various vintages and rest assured they’re receiving the freshest, most representative tasting. The bistro’s Enoline system preserves the wine with nitrogen and dispenses the varietals in two-, four-, and six-ounce pours. An indulgence such as Opus One, for example, can be relished for $20, $40, or $60 respectively. And dabbling is what diners are doing; only six weeks settled in, the system has become a lucrative investment. Though simply a luminous piece of restaurant equipment, this state-of-the-art cooler dazzles as a showcase.

Owner Craig Barnum adamantly proclaims the value in his restaurant concept. His spot has a heart of its own, one that he’s worked diligently to ensure shines through. Recently he renovated the entire bistro. A former career general manager, he now works to continue polishing his own place. With the help of Chef Bradley Balch and newly appointed general manager Sean Fyffe, he seems to be heading in the right direction. Really, it seems he’s already arrived.

The bistro is open for lunch and dinner Monday – Friday; dinner only on Saturday; and closed Sunday. Reservations aren’t required, though strongly suggested. Consider The Emerald Room for your private party. Here, up to 14 quests can share the intimacy of a cozy room flanked by walls of wine, all completely tucked away from the rest of the restaurant. This one is trumpeted as one of the best in the city. It just might be.

You’ll find this bistro just a hop, skip and a jump from 270 in the heart of historic Dublin. We found plenty of side-street parking, though there is valet parking in the evening from 6-12. The building sits back off the street and one must walk across the brick-paved patio to arrive at the entrance. You get the feeling you’re walking up to a residence; in fact, the building used to be a home at one time. The inside radiates an intimate, warm vibe – a perfect spot with perfect low lighting for a low-key dining experience.

Eager to investigate the wine list, we first explored a few of the reds. Only a few sips in, a line of small plates made their way to our table. The Blackened Scallops was the first we tasted and they made a huge impression. These meaty coins were creamy rich and deliciously accompanied by delicate tendrils of micro greens, a sweet-sour vinaigrette and gorgonzola cheese – a great beginning. Pair the plate with En Route pinot noir.

Anxious to dive into our Mussels (Prince Edward Island), we first stopped to consider the Andalusian Gazpacho. This cool bowl bursted with peppery chunkiness. Be sure to ask for extra spice if you wish with the mussels. We expected jalapenos in ours but didn’t find any. Still, they were gorgeous and juicy sweet tinged with the flavor of white wine, garlic and butter.

Artisan bread eventually made its way to the table as we waited for our second course – as sort of a side note, though it deserves mentioning because it’s baked fresh daily and served with good-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We were curious about the interesting sweetness of this blend and discovered tiny slivers of fresh basil within.

A few more sips of wine and we were presented with a table full of dinner plates. It was refreshing seeing that the plates weren’t too artfully constructed; rather, they had a rustic aesthetic. Who wouldn’t try Meatloaf first? This one is grilled with veal and the addition of gorgonzola cheese and shitake gravy. A recurring theme in all of the dinner dishes we tried was the use of fresh vegetables and the attention to flavor they’re given. With the meatloaf came French beans perfectly crisp with a hint 
of citrus.

This attention carried over into the Sesame Walleye, as well. The fish was beautiful and delicious, of course, but it was the soy butter sauce and pickled vegetable salad that really sold it – all flavors melded together so well. We were left wanting more of the veggies, the pickles especially because of their spicy-sweet marination.

Heralded as “America’s Best Chicken,” this bistro serves Tanglewood Farms Chicken roasted with saucy tomatoes and figs. We loved it, and again, the use and detail in the vegetables here cannot be overstated. In this dish, we nibbled on fingerling potatoes and had the opportunity to experience sunburst squash for the first time, which came charred and holding just the right amount of olive oil.

We carefully considered what to have for dessert. Rhubarb sorbet seemed like a light choice – just for one of our options, though. We still indulged in the Key Lime cheesecake. Both are great – the sorbet sweetly refreshing and cheesecake velvety smooth. In the end, more of the cheesecake was gone than the sorbet.