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A Taste of Italy in Over-the-Rhine


The Cincinnati neighborhood is known for its German heritage. But today it is known as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in all of Cincinnati. Historic Findlay Market has become a melting pot of food and culture from around the world. And now, the streets of OTR are scattered with what seems like the United Nations of restaurants and bars. Asian, Mexican, Argentine, and Lebanese cuisine can be found within a block or two of American, Colombian, and Ukrainian establishments. And, of course, Mediterranean cuisine is a mainstay with a number of pizza and tapas restaurants.

Needless to say, we were excited to see another Italian restaurant opening in Over-the-Rhine, and we were even more thrilled to be invited to the preview. Pepp & Dolores sits at the corner of 15th & Vine where another historic building has been recently renovated. Serving authentic Italian food in a casual setting, the restaurant is part of the Thunderdome Group. However, Pepp & Dolores is not just another addition to a growing corporate enterprise. But rather, it is a personal tribute to the grandparents (Pepp & Dolores) of Thunderdome owners Joe and John Lanni. The menu is a reflection of shared times with homemade pasta, plenty of wine, and a comfortable atmosphere.

At Pepp & Dolores, everyone is encouraged to share so it’s not uncommon to try several menu items along with appetizers, salad, and sides. I’ve been twice already, and I’ve tasted The Sunday Sauce, the Pesto, the Arrabiatta, and the Vodka pasta. The Sunday Sauce is probably my favorite because it reminds me of my college roommate Laurie Fatica. It was a Sunday ritual for Laurie’s mother to make “The Sauce” in the tradition of her Sicilian family. Thus, with a name like “Sunday Sauce,” I can’t help but think the Pepp & Dolores version is as authentic as that served at the Fatica table. On both trips to Pepp & Dolores, I also shared The Dunk, Allez Bakery bread with olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and seasoning. Imagine dipping your favorite bread into the bottom of the salad bowl. The Faticas would love it!

Naturally, I’m planning to invite my former roommate to join me at Pepp & Dolores soon. And, of course, I also plan to include Pepp & Dolores before long on some upcoming OTR tours. In the meantime, I know that John and Joe’s grandparents are smiling down on 15th & Vine where amazing Italian food and family traditions have found their place in Over-the-Rhine.