September 17, 2013
If you haven’t been to Tucci’s in Dublin recently, you might be surprised to find that the atmosphere and the menu are very different.
The restaurant at 35 N. High St. underwent a whirlwind renovation in the spring.
The three-week overhaul, which cost a half-million dollars, has been a long time in the making.
“Our food was good, but the atmosphere was only OK,” said owner Craig Barnum. “People really like to walk into restaurants and feel good about where they are. Tucci’s is in an old home from the 1940s. It had very low ceilings, and the acoustics have always been an issue when we’re busy. It didn’t have much character.”
Tucci’s reopened with a new menu and a new interior on April 5. More was added to the menu on Sept. 1.
The new menu is less about pasta and much more about steaks and seafood.
Yes, the classic chicken marsala, veal meatloaf and baked rigatoni are still on the menu. But steaks now take center stage.
Tucci’s serves 5- and 10-ounce filets mignons; 14-ounce New York strips; 18-ounce bone-in ribeyes; and 20-ounce porterhouses with sides such as garlic spinach, buttered asparagus and glazed carrots, and toppings such as hollandaise sauce, gorgonzola, cipollini onion confit, peppercorn demi glace, crab and lobster.
Prices range from $16 to $40.
Seafood offerings include sesame walleye with shrimp ceviche, salmon with summer squash, grouper caprese raviolis, and ahi tuna with whipped sweet potatoes.
A recent addition is Tasman king salmon, flown in fresh from the Honolulu Fish Co. Prices range from $25 to $30.
The retooling of the restaurant and menu means pizza is no longer served.
“We have a small kitchen, and we finally removed the pizza oven and spent some money back there on new equipment” and a new hood system, Barnum said. “We had to make a change because, during the summer, the kitchen struggled because it got so hot in there so quickly.”
Barnum also has expanded the wine list and added brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
As for the interior renovation, the space is “much more contemporary,” Barnum said.
The bar itself now has a Carrara marble top. The bar area has booth seating, and the lighting has been upgraded. Soundproofing material was added to the walls and ceilings.
An entrance on the north side of the restaurant was added, and the patio was upgraded with palm trees, rosebushes and tropical flowers.
The private wine room has been revamped and is more spacious, and signs on the outside of the building have been added along High and Darby streets.
The white tablecloths have been removed, for a more upscale but casual vibe, he said.
Barnum spent about $500,000 on the renovation, what some might spend on a new restaurant, he noted.
“But I have a 30-year lease, a good relationship with the landlord, and I’m committed to improving the operation any way I can.”
Barnum and his partners in the Oscar’s, Tucci’s and Brazenhead restaurants parted ways in 2011, clearing the way for the renovation.
The partners kept Oscar’s and Brazenhead, and Tucci’s now operates under Barnum’s umbrella company CLB Restaurants, which also includes the Matt the Miller’s Tavern locations in Grandview Heights, Dublin and Carmel, Ind. Although Matt the Miller’s has been adding restaurants, Barnum said he doesn’t plan to open more Tucci’s, preferring instead to grow business at the location it already has.
The undertaking, however, was not without risk.
“In the restaurant business, you’re always worried about how things will turn out,” he said, “ but since we reopened in April, business has been off the charts. I’m shocked at how well we are doing.”
Off the menu
• Pastimes Pub and Grill has officially opened its second location, at 6481 N. Hamilton Rd. in New Albany.
• TAT Ristorante, 1210 S. James Rd., has a new Italian family-style meal for groups of two or more. It includes soup, Italian salad, platters of pasta, baked or fried chicken, meatballs, Italian sausage, warm bread and dessert. The price is $19.95 per person, and children under 10 are half-price.
“We are a family restaurant, and we wanted to focus on family and family time together at dinner,” said owner Jim Corrova.
W.G. Grinders, 2376 E. Main St. in Bexley, has closed.
Dispatch restaurant columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at email@example.com.