Simple and complex. Combined they equal extraordinary, which explains the food at Caffe Daniela as well as its owner, Joe Milano.
At first glance, the Italian restaurant may seem like just another lunch joint. It's easy to overlook Caffe Daniela tucked away at the corner of the Huntington Bank building at Broad and High, but you're missing out if you haven't walked in and sampled the fare.
The food at Caffe Daniela is incredibly fresh and authentic, but no what some Americans think of authentic. There will be no pasta drowning in marinara or chicken parm, which we found out if requested in Italy may get you laughed out of the restaurant.
Simple ingredients like fresh mozzarella, tomato and hand-sliced prosciutto pressed and grilled on amazing ciabatta make the best Panini you will ever eat. Joe also serves pasta, pizza, soups and salads, all highlighting top-quality ingredients over pizzazz.
If you've been to Italy, you would call Caffe Daniela a bar (with a nicely rolled "r"). It's a traditional place you might stop in for a cappuccino mid-morning or head to for a fresh and delicious lunch. These kinds of places in Italy are found in the piazzas where you sit and watch the world go by. Joe recreated the concept downtown and even imported his counter from Italy to complete the look.
If you make your first trip into Caffe Daniela during the lunch rush, you'll find Joe bustling around with a white kitchen towel tossed over his shoulder. Don't mistake his intensity as anything but passion for bringing genuine Italian food to his customers.
The recipes came with Joe's parents and aunts and uncles when they came to the States and eventually opened Italian restaurants of their own in Columbus. Joe grew up in those places, standing atop a stool at nine years old so he could reach the sink to wash dishes. Food is his business now, and food will always be his life.
"I'm so passionate about true Italian food, and everything has to be prepared fresh." Joe said, "I can't conceive of doing anything else."
Joe admits that sometimes he doesn't give the customers exactly what they ask for, like pepperoni on a margherita pizza. The passion erupts as he explains the history of the pie representing Italy with red tomatoes, green basil and white mozzarella drizzled with olive oil.
"My kids say I shouldn't worry about it and just give customers what they ask for, but it's just not the way it's supposed to be. There's a reason certain foods are combined," he says.
Taste his food and you'll know he is right. If you appreciate really good, fresh food, trust that Joe will serve you a great meal, and it will be the real thing. If you'd like to be transported to Italy for your lunch hour, go ahead and forward our Right Now Downtown e-newsletter to your friends, and you will be entered to win lunch at Caffe Daniela. In the meantime, take a look at what we found when we visited.