By Kelsey R.
I meet Mike Lombardo on a Tuesday at his restaurant Lombardo's Italian Restaurant. It is 2:00 in the afternoon. Mike shakes my hand and introduces himself. I expect to be seated at a table and given a menu. Not this time. Mike shows me to a spot at the bar and explains how things are going to be done. I am a little taken aback, as I usually pick what interests me on the menu, but Mike has different plans.
My job as a food writer is to try different meals the restaurant offers. Mike knows this. He explains that he has hand selected several options for me to try, and they are all written down. Lombardo’s is family-owned. The restaurant represents 70 years of tradition. So when Mike tells me he wants to guide me through my sampling experience, I am pleased to be given such genuine treatment.
The restaurant is not crowded, but Mike carefully planned my visit around his busy lunch and dinner hours. His intention is to show me what Lombardo’s offers to all guests. So here is how things are going to go:
I am going to sample bits and pieces of meals that Lombardo’s is proud to represent. Mike is going to give me background information on each item, explain how it is made, or explain the ingredients. Fair enough. I am ready.
Mike brings out Italian Wedding, Mushroom, and Bean soup, and of course fresh bread. “Are you okay with mushrooms?” I nod my head yes, but honestly, I hate mushrooms. Mike stands close as I dip into the Italian Wedding. Personally, if I see Italian Wedding soup on any menu at any restaurant, I avoid it. It always tastes greasy or salty to me. Lombardo’s wedding soup is different. It is crafted nicely with the perfect amount of each ingredient. It is fresh, and that is something I can always point out. I go for the Bean soup because I am still hesitate about trying the mushroom.
The Bean soup is wonderful. Just as I am about to tell Mike that there is something specific in the soup that is jerking my tastes buds around he says to me, “Just the right amount of spice.” Yes! That is it. Perfect. So I am left with the Mushroom soup. Mike is still standing by. I can’t avoid the soup any longer. I dip into the broth. Well, the broth is yummy! But I need to try the mushrooms. Fine, I’ll do it. I break off a tiny piece and fill my spoon with more broth. Hmm, the mushroom is good. I go in for a full-sized mushroom, no broth. Wow. I am surprised. I like it! I get some bread and scoop more mushrooms out of the bowl. Just like the other soups, freshness is evident.
The Mozzarella Fritto is an appetizer favorite at Lombardo’s. Before Mike brings them out I am thinking that I know I will love them because they are fried and filled with cheese! But how can a mozzarella stick be any different from one place to the next? Well, Lombardo’s has an answer to that question. Frist of all, Lombardo’s slices and breads their Frittos. Mike says, “It is the softest stick you have ever had, right?” Absolutely. When you think of Mozzarella Sticks, you think of a cheese stick dipped into a fryer, right? Not at Lombardo’s.
Mike puts two Fritto’s in front of me along with two different sauces. There is a marinara sauce as well as a tomato sauce. The tomato sauce is prepared with meatballs, and the marinara is not. I think it is interesting that Mike goes to the extent to explain the differences in sauces. To me, that shows true commitment to his product. He wants his guests to have variety and options.
After my soup and Fritto teasers, I am ready to dive into the heart of Lombardo’s meals. Mike and his staff bring me two beautiful salads. Chicken Caesar and Spinach. Mike puts a little of each on a plate for me and explains his dressings. The attention to detail just amazes me. The Caesar dressing is not what one may expect. When I think about Caesar dressing I think about a creamy, heavy dressing. Lombardo’s has a dark and lighter dressing. The taste is out of this world.
You would be surprised to know what is in the dressing, but I will let that up to you to find out when you go to Lombardo’s. The spinach salad also has a dressing I was surprised about. It is a sweet and sour dressing. If I were to see that on a menu, I wouldn’t order it. I don’t have any good reason why. Lombardo’s sweet and sour dressing is worth a taste. It paired so well with the spinach salad.
I am slightly full, but I have to leave room for the main course. Mike brings me baked Manicotti, baked Cannelloni, Gnocchi, a Meatball and Meat and Cheese Ravioli. The baked Manicotti and Cannelloni are both Lombardo’s crepes that have cheeses (Manicotti) or ground beef (Cannelloni). The Meat and Cheese Ravioli's are hand rolled, hand filled and hand cut.
Mike explains to me that Lombardo’s is proud to serve authentic food. But not only does Lombardo’s serve you their authenticity, they also make sure their products are not what you can find in a freezer. Mike says to me, “Anyone can open a restaurant and serve freezer food.”
If you want fresh, genuine food, Lombardo’s is where you will find it. Before Mike explains the Gnocchi, I am a little nervous as to what it could be. The Gnocchi is mashed potato dough rolled into miniature dumplings with a hint of pesto. Delicious!
The meatball that I am served has a great story attached. Mike Lombardo has an Italian family who has been passing down recipes for generations. A little while back Mike and his family went to Italy. He tells me that he had the privilege of eating dinner in someone’s home. Which I think is great if you want a true Italian experience. Mike had the meatball that he served me in this person’s home. This shows me how tradition has been passed down and how Mike brings that to his restaurant as well.
Mike and his staff pack up my entrees for me to enjoy at home. I have to leave room for dessert! Mike walks away for a moment, and the staff comes out with a beautiful dessert tray. Without thinking, I want to crème brulee. I am a sucker for crème brulee, so I just could not resist. Mike comes back and asks me what I had for dessert. When I tell him, he puts his face in his hands and says, “You need to try the cheesecake.” Bring on dessert number two! Mike prides himself on his food. He wants me to try everything that he is proud of.
The cheesecake is one of those items. At this point I am seriously stuffed! Mike tells me just to take the first bite. The first bite is the one bite he will never give up. It is absolutely fantastic. He boxes up the rest of the cheesecake. That one bite was all I needed. The rest of the day, I could not wait to open my fridge and dive into that cheesecake.
When people go out to dinner, they are not just looking for a good meal. They are looking for a mini getaway, an experience, a chance to be elsewhere for a couple hours. Lombardo’s caters to every guests who walks through their door. The way that Mike pre-selected each course for me showed me how much pride he has for his work. As a professional myself, I can appreciate a hard-working, genuine person. That is important if you want to be successful. A lot of people do not even realize how much they need an evening to be catered to. It is a necessity we all seek.
Mike even called me later that afternoon to follow up with me. What an unexpected phone call. It was wonderful. Lombardo’s is a great restaurant to take some time off and enjoy yourself. I left happy and continued to think about how well I was treated.
Hi everyone, I want to share a few things about myself. I have lived in Lancaster County my entire life.
I went to The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and received a Bachelors in English Education and Writing. Currently, I am working as a real estate agent for Berkshire Hathaway, and of course I am doing some writing on the side! I live with my wonderful cat, Waffle in Lancaster City. Besides working and playing with my cat I also read and practice yoga.