By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Every detail of Eric Dell’Arco’s new restaurant is just so.
Italian music plays constantly. The atmosphere is intimate, like someone’s home, but also neat, clean and simple. And everything — such as the bread served with dipping sauce made from imported olive oil, and the eight kinds of pasta, and the hand-tossed pizza that never touches a metal pan — is homemade, not plucked pre-made from a bag or a box.
At Dell’s Cafe d’Italia, which occupies the former Struthers Newsstand storefront at 14 State St. and officially opened for business last week, authenticity is key.
“I wanted to give it a truly authentic Italian-cafe feel, as if you were to get off a plane in Italy,” Dell’Arco said. “I’m trying to create a complete dining experience. I want people to leave saying, ‘For a little tiny place in downtown Struthers, that was amazing.’”
Before the cafe’s opening, however, Dell’Arco had to invest about six months to make the existing space match his vision. But this work of creating a small-town restaurant where the menu offerings were made from scratch was something Dell’Arco, a chef of more than 30 years, had been craving.
The “itch” he felt was understandable. After all, his family has been in the business since 1872, beginning with an eatery in Alatri, Italy, and continuing through the generations with work in a host of bakeries and pizza shops and restaurants.
Dell’Arco, who had been working for a restaurant-consulting company, also liked the idea of doing business in the city in which he lived. He was motivated, too, by the successes of other restaurants in the city’s downtown, such as Donavito’s Italian Grille and Selah.
So, he went for it. And so far, the response, particularly for dinner, has been incredible, Dell’Arco said, adding that he’d like to see the restaurant become a “destination point” that draws diners from all over the area.
Employee Michelle Gross of Campbell agreed, saying the business has “been growing day by day.” She’s hopeful it will grow busier and busier, until there is a “line out the door of people waiting to sit down and eat.”
“I think it will happen soon,” she said. “There’s no [other] place like this around.”
In the near future, Dell’Arco plans to offer unique specials Fridays and Saturdays, which will be drawn from his knowledge of regional Italian cuisine. As with all of his other menu offerings, these specials will be made simply, with just a few fresh ingredients, and arranged artfully.
“I want to bring downtown Struthers back to life,” he said.
Dell’s Cafe d’Italia is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.