COLUMBUS — Owner Tim Haliti was asked to discuss the specialty menu items at Di Melo Italian Restaurant during a ribbon-cutting event Thursday morning attended by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Commodores.
“Everything is worth talking about,” he quickly responded.
And the chamber’s Commodores, who sat down for a meal at the 3809 23rd St. restaurant since its soft opening two weeks ago, were talking about the food.
The word “excellent” came up a time or two.
Haliti describes the menu as homemade, authentic Italian food. Many of the recipes come from his Italian family, including a lasagna Haliti considers one of his favorite dishes because of the time and care it takes to prepare.
The menu at Di Melo includes a combination of dishes from the southern and northern regions of Italy, from where his family immigrated when Haliti was 10 years old.
Haliti’s family has been in the restaurant business for 25 years. His father and uncle are well known for their culinary skills back in New Jersey, according to Haliti.
“I kind of followed in their footsteps,” he said.
Haliti spent five years working at a restaurant in Manhattan, Kan., before noticing the vacancy sign on the former Village Inn building along 23rd Street during a trip to visit family in Nebraska.
He signed a long-term lease for the location and started a two-month remodeling process late last year.
The interior of Di Melo offers a formal setting for up to 120 diners. The exterior will be addressed this spring.
“It will look really nice,” Haliti said.
Haliti currently has 20 employees, including cooks who have been with him for five years, and he still is hiring.
His brother Ben and sister Line also work at the restaurant and his father Sal is helping get things off the ground.
Di Melo currently offers both carry-out and formal dining with catering expected to be added soon.
Haliti said he also plans to offer a separate lunch menu and expand the wine list, but the initial focus is on ensuring the service at Di Melo is top-notch.
“The service means a lot,” he said.
Di Melo Italian Restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.
The restaurant can be reached by calling (402) 606-4748.