Aqua Pazzo Serves Italian Food ‘Unique to the Valley’

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Aqua Pazzo is Italian for “crazy water” (although in Italian the word for water is spelled acqua). It’s also the name of the newest upscale Italian restaurant in the Mahoning Valley. It opened May 7 at 492 McClurg Road.

McClurg Road, which runs from South Avenue west to Market Street, is lined with small manufacturing operations, warehouses, sports complexes, union halls and apprenticeship training centers.

It’s an unlikely venue for a restaurant, one whose menu lists 45 items, says chef/partner Mark Canzonetta, but as Tom Zidian, CEO of Summer Garden Food Manufacturing next door, explains, “This is where our [11.5-acre] campus is.”

The restaurant occupies the former Culinary Arts Center under the aegis of Summer Garden. It can seat 128 plus another 14 at the bar. The patio, which can hold 36, opens late this month.

Canzonetta, who grew up in Warren and assumed responsibility for cooking for his family at age 11, has an impressive resume. Besides working at Culinary Arts Center, he worked for Guy Fieri, who became the “face” of the Food Network. “I was his chef,” Canzonetta says. “I wrote for his show [on the Food Network] and his cookbook that’s coming out this summer.”

Canzonetta accompanied Fieri when he began touring several states in 2009 as a member of the “Guy Fieri Road show.” Recently remarried, Canzonetta found that being absent from home as many as 200 days a year was not helping his marriage, so he returned home.

Zidian met Canzonetta six years ago, the CEO of Summer Garden recalls, when he and his chef/partner began discussing opening “a modern Italian restaurant.” (“Modern Italian Restaurant” is the subtitle of Aqua Pazzo.)

Their discussion about whether to open a restaurant ran five hours, Canzonetta recalls.

His aim is to serve “food like you would get in Italy with a modern interpretation” and posits that the Aqua Pazzo “menu is unique to the Valley,” a region with an abundance of Italian restaurants.

To distinguish Aqua Pazzo from the others, Zidian and Canzonetta have gone all out. They hired a staff of 38. Sixteen (including Canzonetta) work in the kitchen, with 14 servers plus a hostess and bar tenders.

The kitchen staff employs a “rule of five,” as Canzonetta calls it, in the dishes they prepare – to wit, no more than five ingredients in one dish. “We’re holding true to how they prepare food in Italy,” Canzonetta says, “and we prepare it well.”

Zidian boasts of “the warm atmosphere we created,” and the largest table, where Zidian and Canzonetta were interviewed, is “the godfather table.”

“You’ve got to appreciate how important the table is in the Italian tradition and the family,” Canzonetta emphasizes.

Overhead are “wood beams reclaimed from President [William] McKinley’s barn [outside Canton]” and the western wall is made of reclaimed brick.

“Bobbi Mancino from Poland was our designer,” Zidian says, and he accompanied her to Chicago and New York to look at the design of other Italian restaurants.

Most of the ingredients and many wines are imported from Italy, where Zidian has been a frequent visitor on business and pleasure. His first visit 30 years ago was to Parma, where parmesan cheese is made. “I’ve been there more than 30 times,” he says, “all parts of Italy,” and sampled the cuisine served from the Alps to the toe of the peninsula.

Zidian has visited the fields where vegetables and fruits are grown and the food plants where they’re processed, sausage is made and cheese is aged.

The cheeses not imported from Italy are made at Summer Garden. “We make our own mozzarella,” Zidian says, “and our own focaccia,” an Italian yeast bread with a crisp crust whose ingredients are wheat flour, olive oil, cheese and herbs.

Other breads come from The Bread Chef a short distance away on Western Reserve Road.

“We serve the best Bronze Dai pasta from Italy,” he claims. Sauces are made with mutti tomatoes grown near Parma.

The olive oil is imported from Umbria

Wines not imported from Italy come from California, Zidian says, adding, “We carry Carmen Policy wine.” However, he has a license to make wine on the Summer Garden campus – “a six- to nine-month process” — so “We make our own wine, Aqua Pazzo rosso,” which should be ready in mid-June.

Moreover, Zidian adds, “We make our own limoncello.”

Allowing guests to savor meats to their fullest is the “Ferrari of slicers,” as Canzonetta described the reclaimed “museum-quality” gravity-fed slicer built in 1941. It looks brand-new. He claims that this slicer unlocks the flavor of prosciutto better than a slicer whose blade is powered by a motor.

As for how he and Zidian came up with Aqua Pazzo? Others held the names they wanted to register and use when their lawyer conducted name searches. Finally, ”Water is life and I’m a little crazy,” the chef says. Hence Aqua Pazzo.

Pictured: Prosciutto tastes better when cut from this restored 1941 slicer, say Monsignor Michael Cariglio, Chef Mark Canzonetta, restaurant chief operating officer Kenny Sung and Tom Zidian, CEO of Summer Garden Food Manufacturing. Their picture was taken at a press event announcing the opening of the restaurant.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.