Specialties from Valley Restaurants Go on Grocery Shelves

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Papa GeGe’s Italian Villa in Boardman is offering its award-winning sauce for sale both within its store and online.

“Everyone thinks their sauce is special. But we’re award winning,” says the owner of the restaurant, Eugene Razzano. “The people is what makes it special.”

For the last two years, area restaurants have competed in a sauce cookoff as a fundraiser for Potential Development School for Students with Autism.

It was a blind-taste test and, after the first year, Papa GeGe’s Italian Villa won first place in four of the five categories. After the second, it took top honors in five out of six.

Those awards prompted Razzano, a native of New Castle, Pa., to explore bottling and selling his sauces.

The restaurant offers three of its sauces for sale: its Sunday sauce, blush and Diablo.

Jars are available at the restaurant on U.S. Route 224, across from the Shops at Boardman Park and online at PapaGeGes.com. Razzano is working with a local grocery store to sell the sauce there too. He plans to bottle more of his sauces and products for sale.

“We use all high-end ingredients,” he says. “We use the best tomato product on the market, extra virgin olive oil, high-end imported Pecorino Romano cheese and then herbs and spices.”

Just as important as the ingredients is the cooking process. “We heat it to a certain temperature and then reduce the heat after that,” Razzano explains.

He believes his sauce meets the flavors of what people like.

Italian immigrants who settled in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys came from the same region of Italy. Their recipes were similar to one another, following the same flavor profile.

Descendants of those immigrants grew up eating food that follows that profile so that’s what they favor, Razzano says. People in other parts of the country may prefer other flavors.

Papa GeGe’s Sunday sauce is a marinara that he calls a simple sauce. “The tomatoes are the star of the show,” Razzano says. “It’s not chunky. It’s a smooth sauce. There’s a little sweetness but it’s not too sweet. And there’s a little tartness. It’s a labor of love.”

The Sunday sauce, also called the mother sauce, provides the basis for the restaurant’s other sauces.

The blush, named for its color, is a combination of the Sunday sauce and what Razzano calls a “deconstructed Alfredo” sauce with butter, cream and cheese.

For the Diablo sauce, the restaurant blanches serrano peppers and incorporates them in the sauce. “We don’t create heat by putting in red pepper seeds which is what some people do,” Razzano says.

Hot Peppers and Oil

Cafe 422, with locations on U.S. Route 422 in Warren and on South Avenue in Boardman, has been selling some of its specialties for years.

The 85-year-old restaurant’s hot peppers and oil, one of most popular items on its menu, has been available at restaurants, in grocery and specialty stores for about 15 years, says owner Serdar Dede.

“Cafe 422 is known for hot peppers and oil,” he says. “Our customers, first thing when they sit down, they order hot peppers and oil and also our fresh-baked bread that we make in-house every day.”

The jarred product can be bought at Giant Eagle stores in Niles, Liberty, Poland and on Elm Road in Warren as well as White House Fruit Farm, Mr. D‘s Food Fair in Brookfield, the Sharon Hotdog Shop in Sharon and in the Cleveland area.

The restaurants also sell their wines, freshly baked bread and creamy balsamic salad dressing.

The restaurant’s marinara sauce is available at both sites. The restaurant also ships its peppers and oil across the country.

“We ship them during the holiday season a lot,” Dede says. “People from here who now live out of town, if they come into town for a visit – it could be Cleveland, could be Columbus, North Carolina — to visit family and friends. They always stop over here and get a couple of cases before they go.”

It’s a staple for which the restaurant is known.

“One of the big reasons is they’re locally grown, they’re organic and we do them during the harvest season,” he says.

That ensures they have peak flavor. It’s the same with Cafe 422’s marinara sauce.

“It’s fresh ingredients. It’s the finest products that we can utilize and that’s what we have,” Dede says. “Again, we only do them during the harvest season. I think that is the key when you’re making the marinara sauce, too.”

The restaurant also is working on bottling its wedding soup and pasta fagioli to sell.

Wine and Pizza

Yosteria began to sell its wine and pizza in its restaurants and at area stores in 2018. “This is the year we’re really starting to ramp things up,” says co-owner Alex Zordich. “We’re open to the public more and we’re making more wine.”

Yosteria pizzas are available to buy fresh at the restaurant with frozen versions available at Lariccia’s Italian Marketplace in Boardman, Churchill Commons Giant Eagle in Liberty, both Rulli Brothers stores and Devine’s Shop ‘n’ Save in Hubbard.

Zordich describes the pizza as a Sicilian or grandma style with a homemade taste. “It’s very simple,
rustic with fresh tomato sauce and fresh dough,” he says. It’s light on the inside and crunchy on the outside.”

Yosteria’s Barbera D’Asti DOCG wine may be purchased at Chalet Premier, Churchill Commons Giant Eagle, Gene’s Drive-Thru, Golden Dawn, Lariccia’s, Margherita’s, Penguin City, Prima Cucina, the Sparkle stores on Western Reserve Road and in Cornersburg, Vintage Estates and A&C Beverage.

The formula sticks to traditional, Italian methods of making wine. “It’s food-friendly wine,” Zordich says. “There’s not too much oak. There’s fresh acidity and fresh tannins. It goes well with meats, cheeses, sauces. The wine we make has food in mind.”

Yosteria’s zinfandel, though, is available only at the restaurant.

Yosteria is on Valley Street in Youngstown’s Smoky Hollow neighborhood with a second restaurant at 914 Main St. in Sharpsburg, Pa. Papa GeGe’s Razzano attended culinary classes around the country but learned his cooking skills watching his mother and grandmother prepare family meals.

“The secret really was the love they put in,” he says.

As a child, Razzano watched his mother and grandmother serve family dinners. “I used to watch my grandmother’s face and it was like she won the lottery,” he says. “She was so happy.”

Pictured at top: Eugene Razzano sells three Papa GeGe’s sauces.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.