Those who have been following my tweets and Facebook statuses may have noticed that I am down south, drinking beer in Asheville, North Carolina. (To potential home invaders: I have several dozen roommates and their significant others rotating through the house at all times.) For the third year in a row, I’ve somehow escaped some of the drama of the holidays by exploring these United States.
Prior engagements (including the 2nd birthday party of two of my most favorite guys in the world) mandated that the drive toward Asheville start Saturday evening, right as the season’s first snow would fall on southern Ohio. An unlit two-lane highway combined with just enough snow to be dangerous helped us decide to stay in Portsmouth, Ohio for the evening. Secretly, I was excited: another town on the Ohio River to explore.
I’m not good with night driving. Or snow. So even though I was the passenger, I was completely exhausted upon our arrival. (Two hours of envisioning us sliding into a ditch can really take some energy out of a girl.) Portsmouth’s abandoned and snowy streets were strangely romantic and welcoming, and I was particularly happy that we had a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.
Like a dive bar in a Christmas-themed romantic comedy, Melini Cucina’s House of Calzones was a perfect landing place. Filled with people and decked with its own Christmas tree, the place beckoned us in from the snowy streets.
The food was as good as the ambiance. Fresh garlic bread came out within minutes of our orders, and although they listed an item with ham under the “vegetarian” portion of the menu, there was a wide variety of options to choose from.
I ordered beef ravioli, served atop a plate of angel hair pasta. Impressed with the flavor and texture of the beef, I asked the server if the ravioli was made in house. She quickly told me no, but that the sauce was a Melini specialty. Baseball Boy’s baked penne was also a solid choice, and both entrees were an excellent value. (The bill, with wine, was $22 total. Gotta love Ohio River towns.)
We closed our evening with an (unphotographed) visit to Portsmouth Brewing Company, whose brews were soon to be outshone by the beers of Asheville, but were, in general, a valiant effort for a small town whose peak of population and economic clout was between 1930 and 1950. With a historic downtown, a friendly and open restaurant and a brewery to boot, I cannot think of a better snow-laden layover than Portsmouth.
Melini Cucina House of Calzones
603 Chillicothe Street
Mault’s Brew Pub
224 Second Street