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In Good Taste: Mabella's Brings a Heartfelt Blend of Expertise & Heirloom Recipes to Restaurant Week

"Restaurant Week is not as much about individual restaurants as it is about our community. " - Aaron Long, Manager of Mabella's Italian Steakhouse

Mabella's Italian Steakhouse boasts a long list of loyal regulars. On any given night, it's common to see the restaurant filled to capacity with influential Columbus residents and their guests. The restaurant, which opened in 2015, has become a staple for locals and visitors alike. The unique seasonal menu presents a fresh spin on traditional Italian fare and high-quality artisan cocktails.

This week, the restaurant is participating in Columbus Ga Restaurant Week, a community-wide effort to promote our local food industry and raise money for a worthy cause. This year, the beneficiary is The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit out of Atlanta that provides emergency aid to restaurant workers through financial support and a network of community resources.

Aaron Long, Mabella's General Manager, said he and his team are very focused on the purpose of Restaurant Week as they serve the community each year. "This week isn't as much about individual restaurants as it is about our community," said Long. "Restaurant Week is a wonderful avenue through Visit Columbus Ga that helps us reach people who may or may not have been to different restaurants in town."

There may be over 20 restaurants participating, but trust us when we tell you Mabella's menu this week can hold its own. A thoughtful blend of expertise and heirloom recipes, Mabella's menu for Restaurant Week is a highlight of the establishment's best dishes.

Long was kind enough to sit down with us over a cocktail to describe how he and his team came up with the menu.

"This week, we wanted to offer exactly what we offer on a daily basis. Incredible value and incredible flavor," Long explained. "We wanted this menu to be seasonal and fresh. And of course, everything is hand-crafted here in the restaurant."

He's not kidding, either. Everything from the cocktails to the dessert is all made in-house. Every single day.

Mabella's Restaurant Week menu begins with a crabmeat stuffed shrimp with Tobasco aioli.

Even if Tobasco isn't your thing, trust the chef! The unexpected addition of the Tobasco sauce to the traditional aioli makes the dish. By adding a hint of heat, the Tobasco achieves its purpose without distracting from the quality of the seafood present in the dish.

"For the entreé, we wanted to go with what we're known for - and that meant we couldn't go wrong with a steak," Long explained. "We knew that one of our steaks would best showcase what we do on a daily basis."

The wood-grilled bacon wrapped filet comes with spicy creamed corn, blistered baby heirloom tomatoes, and micro greens. Cooked to perfection, the steak easily cut with a butter knife, and was tender to the last bite.

Not to be outdone, the sides chosen to go with it were as delicious as the steak itself. The creamed corn evoked memories of family gatherings around my grandmother's kitchen table.

"For our creamed corn, we use fresh corn. We're in the back shucking it, and breaking it down while the chef makes the fresh cream," described Long. "The heirloom tomatoes are all in season. You'll get different varieties, different colors, and they're all nice and sweet. We blister them and caramelize them a bit. Then, the micro greens add color and texture. It's that simple."

We'd hardly call it simple, but the expertise that went into developing the dish was evident and appreciated. Unlike many restaurants full of over-functioning and under-performing entreés, Mabella's main dish stood out for its honest and thoughtful approach to presenting real food done well.

Save room for dessert, and you'll be ever so glad you did! The menu comes to a close with their famous Mama Kay's Cheesecake served with fresh strawberries.

Chances are, if you've spent more than a few days in Columbus you've heard about Mama Kay and her cheesecake. The heirloom recipe is so popular the chef makes approximately 60 cheesecakes a week. Yes, sixty. And that's on a normal week.

Mama Kay's cheesecake is something special alright. The light and creamy filling melts in your mouth and comes with a crust made of what we suspect is something made out of mixing butter and heaven.

We've never met Mama Kay, but we sure would love to sit down with her and hear her story. Anyone who can make a cheesecake like hers has some things to teach us about life - in and out of the kitchen.

She's made an impact at Mabella's that goes beyond the cheesecake, though. Upon arrival, visitors are welcomed by her portrait which hangs next to another of similar style.

"They're the mothers of Tom Jones and Buddy Nelms, both of the owners of our restaurant " said Long. "One of the women is Mama Kay, who is the namesake of our cheesecake featured this week. We love that people can put a face to a name that's such a part of our history."

We've never met Mama Kay, but we sure would love to sit down with her and hear her story. Anyone who can make a cheesecake like hers has some things to teach us about life - in and out of the kitchen.

Restaurant Week runs through Sunday, but don't wait to call for reservations. "We'd love for everyone to come and try our menu for Restaurant Week," said Long. "But we need people to please give us a call during Restaurant Week to ensure they'll have a table. I cannot promise that if a walk-in comes in, we'll have room for them."

On the night we reviewed their menu, Mabella's had reservations to feed 300 people over the course of the evening. For a restaurant with 130 seats, it's doable, but it doesn't leave room for walk-ins until late in the evening.

Have a dietary restriction? Long and his team are ready and willing to help. "I prefer for people with dietary restrictions to just come in and ask to speak with me or one of the chefs," Long said. "We are happy and willing to help guests navigate our menu, and we have the knowledge to do so safely and effectively to meet any needs they have. Things are not listed or marked as meeting a dietary restriction because we want everyone to feel comfortable when they eat here. There is always something everyone can have, and we'd love to help them find a way to enjoy what we have to offer."◼︎

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