Located directly across from the Portage County Courthouse, Guido's of Ravenna is known for family friendly dining with a staff that prides itself on five star service and reasonably priced meals whose recipes have stood the test of time.
Murals painted from photographs of the Tuscany countryside set off the dining section with its booths-for-four diners each. The tabled seating area looks out at Courthouse square, a quad that in Italy would be called a piazza, a place for the public to stroll and mix.
Guido's capitalizes beautifully on its location, weather permitting, with outdoor, sidewalk café dining that is offset with an urban flower bed that Guido's owner, Sam Cipriano, takes special pride in maintaining.
"Next year," he said, "we'll mark our 50th anniversary."
In the restaurant business, that speaks volumes. Sam Cipriano represents the second generation in a business started by his father, the late Guido Cipriano.
His father still holds a place of honor in the restaurant because Sam had his image painted in a mural at the front that looks to the back of the restaurant and kitchen. If one inspects closely, it becomes apparent that the image is focused on the restaurant's cash register, an on-going joke between Sam and his late father.
"Even until the end," Sam chuckled, "when I had taken over, he'd walk in, pull the tape of the cash register and tell us our sales were too low."
The family atmosphere of Guido's permeates along with the good smells of food in preparation. Brothers Mike and Chip work at Guido's. Sam's wife, Karen, has a day job at Robinson Memorial Hospital, but otherwise, she's helping her husband keep things running.
Daughters Mindy and Melissa and nephew Scott Hutchison represent a whole new generation that someday, Sam predicts, will take the reins. The servers must like their jobs because many have held them for more than 20 years.
Sam watches over every detail.
"Our reputation is built every day with every meal we serve," he said.
If he sees something he does not like, he'll tell them, "Start over," and then have the server inform the diners their food is going to be prepared a second time because the owner was not pleased with the first attempt.
Pizza is the leading dish and its basic recipe is a family secret that originated with another branch of the family in Cleveland. Pasta is a close second, however. Sam still does some of the cooking although he is delegating more of it. He specializes in the sauces for pasta and cooks many of them himself.
"It has to be right or I won't serve it," he said. He started helping his father in the business from the third grade on. "I've been doing this nearly 50 years and I know when it's right."
Sam and his staff do a vigorous catering business for weddings, company parties and other events. Chicken, lasagna, beans, potatoes, and vegetable hors d'oeuvres are popular and orders are placed from locations throughout Northeast Ohio.
"We even catered an Ohio State event in Columbus," he said.
Guido's started on South Meridian Street, but moved over to its present location in 1989. Sam said he fought his father on relocating, but quickly realized his dad was right.
"Look at this," he said, "pointing to Ravenna's attractive Courthouse Square. "You can't find this anywhere in Portage County."
Restaurant hours are 10 in the morning until 9 at night, but 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Saturday and Sunday, the restaurant is open for breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11. Lunches are $5 to $10 and dinners come in under $15. Guido's is closed all major holidays.
Attorneys, court personnel, judges, business leaders and even an occasional celebrity show up to dine. A couple of years ago, TV personality Robyn Svoboda was in town to do a story about Guido's. Actor Martin Sheen, visiting his mother-in-law in Deerfield, dined at Guido's on a meatball sandwich.
One wall is decorated with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin photos, favorites of Sam's late mother, Vivian. Another is decorated with photographs of Ravenna families and leaders. Sam calls that collection, "Ravenna Wall of Fame."
Guido's of Ravenna is living proof a restaurant with great food and good service can prosper without a liquor license.
"We go out of our way to make sure people have an enjoyable dining experience," Sam said. "We train our servers and they take pride in what they do. We know that if we do it right, the word will go out and our customers will keep coming back."
214 West Main Street
Ravenna , OH