North Central West Virginia is well known for their Italian cuisine - apparently from Italian immigrants who had been recruited to work in mining and glass manufacturing. There are a number of iconic Italian restaurants in the area, including Muriale's in Fairmont and Puglioni's or Oliverio's in Morgantown. Minard's Spaghetti Inn is the Clarksburg equivalent of that - local, Italian, and beloved in the area. It even earned a spot on the 101 unique places to dine in West Virginia.
I feel like I first heard about Minard's when I saw their sauce for sale, but since I can't find anywhere that says anything about them selling their sauce, I might just be crazy. Regardless, I had a free Saturday night and so did Tony, so we made the small trip there to see what all the commotion was about.
Once we got the address right on the GPS, it was easy to find. It's 813 EAST Pike St., FYI. And, it's a really pretty building, actually. I was expecting something older, possibly run down. But it looks like a house that was transformed into a restaurant. I dig it. Inside, there are some kind of old-school decorations - it is 75 years old afterall - some odd nooks and crannies, but comfortable. Just like you'd want an Italian dinner to be.
Their menu has the traditional spaghetti, ravioli, baked ziti, stuffed shells, rigatonni, lasagna, eggplant parmesan and some white sauce options like chicken fettuccine alfredo. Nothing really new or inventive, but classic Italian fare in Appalachia.
My mother's stuffed shells were my favorite meal growing up. I would beg for stuffed shells in place of ham for Christmas - and sometimes it worked. When I began celebrating Christmas on my own, stuffed shells became the main course. And, I use her recipe. It's the best mixture of ricotta, parmesan, romano, parmesan in a marinara sauce. If I'm feeling fancy, I'll make meatballs for some protein. But it's seriously my favorite homemade meal.
I knew this wouldn't be the same, but it's hard for me to pass up stuffed shells at an Italian restaurant in hopes they might come close to nipping at the toes of the deliciousness my mother can produce. The menu said they are stuffed with seasoned ground sausage mixed with a blend of four cheeses and herbs and baked in their famous red sauce. All that for $11.95. I also ordered a side of meatballs because I wanted to see what they were like - two meatballs for $2.
The entrees come with salad and bread. I went for the house Italian dressing. The waitress asked if I wanted tomatoes, and of course, I want all of your tomatoes. When the salad came out, I immediately felt bad for anyone who didn't order tomatoes because you just lost half your salad. Their salads consist of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. House dressing. I get that these are supposed to be simple - or whatever - but you can't give me a sprig of carrot? A crunchy crouton? Nada? It didn't help that the tomatoes weren't especially flavorful. Big surprise. But the dressing was actually good. I like the light olive oil/vinegar. Light but with tang.
The bread, which others have claimed is fresh baked, looks straight from a bag to me. It wasn't even warm. Meh meh meh. I feel like they probably brought bread out because you're supposed to. But it was lackluster.
The stuffed shells - I think I had a total of four or five. Not super huge helpings. It was simple, but good. Not a super complex sauce - tomatoes, herbs, sugar, etc. But it was good. It was basic, but not canned, and what you'd want from a base sauce. I would've loved some mushrooms to give it a bit more depth, but like I said - basic, but good.
The inside was filled with mostly meet and very little cheese. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping it'd be the other way around. It was still good though - great flavor, well-seasoned and tasty. More cheese would've made me a lot happier, but it was still overall good. The meatballs I had were pretty much in the same seasoning as the filling of the shells, but they were even better. They were moist and had a perfect amount of spice. If you're looking for some basic, yet tasty, Italian food, check it out.
Check them out on Yelp and Google+.