Food Fight

. January 22, 2013.

"So many restaurants, so little time." Toledo and the surrounding area are home to so many dining establishments. I have countless eateries that I “plan” to visit and, well, life gets hectic. We succumb to our tried and true routines and frequent the same establishments time after time. Recently, my family and I broke out of our comfort zone and discovered another local gem. I’m still kicking myself for taking so long to get there.
Toledo meets Tuscany
Sebastiano (Seba for short) and Helane Caniglia opened Sebastiano’s Italiano Restaurant in the south end in 2000. Though open for over 10 years, we were not the only newbies there that Friday evening. We overheard some of the regular patrons giving a history lesson of Sebastiano’s to other new customers relaxing at the bar. They only had good things to say.
Their story began when Helane was a college student studying in Florence, Italy. Along with her friends, she frequented the café that Seba’s family owned. Just like love stories that movies are made of, they fell in love and eventually moved back to her hometown ,Toledo, where they were married and began a family.
I love Italian food and felt like I hit the jackpot, finding wonderful, authentic Italian food at a place where I could also bring the family and feel right at home. After all, according to Ms. Caniglia, they strive to be a comfortable and family- friendly establishment. “We try to keep it as close as we can to what a family can afford,” says Ms. Caniglia.
They keep coloring books and crayons on hand and she does her best to keep the younger set happy if she sees they are a bit antsy. She understands that little ones aren’t always happy to participate in these family outings. The restaurant is cozy with not much of a waiting area. When in doubt, call ahead and they will gladly take your reservation.
Sebastiano’s offers a limited children’s menu, so know ahead of time that if your little one refuses to live on anything other than burgers, nuggets and fries, you won’t find them here. They don’t have a deep fryer in the restaurant. However, a couple great pasta dishes are available, along with grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly. Ms. Caniglia also mentioned that they can accommodate kids who may want a grilled chicken breast. As for my family, we thought the homemade pizzas were a winner and economical for my three children to share. For $14, they shared two nine inch pizzas among the three of them. And what child can’t live on pizza?
Made to order
For such a small dining establishment, the menu options were surprisingly plentiful. Helane explained  that nothing is made until it’s ordered, and Seba is in charge of all the cooking to ensure consistency. Boy, was he busy the night
we visited!

The delectable options range from sandwiches and wraps, to Sebastiano’s grandma’s lasagna (don’t be scared by the boiled egg!), to countless pasta options with a variety of sauces. You can find chicken, shrimp, Italian sausage, scallops, clams, mussels and more on the menu. Vegetarians will always be delighted by the many options for them, too.
We began our meal with Crostini ai Funghi ($6.95) – Tuscan bread served with sautéed mushrooms in an Alfredo sauce. My sons proclaimed that they hate mushrooms, yet they gobbled down the appetizer. My husband enjoyed the chicken picatta made with sautéed chicken breasts, capers and fresh parsley with a white wine garlic sauce served with your choice of pasta. I couldn’t resist the weekly special of saffron ravioli stuffed with lobster in a lemon cream sauce. It was mouthwatering and the lobster portion was generous.
We devoured a hot fudge cake sundae for dessert despite the waitress’s recommendation of the fantastic homemade tiramisu. Knowing I’d be returning, I resolved to try that next time and gave in to my sundae-crazed kids.
Bottom Line: Sebastiano’s is a little piece of Italy tucked away in a plaza next to the Driver’s License exam office and across from the Stranahan Theater. The small family-owned-and-operated restaurant is welcoming for family outings and date nights alike offering a menu for every budget. It can be extra busy if there is an event at the Stranahan, so making reservations can be wise, while not always necessary.
Karen Zickes is mom of three active children and freelance writer who resides in Holland, OH.  She can be reached in c/o