This Wheeling favorite has kept customers coming back for almost 70 years.
Sicilian immigrant Anna Figaretti must have been some cook. Who knew, in 1944, when she canned her first spaghetti sauce for sale, what she’d started? Soon the operation was so big, her five sons were helping to run it. And in 1949, the brothers built on that popularity by opening Figaretti’s Restaurant.
In the nearly seven decades since, the Figaretti family has kept and grown a faithful following by balancing tradition with trend. “Our focus is still Italian, but we’ve really evolved over the years to become a steak and seafood restaurant also,” says Dino Figaretti, the founders’ grandson and owner of the restaurant’s second incarnation. “Our older recipes have stayed the same, but we’ve maintained our edge.”
Figaretti’s bustles. It’s a cozy atmosphere with intimate booths and big, round, family-style tables. Warm lighting, wood floors and paneling, and family portraits on the walls give it the feel of Nana’s dining room.
Soon after you’re seated, your server will bring a basket of fresh sliced Italian bread with Figaretti’s signature dipping oil—premium olive oil, balsamic glaze, and garlic—and tempt you with the day’s specials. Soups are made fresh on-site, with three or four varieties on hand every day. “We also do a variety of large Italian salads: We do antipasto, we do tomato and imported soft mozzarella salads,” Figaretti says. And don’t miss the fried calamari. “That’s a big seller,” he points out with satisfaction. “You don’t find it often around here where people use fresh calamari and season and bread it. We do that here.”
Customer favorites center on traditional dishes with Anna’s silky, fragrant sauce: spaghetti with meatballs or sausage, chicken parmesan over fettucine, lasagna. “Ours is more of a traditional meat lasagna, with pork, noodles, and provolone—it does not have ricotta, which a lot of people expect to see,” Figaretti says. “Stacked high, with our meat sauce on top.” You can’t go wrong with the steaks, all aged choice Black Angus beef, or with the always sushi-grade seafood. Looking for something a little different? The kitchen is happy to take diner requests, he says, and there are always surprises, too. “We have so many specials every night. Our regular customers appreciate that because they come night after night.”
Figaretti’s sizable wine list rotates seasonally. Figaretti prides himself on the heft of the bar’s pour. “I hate when I go to a restaurant and get 4 ounces of wine in my glass—that’s just enough to make you mad,” he says. “We serve a true 9-ounce glass of wine. Not a lot of places do that.” After dinner, if you’ve saved room for dessert, choose from Italian specialties like tiramisu and Italian almond cake, all baked fresh locally. Or try the handmade spumoni ice cream. “We have so many desserts on hand it’s crazy,” Figaretti says.
Even as a Figaretti’s newcomer, you’ll be welcomed like a regular. “We have a small enough restaurant to be able to talk to all of our patrons day and night—they’ll either see my dad, Tony, or me there, or both of us.” The 25 to 30 staff take just as much pride as the owners in the food and atmosphere. “People stay with us, from the wait staff to the cooks,” Figaretti says. “Which means the personal touch is there for our customers.” He also credits other family for the restaurant’s enduring success: his wife, Michelle, and son Enzio, as well as his brother Tony, who today carries on Anna’s sauce tradition through a local manufacturing facility that distributes widely to gourmet and specialty shops and to Kroger stores.
When you’re ready to try Figaretti’s, you might want reservations: Asked what’s the best night of the week to get a table fast, Figaretti jokes, “before 6 and after 9 p.m.” But, he adds, no matter when you show up, you’ll have a good experience. “There can be a wait sometimes because of our size, but we do have a full bar with a wide variety of wines to choose from and we have a very good selection of beers that we keep updated. We keep people happy.”
figaretti’s, 1035 Mount DeChantal Road, Wheeling; 304.243.5625, figarettis.net
photographed by Carla Witt Ford