BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – This area prides itself on its Italian food, so having one restaurant win four of the five categories in an Italian sauce contest is impressive. It happened this past weekend at the Southern Park Mall.
On Thursday, First News learned the secrets behind the sauces at Papa GeGe’s Italian Villa in Boardman.
Papa GeGe is Eugene Razzano.
“I’m making fettuccine alfredo. It was one of the dishes the judges enjoyed,” Razzano said.
First News Anchor/Reporter Stan Boney was among the judges at the Sunday Sauce Showdown at the Southern Park Mall where Papa GeGe’s Italian Villa competed against nine other reputable Italian Restaurants and won first prize in four of five categories: traditional, alfredo, bolognese and vodka.
The Italian restaurant is located on Route 224 across from the Shops at Boardman Park.
“Actually, it was just overwhelming. I just started high-fiving my staff. I just said, ‘This is tremendous,'” Razzano said.
Razzano is the owner and chef behind what are now the most decorated Italian sauces in the Mahoning Valley. For 20 years, he owned Sghetti’s Italian Restaurant in New Castle before moving to Boardman eight years ago.
“I like to be in the kitchen. I liked to watch my grandmother cook. I liked to watch my mother cook, and I just have a thing for it. I like to do it,” he said.
Razzano is so in touch with his Italian roots, the restaurant’s dining area is covered with vintage pictures of his family.
“Well, that’s my great uncle Ludovic and my great uncle Frank — that’s my maternal grandmother’s brothers,” he said.
But the food is the reason people come to Papa GeGe’s Italian Villa — the secrets of which begin with quality ingredients.
“We use extra virgin olive oil, Pecorino Roman cheese. We get big wheels, 60-pound wheels, every week and we grind it fresh. We use imported pasta. We use one of the best tomato products on the market,” Rozzano said.
Once the basic sauces are made, the rest falls into place. The vodka sauce is half alfredo and half marinara.
“The same thing with our bolognese. We use the base sauce of our marinara, and we put our meat blend in there and that’s how we have our bolognese,” Rozzano said.
At the Sunday Sauce Showdown, judges were given sauces by number, not by restaurant, so they had no idea who’s sauce they were eating.
Papa GeGe’s Italian Villa is also planning to open a second location in October in New Middletown.
It was previously known as the Italian Village but the name was changed about a year ago.