Mama DiSalvo’s keeps Italian traditions and authentic cuisine alive by cooking all the meals from scratch.

Like their recipes, the DiSalvo family comes from the Abruzzi Molise region of Italy and shares their provincial classics with the Miami Valley.

“We have a variety of Italian dishes that people keep coming back for,” says Roberto DiSalvo, son of Rinaldo and Elena DiSalvo. The couple opened Mama Disalvo’s Ristorante in July 1978, and with the help of their three sons, Roberto, Rinaldo and Nicola, it has cemented itself as the premier location for Italian food in Dayton.

As the head chef at Mama DiSalvo’s, Roberto features several renowned pasta entrées including linguini with pesto sauce, rigatoni alla vodka and Mama DiSalvo’s gnocchi in homemade sauce.

The DiSalvo menu also caters to seafood lovers with favorites like penne ziti con salmone, cooked in Chef Roberto’s special cognac sauce. There’s also the linguini sautéed in either clam broth or marinara with calamari. Diners can top their meals off with a bottle from the extensive wine list and “buon appetite!”

“It’s all cooked from Mama’s heart and soul,” says Roberto. “Everyone feels like they’re at home when they come here.”

1375 E. Stroop Rd., Kettering, 937-299-5831,

Guests know the Oakwood Club venerates class and elegance once they step through the door and experience the dark decorative wood, leather booths and low light.

“We’re a New York-style American steakhouse in Dayton,” says Lance Stewart, Oakwood Club owner since 1992. Lance is the son of Ray and Margie Stewart, who opened the restaurant in 1962. Since he was a teenager, Stewart saw the impact their restaurant had on family and friends celebrating monumental occasions.

“We’ve always maintained this restaurant as a cornerstone of the community,” he says. “We’re such a gathering place for locals and people coming from out of town.”

The well-marbled and hand-cut steaks, complimented with fresh seafood flown in daily, have made the restaurant a marquee name throughout Ohio. While the Oakwood’s dishes satisfy hungry guests, Stewart believes the restaurant’s reputation originates with the hard-working staff that keeps customers coming back.

“Our success can be attributed to [the staff],” says Stewart. “We’ve hardly had any turnover and the people here have been here a very long time. They know what this place means to the customers.”

2414 Far Hills Ave., Dayton, 937-293-6973,

In the heart of historic downtown Miamisburg, Bullwinkle’s Top Hat Bistro has a large moose head over the bar. But it’s not the moose head that attracts patrons, it’s the award-winning slow-cooked ribs and signature barbecue sauce, dubbed “Q Sauce.” The Lyons family opened Bullwinkle’s in 1986 by and it quickly became one of Dayton’s most popular restaurants.

John Forman bought it eight years ago and decided not to change the recipe for Bullwinkle’s slow-cooked ribs and barbecue sauce. But Bullwinkle’s is more than just a barbecue ribs joint and includes steaks, seafood, salads and burgers.

“We have something for everyone,” he says. Bullwinkle’s introduced a new menu a few months back with items such as the Pulled Chicken Chopped Salad and the Avocado Turkey Burger.

Forman is also making changes upstairs, expanding the dining room by including a formerly unused space.

Bullwinkle’s is also a great place to unwind. It recently added 10 new beer taps at the bar, increasing the number of taps to 16, and has plans to double that number this summer to keep up with the growing demand for local and regional craft brews.

“We’re always changing something,” he says.

19 N. Main St., Miamisburg, 937-859-7677,

Louisiana native Don LeDoux holds one philosophy when it comes to Cajun food:

“It’s all about simplicity,” says the LeDoux’s Restaurant and Bar owner. “Cajun food consists of uncomplicated dishes.”

It may be simple, but it’s far from bland. At LeDoux’s, you can find the zestiest cuisine north of the Gulf Shore. The menu has an eclectic mix of southern favorites, including coastal treasures like shrimp, gator, catfish and oysters. The Bayou Trash captures the essence of Louisiana cooking with a mix of seafood and sausage in a blackened sauce accompanied by red beans and rice.

“Cajuns are very resourceful with their food and you can [pretty much] make anything you can cook with rice,” says LeDoux, who recommends the jambalaya for anyone looking to test his or her spice boundaries. This bayou-staple consists of of shrimp, crawfish, onion, green pepper, sausage and an assortment of spices. It also has a reputation for clearing sinuses.

While your taste buds soak in the flavor-filled dishes, you might confuse the Miami Valley for Bourbon Street. LeDoux’s also has nightly happy hour and drink specials, as well as a Friday and Saturday night DJ starting at 10 p.m.

118 W. Main St., Troy, 937-552-9347,

Barbecue is the ultimate American cuisine and The Buckhorn Tavern holds the area’s title for being the best in the Miami Valley.

The restaurant’s slow-roasted fall-off-the-bone ribs are slathered in a tangy vinegar-based barbecue sauce that keeps customers and critics raving.

“That’s our marquee dish that people know us for,” says Manager Aaron Fields. But it’s not the only dish Buckhorn does well. “We have a lot of comfort food that you can’t find anywhere else.”

For 33 years, the Tavern has served homestyle favorites like liver and onions, cabbage rolls and Kentucky hot browns. The menu also features classic seafood, steak and chicken entrees. Like the name might suggest, the Tavern has a rustic décor with deer antlers serving as chandeliers and tables and booths consisting of dark wood.

It’s not all country cooking, though. The tavern also has a wine list with more than 100 bottles, many of which come from Napa Valley, as well as several local brews on tap for beer lovers.

“The bar is one the main focal points of our restaurant,” says Fields.

8800 Meeker Road, Dayton, 937-890-3261,

The Paragon's sophistication and class attracts dinner guests on any evening.

Since 1978, the dinner club has provided an enchanting and classic ambiance. Their selection of steaks and chops features excellent cuts of tender beef and pork, including Paragon’s twin filets. The dish has two three-ounce bacon-wrapped filets accompanied by crabmeat, artichoke hearts and fresh béarnaise.

After indulging in a Paragon entrée, diners can take a peek at the dessert menu for a finishing touch. The acclaimed Paragon Supreme includes Crème de Cacao, Chocolate mint liqueur, peanut butter and ice cream. For the finishing touch, check out the Pecan Fudge Ball. This Paragon classic comes with Haagen-Dazs ice cream and toasted pecans smothered in fudge sauce.

797 Miamisburg-Centerville Rd., Washington Township, 937-433-1234,

More than 200 years ago Archer’s Tavern was Centerville’s gathering spot. Owner John Archer was the post master, local officials met there and, according to legend, famous figures such as General William Henry Harrison, the future 9th U.S. President, stopped in when passing through town.

John Archer’s original log cabin is gone, but three long-time friends have tried to recapture that same community spirit in the new Archer’s Tavern, located not far from the original.

“We wanted to create the type of place where you want to come in two or three times a week,” says Dan Apolito, who teamed up with Mike Fullenkamp and Scott Dorsten to open Archer’s almost four years ago.

Archer’s is an American-style tavern featuring a variety of pizzas, burgers and wings. The wing sauces are made especially for Archer’s by locally-owned Crazy Uncle Jester’s and the meat comes from Zink’s Meat Market down the street.

Archer’s desserts, particularly its cheesecakes, bread puddings and cupcakes have drawn raves.

As part of its community focus, Archer’s offers a restaurant takeover program to help local nonprofits raise funds. Participating organizations spread the word and their volunteers supplement Archer’s staff on the selected date. Archer’s donates 10 percent of sales during the takeover to the organization. “We had one group raise $2,000 in a single night,” says Apolito.

9496 Dayton-Lebanon Pike, Centerville, 937-401-1015,

Jay’s has established itself as a premier destination for seafood. From the Atlantic to Pacific coasts, Jay’s flies in the tastiest saltwater creatures.

It’s a culinary tradition that’s served seafood enthusiasts well.

For an opening dish, try the Asian crab cakes marinated in lemon ginger and pan-friend with shallots. It’s accompanied with Asian coleslaw and drizzled with Japanese vinaigrette dressing.

Jay’s also has a variety of salmon selections, including the marinated cedar plank salmon. With pineapple, soy and spices, it creates a moist and delicious fish that will make anyone salivate. Their fresh tuna is cooked rare and served with grilled vegetables with a side of wasabi and two of Jay’s signature side dishes.

If the seafood’s not enough, maybe dining in a building that dates back to 1850 will be. With a 5,400-pound Honduran Mahogany bar serving as the restaurant centerpiece, dinner guests can have a drink where Buffalo Bill Cody and John Dillinger once bellied up.

225 E. Sixth St., Dayton, 937-222-2892,

If you’re looking for authentic Chinese cuisine, you don’t have to go further than China Cottage, which has four locations in the Dayton area. Aside from the usual items like Mu Shu Pork, Kung Pao Beef and Szechuan Chicken featured in every Chinese restaurant, China Cottage offers a traditional Chinese menu aimed at Chinese natives. It features dishes such as Mei Cai Kou Rou (steamed pork belly and mustard greens) and Niu Nan Bao (a stewed beef dish).

Tiger Wong started China Cottage with his brother Wen at a single location on Wilmington Pike in Kettering. He did this in 1987 after emigrating from his native country of Taiwan.

“My brother and I felt there was much more to Chinese cuisine than what other restaurants were serving,” he says. “So we came up with the idea of building a separate Chinese menu. We introduced a lot of different dishes to the area.”

While the sauces and preparation are similar to what most Americans view as Chinese cuisine, the ingredients are much simpler, according to Wong.

Despite the variety, Wong says that the American-Chinese items on the menu— particularly the Rock Salt Prawns and Spicy Mala Chicken—remain the most popular.

Each China Cottage location offers dine-in and carryout service. The chain also offers catering.

Dayton, various locations,

For years, the Tavernette Inn in Medway was the place to go for celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. This has been less so with time because of the growth of chain restaurants and changing highway traffic patterns.

Owner Lawren Williams, who bought the restaurant a couple years ago, is now trying to restore the Tavernette’s prominence by maintaining its reputation for fine food and service and by adding new features like craft beer and expanded hours.

The restaurant, which is reaching its 80th anniversary, gives the effect of stepping back in time with its turquoise booths, orange vinyl chairs, and extensive collection of old toys, toiletry tins and other vintage wall items on display.

One of Tavernette’s long-time features was its complimentary relish tray with cottage cheese, pickles and sauerkraut served to guests when they were seated. The relish tray is still there, but it is now a $2.99 appetizer. “Tastes have changed. So instead we offer it as an option,” says Williams, who grew up in Fairborn and used to go to the Tavernette with his parents.

The Tavernette still features its hand-cut steaks, fresh walleye, frog legs and its own sweet-and-sour salad dressing. And to be more family-friendly, kids eat for free when their parents purchase a meal.

Although the Tavernette hasn’t been the go-to place for special occasions for a while, it has stood the test of time.

“We’re the kind of restaurant where you can order a craft beer or a Grasshopper or Brandy Alexander. We still know how to mix those,” says Williams.

111 W. Main St., Medway, 937-849-0423.

Located northeast of downtown in Old North Dayton, the Amber Rose has been in business roughly 24 years, but its roots go much deeper. The Amber Rose is housed in a 104-year-old former general store in what was the heart of the city’s East European community.

Specializing in the enthic fare of the Germans, Poles, Hungarians and Lithuanians who moved here more than a century ago, the menu features traditional items such as cabbage rolls, pierogis, virtinai (meat dumplings), and some new twists on traditional favorites like the Hunter Schnitzel, a pretzel-encrusted pork loin.

Dayton native Joe Castellano, who bought the restaurant 14 years ago from original owner Elinor Sluzas, says Amber Rose remains popular because of its distinctiveness, featuring “things you don’t see everywhere.”

Elinor Sluzas retired about 10 years ago, but her recipes are still on the menu. One example is her signature turtle soup made from scratch with freshwater turtle.

Castellano says Amber Rose’s niche menu is popular with both young families and older residents.

“The other night we had a 94-year-old lady in who remembered buying candy here when this was a general store,” he says.

If cabbage and schnitzel isn’t your thing, the Amber Rose has a popular catering business on- or off-site featuring pastas, baked ham, chicken cordon bleu, seafood, prime rib, and other choices.

1400 Valley St., Dayton, 937-228-2511,