An Italian family-run gem hidden away in Kettering
By Tom Baker
Sometimes you stumble across a place where you’d least expect it — in this case, it’s in a tiny strip mall on Dorothy Lane. Many people have probably driven by hundreds of times and never noticed it. It’s the type of place where you can get good food served in a pretense-free, friendly atmosphere, and you can order a bottle of wine in blue jeans and feel just fine about it. This is Troni’s, a family owned joint in Kettering that deserves your attention the next time you’re in Kettering.
Owned and operated by the Troni family, this cozy little spot offers up some pretty quality stuff. It’s not fancy and I think that’s what I liked about it best — good food, friendly people, and I can wear shorts and sandals if I feel like it. I’ve checked out both the dining room and carry-out (no delivery available so they do a brisk carry-out business), and both experiences have been pretty solid. The dining room is small and you walk right into the seating area with a bar, mostly used by folks to lean on while waiting for carry-out orders. On both weekend and weekday nights, the dining room has been pretty lively — not necessarily an optimal place for a quiet candlelit date, but if you don’t mind a bit of hubbub, it’s just fine. My only complaint during my most recent visit was the temperature — now that it’s getting cold outside the heat was on, and my wife and I were ready to start peeling off layers to maintain an acceptable comfort level — this sitting right next to the door on a brisk October night.
Troni’s offers a wide range of Italian options including pizzas, calzones, specialty rolls, Stromboli, soups, salads, pasta and desserts. Prices start under $10 and go up to around $20 or so for some of the seafood entrees — you can go big with a bottle of wine or share a pizza with friends over a few beers. The “New York Style Pizza” is very good, and what you would get if New York style and thin crust had a baby. Their crisp and chewy crust is the base for a pleasantly sweet sauce and a range of standard toppings. Our spinach and garlic pizza was great and held up to my day-after cold pizza test. We also tried the Seafood Combo entrée — spaghetti with clams, mussels, and shrimp tossed with garlic, white wine and oil. Also a winner, this dish had great flavor although the seafood seemed a bit overcooked. At $20 it was just under the high limit of my Italian value perception gauge.
That being said, entrées are also served with salad and Troni’s garlic rolls. The salads are standard with iceberg and leaf lettuce and a garnish of tomato, cucumber and onion — the house dressing is a nice Italian herb vinaigrette. The garlic rolls, on the other hand, are not to be missed and are available on their own — the pretzel shaped gems are rubbed with olive oil and garlic, and dusted with a bit of parsley — really fantastic. Both the pizza and pasta paired nicely with a glass of the fruity and Italian food-friendly Gabbiano Chianti — as they say, “What grows together goes together.” Troni’s offers only three whites and nine reds, most of which are available by the glass and are generally very affordable. They also serve only a handful of domestic and import beers, including the requisite Peroni, but offer no hard stuff.
On another visit we opted for the Spinach Roll, the Eggplant Rollatini and the Tiramisu. The Spinach Roll, essentially a calzone but long and narrow, was very tasty and full of spinach, onion, mozzarella and ricotta. Served with a side of their red sauce, at $8 it was fulfilling and affordable. The Eggplant Rollatini, my go-to at nearby Mamma Disalvo’s, was not disappointing and gives Mamma’s a run for their money. The fried eggplant surrounds a filling of onion, spinach and mushrooms, covered with red sauce and melted cheese, served alongside spaghetti. This dish would have been my favorite had it not been for the canned mushrooms — disappointing, but overall the dish was very good. For dessert we tried Tiramisu, the traditional dessert of espresso soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone and cocoa — this one wasn’t anything to write home about and appeared to have been store bought, but there were no complaints from my dining companion who gladly finished my portion.
Troni’s seems the quintessential family-run joint. This doesn’t appear to be a professionally trained front of house crew, but as long as there are smiles, adequate beverage refreshments and someone checks back with me a few minutes after I’m served, I’m a pretty happy camper. My recent visits have seen the dining room consistently busy, and service was adequate, pleasant and better than some places with whole budgets dedicated to training their staff. Troni’s is cash or credit only, so leave the checkbook at home and come ready for some good Italian eats.
Troni’s Pizza and Restaurant is located at 1314 E. Dorothy Lane in Kettering and is open Monday-Saturday. 937-643-9921.
Reach DCP food critic Tom Baker at TomBaker@DaytonCityPaper.com.