Afton Village now offers taste of Italy

I love going to Afton Village.

This quant neighborhood off George W. Liles Parkway near Interstate 85 is unique. There are no big-box stores, just mom-and-pop shops and restaurants that aim to please their customers.

The best part is that the restaurants there are not parts of big chains, so you know the food is fresh and homemade.

If you want Greek food, check out the Gateway to Athens. Want some Asian chow? There's E Noodles. American cuisine? Go to Joes' Sports Bar or Max's Ally. And now if you want Italian food, a restaurant called Martino's has just opened.

Bill Merow, his wife, Marie, and their oldest son, Marty, are co-owners. They all moved from Pittsburgh to Concord in 1992, but they never forgot about the pizza places they left behind and always wanted to open one of their own.

"Martino's is truly a family undertaking," Bill Merow said. "The concept we settled on was to build an Italian-American-inspired pizzeria and restaurant that would include the best elements of those we remembered from Pittsburgh and the other steel mill communities along the Ohio River.

"Those towns had become home to many Italian immigrants, and the food and fun that could be found in their restaurants, pizza places and pubs could rival anything found in New York's Little Italy," he said. "I think it was really the sense of welcome and comfort that those little family places exude that was most appealing to us."

Everyone had a hand into making this family business come together.

"Marty is the main pizza man and spent many hours perfecting his recipe in our kitchen at home before the restaurant was finished," Bill Merow said. "We all got more than our fill of pizza, but it was worth it, as we ended up with a pizza product that is a customer favorite.

"Marie did most of the original pasta recipes, and she did a great job. We did add a couple of things from my Italian mother's cookbook."

The Merows' other two children, Joe and Rachael, got involved in the business as well.

"Most everything we serve at Martino's is made on site. We make our own sauces, cut all the fries, make our own zucchini sticks and cheese sticks, make our own batter and hand-batter the fish fillets, onion rings, calamari and anything else that needs batter," Merow said.

"We also make our own gelato on site," he said. "Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream, but it has less than half the fat of regular ice cream and tastes great. "

So the next time you're hungry, remember there is a new Italian restaurant in town called Martino's.