Inside Over-the-Rhine Italian Eatery Pepp & Dolores

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Thunderdome Restaurant Group — the team behind The Eagle, Bakersfield, Currito and Maplewood Kitchen and Bar — opened their newest concept, an Italian eatery called Pepp & Dolores, on Dec. 17.

Inspired by Sunday dinners at Thunderdome co-founders Joe and John Lanni's grandparents' house, the restaurant aims to embody the spirit and hospitality from those special evenings while honoring their family.

"We’re paying tribute, not only to them, but to the incredible amount of hope and courage it took to pack up their family, climb aboard a boat and leave Italy to immigrate to Canada, looking for a better life,” says Joe Lanni in a press release.

The menu at Pepp & Dolores features housemade pastas — like the cacio e pepe, a butternut and mascarpone pasta and a lobster and squid ink pasta — along with a focus on shareable dishes, salads and bread. Cicchetti (appetizers) range from capicola to crostini al funghi (a mushroom focaccia dish) and the contori section (sides for the table) features meatballs, charred broccolini, eggplant involtini and more.

“We’ve been working on developing this menu for nearly a year, because of our personal and emotional connection, we felt an onus to get it exactly right,” says Joe.

Dishes range in price from $6-$19, making for an approachable and affordable dining option when compared to other Italian restaurants in the Queen City.

The restaurant's drink menu offers around 40 different wines, some of which can be ordered as a 6 oz. glass or 3 oz. taste. Wines are divided into house wines, tradizionale, non-tradizionale, Americano and big bottles. They also offer a variety of cocktails and beer.

Between the two bars and dining space, the restaurant seats around 100 guests and offers a contrasting experience throughout the floors.

“We designed the space to have a timeless look and feel with elements of a classic cafe or bistro from the early to mid-20th century on the first level and a lower level that is darker, cozier and reminiscent of a New York City supper club,” says John Lanni in the same press release. “There’s a hidden double staircase that leads you downstairs to the lower bar that more obviously pays tribute to our Italian heritage with over 200 of our actual family photos adorning the walls.”

Above all, Joe and John Lanni hope to provide their guests with a fun and approachable experience while offering the same hospitality and love they admired from their Sunday suppers growing up. “Where, despite not having a lot, they always managed to make us feel warm, welcomed, loved and fed,” Joe says.

Pepp & Dolores, 1501 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, peppanddolores.com.

| Photos by Hailey Bollinger