Mama Disalvo's is my vote for the best Italian restaurant in Dayton. I don't know if Mama Disalvo's makes that rank because it is a great Italian restaurant or because of a lack of competition. My theory is that the reputation of Mama Disalvo's and Franco's (and even the late Dominic's) has intimidated a lot of Italian restaurants from starting.
Mama Disalvo's is always a special treat for people to visit. Who doesn't look forward to a trip there? They take a lot of pride in the quality of their food and they are one of the few restaurants in Dayton that (I don't think) does not have Gordon Food boxes in the back. I've been told by long-time Dayton people that the food tastes the same now as it did when the place opened.
The service has always been stellar in my visits. I recently brought a large group of people there for lunch and they gave everyone a free cannoli. FREE CANNOLI!!! Nothing picks up your day like a free pastry. Alright, maybe I should say that nothing picks up my day like a free pastry.
Since its only so much fun to praise a legend, I'm going to pick on something. I currently believe that MamaD's has the best pizza in Dayton. (I know how hugely subjective this is and I know that, not being from Dayton, I don't have an appreciation of some of the Dayton pizza joints but this is where I stand.) I just like their pizza. If you look at their pizza menu, they have a pretty basic set of 10 choices and then some Specialty Pizza: Seafood Pizza, Vegetarian Pizza, B.L.T. Pizza, Philly Steak Pizza and Buffalo Chicken Pizza.
My problem is that the regular topping menu is lacking and I question whether they should exclusively do oven pizzas. How irresistible would a wood fire pizza be from Mama Disalvo's? I would also be interested in seeing some effort from them on a white sauce because they are sooooo good with their cream sauces or even a simpler olive oil based pizza option. Their Specialty Pizzas are kind of crazy (why would a place that does not have a cheese steak on the menu have a Philly Steak pizza?) and I think that they skipped over exciting up their pizza options by going straight into the kitchy phase. I don't even think that they like those specialty pizzas because the menu says that those pizzas are not available on Friday or Saturday. I guess because people don't eat pizza on Friday or Saturday . . . ?
Is it stupid to say how much I like their pizza and then recommend that they change it? Yeah, probably but I just think that it can get better. Mama Disalvo's has been around for most of my life because they know what they are doing better than anyone else in town. I suggest that you visit and you hopefully end up with a free cannoli.