Friday, June 11, 2010


Pompilio's sparked memories of the 1980s from the moment I walked in and the host asked me if we wanted to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section (These backwards Kentuckians don't understand that people and businesses can't be trusted to make this decision for themselves based on their own personal preferences). Like a Madeleine cookie, the first scent of Kentucky bar smoke sparked memories in me of this place and my many visits over the last twenty years.

Pompilio's is an old Italian restaurant with a lot of history and one I have been going to with my family for a long time (It’s like an Olive Garden commercial, but slightly more authentic). Pompilio’s really looks like your basic idea of an old Italian restaurant inside. It was founded right after the end of prohibition in 1933, and received the first post-Prohibition liquor license in Kentucky. Their website indicates the bar is quite a bit older than the restaurant:

The bar with its tile floor, beveled-glass windows and hand-carved “Back Bar” is one of the few classic bars left in the area. The Back Bar was hand-crafted and built of cherry wood by the George Wiedemann Brewing Company in 1886. The barroom is pretty much as it was originally except for a pressed metal ceiling that has been removed, and the mahogany bar that was installed after Prohibition.
On top of this history, there is the fact that the Cincinnati-shot film Rain Man had an about five minute scene that took place in Pompilio’s. Here it is along with some driving along Columbia Parkway:
The restaurant looks pretty much the same today as it did in this scene.

So, it is a nice old restaurant with some interesting history. As for the food and drinks… Well, the first thing you might notice (which can be rather frustrating) is that they only serve sodas in tiny 8 ounce bottles (presumably catering to small children). So, of course, once you finish one of these $1.35 bottles, you must order another. Quant and all, but a rather annoying game to me... I opted for drinking water rather than to spending $10 on drinks (Although, I am told that as of 2012, they now offer fountain drinks)

Also, when you think of a classic Italian restaurant, one of the things you expect is some good fresh bread. Here is what is being served at Pompilio's:
It was as boring a loaf of white bread is it looks, with packets of butter… I did like the house salad I had with my meal. It was basic (some lettuce, cucumbers, tomato, and blue cheese dressing) but good.

This day I decided to try something simple and opted for a classic Italian sub:

The sandwich was pretty good and only $8.75 with fries and a drink. Good, but nothing too interesting… I have ordered the pasta in the past, and my thoughts on it were reinforced by the people who ordered it this day. It is oddly watery yet dry - The sauce is quite watery, while the pasta itself is overcooked. Not a great combination.

Oh well... Just as many people long for an ideal past that never quite existed, I really would like a better Pompilio's that I'd like to think existed when I was younger. But it is what it is now... Not bad. For better or worse, I will keep coming here because of family and tradition. And that is precisely this place's problem - Incentives matter. People come here for the history and tradition. It's an institution. Since they'll always have customers, they've lost their incentive to make sure the food is always great.

In sum, it’s not great Italian food but I did have a nice Italian sub. If they were to get some decent bread and regular sized drinks this would be a pretty good restaurant.
Pompilio's on Urbanspoon


  1. the problem my friend is that we now offer fountain sodas with free refills, but even at $1.45 a bottle, people need not spend $10 on drinks...i only need one bottle with my daily meal, and i need not indulge in many soda pops...and i have read many complaints on the bread, but my issue is we provide the bread free of cost...there should be no complaining for something FREE. Pomps has garlic bread with or without cheese for SALE if the house compliments are not good enough. Folks feel this sense of entitlement, and again the bread and many refills for it and free of charge. we do not add gratuity to our checks, and many nights of the week, we provide food at the bar area FREE OF CHARGE. Yes i work here as a waiter and have heard many complaints about the cost of a bottle pop, which is a shame because people should not over indulge on sodas. All of this is just my opinion mixed in with a few facts. We hope u will return. Please keep in mind as well, i am simply a waiter and my views and do not express the views of the owners or other staff. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to update this post with the new drink system.

    1. never a problem, come back soon, and ask for me, Tommy and remind me of our chat on here.

  3. The day I and my family went to Pompilio's in the Fall of 2013 for an early supper, it was amazing in every regard. The free bread was plentiful, warm AND FREE, and the butter squares were cold - perfecto! The food (even my salad) tasted authentic, one-off and home-made, and nothing at all like a trendy or chain restaurant. We were all very impressed - only the distance from our house in Ohio keeps us from becoming more frequent visitors. Thanks, Pompilio's!


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