Four meatballs stuffed inside an Italian bread bowl, smothered in cheese, peppers and onions, and finished with an award-winning sauce …

Is your mouth watering?

That, my hungry friends, is the Chi-Chi Glove, a throwback recipe from Figaretti’s Restaurant, and it’s back for Wheeling’s inaugural Restaurant Week, March 18-23 — at the same price as when it left the menu a quarter of a century ago … $5.50!

Restaurant Week is a highly anticipated event in such cities as Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, Boston — and now Wheeling, thanks to RED (Regional Economic Development Partnership) along with support from the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Over 20 locally owned city restaurants are on board with special offerings to entice diners through the doors next week.

“I feel like Wheeling has so many great eateries now, and I think we have a really diverse group of restaurants. I’m excited to highlight everything they have to offer,” said Valerie Piko, RED’s small business coordinator.

Piko recognizes the boon that Small Business Saturday — the Saturday after Thanksgiving — has meant to area shops. Some say it’s the “best day ever,” she said.

She’d like Restaurant Week to do the same for area eateries.

“Our ultimate goal is, that during a slower time for restaurants, the community is supporting them and trying a new restaurant they’ve never tried before. And it gives the restaurants an opportunity to really showcase their talent,” Piko said.

Former Wheeling Mayor Nick Sparachane of Undo’s Family Restaurants stirred the pot last year to get Restaurant Week on the front burner in Wheeling, Piko noted.

“Why not Wheeling?” Sparachane said, noting that so many other cities do it. He’s been exposed to Restaurant Week in his travels for work, and he specifically pointed to Charleston, W.Va. The restaurants there were so packed during the week that he couldn’t even get a reservation. For some restaurants, it’s their biggest week of the year, he said.

Here in Wheeling, Sparachane believes it’s a great way to highlight the established family-owned restaurants as well as bring attention to some of the new eateries.

“I thought it would be fun. … Cities always need fun,” he said. “As a restaurant organization, we’ll have fun doing it, and I plan on eating out and being part of it, too. … And, it gives restaurants a chance to be creative.”

“It will be a week that everyone will be enticed to go out to eat or go from one restaurant to another to enjoy the different specials and uniqueness of each place. [Residents and visitors] may discover a new restaurant or a new dish at their favorite spot they wouldn’t have chosen before,” said Olivia Litman, CVB marketing director.

“We asked [the restaurants] to offer some kind of special for the week,” Piko said. “Some of them have special menu items that have never been featured before. Some are offering a free appetizer with purchase of an entrée … some are offering a discount,” she said.

Ihlenfeld Dining Room at Oglebay, for example, has a special three-course meal for $30.

“Typically you’d go to Ihlenfeld for a birthday or for Valentine’s Day. We want you to be able to go there on a Tuesday night and enjoy your evening,” she said. The prix fixe menu allows some of the fine dining restaurants to be a little more accessible, she noted.

Tom Raymond, executive chef at Oglebay, agrees. “It’s our hope that Restaurant Week will prove to the community that Ihlenfeld isn’t just a special occasion restaurant, but a venue which offers a variety of outstanding cuisine to suit every budget,” he said.

One of the goals of Restaurant Week is attention and exposure for the participating restaurants.

“We love an event that we can promote to such a large group of people,” Litman said. “Food brings everyone together, and everyone eats food, so it is an event that we can promote to a broad audience. We are using our resources to promote restaurant week in the Pennsylvania market as well as our broad social media audience. … The exposure they will be getting in various forms of media will be great.”

Oglebay’s Chef Raymond believes that Restaurant Week will let the “secret” out about restaurants at the park.

“Our guests often say that Ihlenfeld Dining Room is the best-kept secret in Wheeling. … The people of Wheeling love Oglebay for its trails, golf, zoo, gardens and special events, but our restaurants are, at times, overlooked. Many positive changes have taken place over the past year, and we hope Restaurant Week will encourage patrons to rediscover Oglebay through the new and creative cuisine offered at Ihlenfeld Dining Room and Glassworks Grill,” Raymond said.

“The largest win for the restaurants is having new customers coming in and for those customers to return,” Piko said. “I hope they see new faces coming in, and I also hope that they see an encouraging response for those restaurants who are trying something new, and encourages them to continue doing so.”

Eric Bennett, manager at Greco’s, is looking forward to the week for a few reasons.

“We love eating local, and having a week to showcase what there is in Wheeling is a great way to let everyone in the community see the great selection of locally owned restaurants that Wheeling has to offer. We also love our customers and hope to see some of our regular customers as well as some new faces during the week.”

Alicia Torrance, the day manager at Figaretti’s, also is hoping for new customers. “There may be visitors passing through that see that it’s Restaurant Week, and they’ll try us out. We are hoping to bring new customers in who haven’t been here before.”

They’ll certainly be in for a treat with the old favorite, the Chi-Chi Glove, on the menu.

THE CHI-CHI GLOVE

A brief back story on the “Glove,” named for current owner Dino Figaretti’s grandfather, Frank “Chi-Chi” Figaretti: Dino recalls that his Uncle Frank was messing around in the kitchen one night, and some bread was in the oven, and he stuffed it with the meatballs, cheese, etc. It immediately became a hit when put on the menu in the early 1980s. “Chi-Chi,” (a former baseball player and coach), along with his four brothers — Jack, Tony, Michael and Joe — opened the original restaurant in Elm Grove above the Eagles back in 1948.

Another old favorite is Coleman’s Fish Market, and Joe Coleman wants everyone to spoon up some award-winning New England clam chowder. And at a special Restaurant Week price of just $2 a bowl, there’s no reason not to!

“Our chowder is a great complement to our fish sandwich or can be enjoyed by itself. It’s one of our best sellers, so our regulars will love the discount, and hopefully, the low price will entice people who’ve never tried it to see what the fuss is about,” said Coleman, president of the Wheeling staple. “Coleman’s has been a part of Wheeling for over 100 years; we felt Restaurant Week would be a good opportunity to give back to the community that supports us every day.”

GRECO’S PEPPERONI ROLL

At Greco’s, some of the most popular items are spicing up Restaurant Week — get a free 8-inch dessert pizza or free small pepperoni roll with purchase of any specialty pizza at the regular price.

Greco’s is also featuring some old-time favorites such as their taco pizza and Robin’s Favorite, as well some of their newer pizzas: Home Fry, Chicken and Waffle, and Macaroni and Cheese,” said Bennett, who noted that Greco’s has been open since 1992.

SPINACH AND FETA AFTERNOON BUN

A little bit of new and a little bit of old will be evident in the special item to be offered at Sarah’s on Main. You can sink your teeth into a Spinach Feta Afternoon Bun during Restaurant Week and savor the classic combination of spinach and feta. It’s a nod to the popular Lebanon Bakery that sold Lebanese specialties for decades at the same spot, said café owner Sarah Lydick.

“The Wheeling community is experiencing a food renaissance led by emerging young chefs with a fire in their belly. It’s often said that competition breeds excellence, and Oglebay’s talented team has risen to the occasion to produce a truly excellent product,” Raymond said. Chefs at Oglebay’s Glassworks Grill and Ihlenfeld Dining Room have created some signature offerings for Restaurant Week.

“The dishes presented at Ihlenfeld Dining Room and Glassworks Grill are close to my heart,” said Raymond. “Lasagna Bolognese is a dish my grandmother and I used to make together when I was a kid. The meatloaf dish is a twist on my mother’s meatloaf — made with love in every bite.”

Restaurant Week also a good opportunity to keep local dollars local.

“I think it’s the small businesses and the restaurants that really make our city what it is and really add a lot to the culture here and give us great experiences, so the more we can support these locally owned establishments, the better we’ll make Wheeling and the better Wheeling will become,” Piko said.

She hopes Restaurant Week may encourage entrepreneurs to take the next step into the restaurant business. It’s a risky business that takes a big investment, she noted. “I applaud those who have taken the chance and really enjoy their craft and love making people happy with what they’re able to offer. … One of my favorite things when I’m eating out is when the chef comes out to check on the tables, and you see the person who created your dish, who meticulously thought out every ingredient,” she said.

Piko added, “I hope this is just the first of many Wheeling Restaurant Weeks, and that it’s something that just keeps growing, and that we can keep adding new restaurants to the area as well. I hope this is something that takes off and becomes an event that you look forward to every year.”

“I hope people will get out — spring is here! — and celebrate people who are creating good things for our community,” said Lydick.

ON THE MENU FOR RESTAURANT WEEK:

Centre Cup Coffee & Café

$2 off any complete lunch order

Coleman’s Fish Market

Award-winning New England clam chowder for only $2 per bowl

Country Roads BBQ

Receive a FREE side and drink with the purchase of a sandwich. Sandwiches include brisket ($8.50), pulled pork ($6.50) and chicken ($6)

Figaretti’s Restaurant

The return of the Chi-Chi Glove —  four meatballs stuffed in an Italian bread bowl, smothered in cheese, peppers and onions, and finished with their award-winning sauce. Brought back during restaurant week for only $5.50 — the price it left the menu.

Generations Restaurant and Pub

Special entrée Polish platter — homemade cabbage roll, cabbage and noodles with kielbasa and three pierogis for only $10.95

Glassworks Grill – Wilson Lodge, Oglebay

Two courses for $20

Course 1: Loaded skillet cornbread — applewood smoked bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, roasted jalapeño and honey butter
Course 2: Grilled meatloaf with a bourbon tomato demi and smashed potatoes OR lasagna Bolognese with garlic toast

Good Mansion Wines

Receive a FREE coffee drink with any purchase over $5

Greco’s Italian Restaurant

Receive a FREE 8-inch dessert pizza or small pepperoni roll with the purchase of any 13-inch or larger specialty pizza

Hangover BBQ

Special menu item — four house-smoked meats (pulled pork, peppered turkey, ribs and sausage) plus a piece of homemade cornbread for $20. Plus, if you purchase a smoked sausage sandwich ($9.50), you will receive a FREE drink

Ihlenfeld Dining Room – Wilson Lodge, Oglebay

Three-course meal for $30

Course 1: Chilled jumbo poached shrimp with Sriracha sauce
Course 2: Thyme- and garlic-rubbed double bone duroc pork chop with creamed corn OR king salmon with broccoli rabe
Course 3: Classic English trifle

Later Alligator

Half-off appetizers with any entrée or cocktail order

L.J.’s Hoagie King

10 percent off one whole Italian hoagie

Michael’s Beef House

Purchase a Pappas roast beef sandwich and receive a FREE order of tater tots

River City

Special entrée — baked steak topped with portabella mushroom gravy. Served with scalloped potatoes and a house salad for $15

Sarah’s on Main

Special item — spinach and feta afternoon bun, an ode to the Lebanon Bakery

The Market Vines Wine Bar & Grille

Two for $20 deal — enjoy two entrées and an appetizer for $20. Each person gets the choice of a wrap or sandwich plus one appetizer to share:

Wraps: Caesar wrap, Southwest wrap, market egg roll wrap
Sandwiches: BLT, turkey bacon hoagie, Slim Jim
Appetizers: Cheese sticks, breaded pickles, fried green beans

TJ’s Sports Garden

$1 off the “oldies”: Big T, Brawny Mt’neer, Mt’neer Miss or Slam Jam

Big T — TJ’s double-decker burger, two fresh ground patties topped with American cheese,
lettuce and TJ’s superb sauce. Served on a specially baked sesame bun

Brawny Mt’neer — 100 percent Prime Angus beef grilled and served on a fresh toasted rye bun. Topped
off with a slice of mild, sweet onion

Mt’neer Miss — 100 percent Prime Angus beef grilled and served on a toasted rye bun. Topped off with
TJ’s tartar sauce, lettuce and Swiss cheese

Slam Jam — thick sliced ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and TJ’s special dressing, grilled on
sesame Grecian bread

Undo’s Italian Restaurants

Choose 1 item for $30 — all items receive salad and bread and choice of dessert

Honey-glazed salmon —  served with a side of grilled asparagus with pasta aglio e oglio

Black peppercorn grilled ribeye steak — pan-fried, 10-ounce USDA choice ribeye topped with a black peppercorn cream sauce

Spicy chicken and shrimp alfredo — penne pasta sautéed with jumbo shrimp and chicken tossed in a cayenne pepper romano sauce with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and green onions

Stuffed mani pasta trio and meatball — pasta shells, one stuffed with ricotta/mozzarella blend, another stuffed with sausage and spinach, and a third stuffed with chicken and spinach

Choice of dessert: cannoli, New York cheesecake or tiramisu

Vagabond Kitchen

FREE basket of chips with your meal

Valley Cheese

Special Centre Market sandwich — Honey-smoked turkey breast, Colby cheese, romaine lettuce, tomato and avocado on multigrain bread with a Tex-Mex sauce. Served with chopped Mexican side salad and fresh squeezed lemonade for $10

Wheeling Brewing Company

FREE chips with salsa or queso with the purchase of a food item

Wheeling Country Club

Restaurant Week dinner special — three-course meal for $30 per person (plus tax)

Choice of soup or salad: three homemade soups daily/Caesar salad or mixed greens with choice of homemade dressing served with homemade rolls and butter

Choice of entrée: seared salmon filet with garlic parmesan cream or 6-ounce broiled filet mignon with roasted shallot cognac demi sauce

All entrees served with choice of vegetable and starch and dessert.

For more information, visit the Facebook Page and Facebook Event.

• After nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal has joined Weelunk as managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.

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