Monthly Archives: October 2012

Mile 126 – DiCarlo’s, Elm Grove, W.Va.

Residents of West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle rant and rave about DiCarlo’s – a pizza tradition born and raised in this part of the Ohio River Valley.

According to the DiCarlo’s website, the pizza recipe for which it is so famous was created in the late 1940s by Galdo DiCarlo, the third son of Michael and Caroline DiCarlo, who operated a grocery store and bakery.

What makes DiCarlo’s pizza unique is the way it is made. Unlike traditional pizza, DiCarlo’s bakes the crust and sauce, then adds the majority of the diced provolone cheese to the pizza as the pizza cools. So, a fresh DiCarlo’s pizza will likely have unmelted cheese or cheese that is in the process of melting. Pepperoni is standard on pizza.

Notice the freshly-spread cheese across the pizza.

Today, the DiCarlo’s franchise has grown to 12 locations in and around Wheeling, stretching from New Martinsville, W.Va., in the south to Wellsburg, W.Va., in the north. There are also DiCarlo’s outposts elsewhere in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

The Elm Grove DiCarlo’s sits right along U.S. 40.

But don’t think that all of these locations serve exactly the same product in exactly the same atmosphere — no. All DiCarlo’s eateries have pizza, but some have dine-in areas and some have expanded menus. What I’ve found is that local residents tend to think that “their” hometown DiCarlo’s is better than another DiCarlo’s down the road (and maybe that thinking keeps each DiCarlo’s in business!).

Regardless, from what I could gather, the DiCarlo’s in Elm Grove is the original DiCarlo’s franchise (though, if that’s not true, I’d like to know!). This DiCarlo’s is smack on the National Road, tucked between that historic highway and I-70, which seems to have sliced right through the middle of Wheeling and its surrounding communities.

The kitchen at the Elm Grove DiCarlo’s.

In this DiCarlo’s, there is no dine-in area. Instead, you can either call ahead or place your order at the store and wait. Each order is assigned a number, and orders are supposed to be finished in regards to their respective numbers.

Pizza is sold by the slice, which is square, and extra cheese is available for extra cost (it comes in small bags and is put on separately by the customer). At the Elm Grove spot, slices are offered in amounts from 1-28. If you’re on the go, soda is available at vending machines in the waiting area.  When your number is called, you pay, take your food and go.

Apparently this DiCarlo’s mails pizza?

I met a friend for dinner, and we ended up eating outside, putting our pizza on the back of her car and eating out of the box. For all the hype surrounding DiCarlo’s, the pizza absolutely lived up to its expectations! It really is quite a change from traditional pizza, as the cold, melting cheese adds a different flavor.

Like other established local restaurants, pizza at DiCarlo’s is a great deal for the wallet. At a little over a dollar per slice, the quality and freshness of the pizza beats out the national fast food chains.

The Elm Grove DiCarlo’s is located at 2099 National Road in Elm Grove, just east of Wheeling. It is closest to Exit 5 on I-70. It’s open from 3 p.m. through the late evening, so this DiCarlo’s is not the best spot for a lunch stop. To order ahead, call 304-242-1490.
DiCarlos Pizza Shop on Urbanspoon


Mile 132 – West Virginia Independence Hall, Wheeling, W.Va.

The exterior of the WVIH in Wheeling, taken from Market Street.

In Wheeling, the state of West Virginia was born. Though the state capital moved to Charleston permanently in 1885, the spirit of those Virginians against secession from the U.S. during the Civil War is preserved in this city on the Ohio River. Arguably the centerpiece of historic sites from West Virginia’s early history is the West Virginia Independence Hall, now a modern museum.

Originally a U.S. Customs house built in 1859, the building became the center of the Reorganized Government of Virginia (later West Virginia), and was where the Wheeling Conventions took place, which produced the new state.

Independence Hall in its modern condition, to me, is very underrated and under-promoted. The quality of the exhibits in the museum is impressive, and the museum staff is extremely knowledgeable about the building’s history.

The window of the restored U.S. Customs office overlooks another historic building in Wheeling – the former B&O train station.

Like many older buildings, Independence Hall has seen several uses throughout its existence, from the U.S. Customs facility to a federal courthouse to the center of the creation of West Virginia’s early government to a number of private uses. While the building today has been restored to its original appearance, at one time, the building was expanded to include more floor space – both horizontally and vertically.

In the 1960s, the state of West Virginia bought the building from private use, with the intention of restoring Independence Hall through the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. After restoration was complete, the building was opened as a museum in the late 1970s. The museum is operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, which also runs the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston.

This museum is ideal for anyone the least bit interested in history, especially those interested in historic renovation or the Civil War. The museum occupies three floors, and is designed to have visitors begin on the third floor and work down through each floor.

The third floor houses the restored 19th Century courtroom, plus the restored judge’s chamber. Visitors are free to walk about the courtroom, and informational signs provide a concise history of the room and its uses over the years.

One of the Civil War-era flags preserved at WVIH. Flash photography is prohibited in this exhibit.

The second floor contains the gem of the museum – a rather large exhibit containing  battle flags carried by companies that mustered across West Virginia during the Civil War. Because of the fragile nature of these flags, each is preserved in a controlled environment, and no flash photography is allowed in the exhibit. Tying in with the actual flags is another exhibit that features information on flag restoration and the relevant procedures.

Also on the second floor is an exhibit detailing the process of restoring Independence Hall to its original shape and size in the 1960s. The exhibit points out the extensive attention to detail that was paid during the restoration efforts.  In addition, a replicated U.S. Customs Office and the original West Virginia Governor’s office are on the second floor.

The first floor has more general exhibits on the Civil War and Wheeling history.

The West Virginia Independence Hall is on the corner of Market Street (W.Va. 2 North) and 16th Street in downtown Wheeling. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is closed Sundays and government holidays. Admission is free (Note: some Internet websites list an admission price, but that is no longer true). A small parking lot for the museum is off 16th Street.

 

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Mile 132 – Centre Market, Wheeling, W.Va.

The front of Centre Market along 22nd Street in Wheeling.

Centre Market seems to be one of the bright spots in Wheeling’s efforts to revitalize its older neighborhoods. The market itself and the surrounding neighborhood are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Centre Market Square Historic District,” though the market itself also has its own NRHP designation.

The market is made up of two distinct sections – one older and one “newer.”  The earliest section, built in 1853, is believed to be the oldest still-standing iron market house in the country. This neo-classical section is now enclosed and painted white and green and has its original belfry. The second section, further south and made of brick in a neo-Romanesque style, was built in 1890 for primary use as a fish market. The building’s original use lives on through Coleman’s Fish Market. A more detailed description of the building’s past is available here, on the NRHP application from the 1970s (This link from the Ohio County Public Library has much of the same information on the application, but a bit easier-to-read format).

The main corridor in the older section of Centre Market in Wheeling.

Today, the entire building remains open to the public as an open market, with a handful of restaurants, shops and an art gallery. In addition, the streets on the east and west of the building (both of which are Market Street, one southbound and one northbound) currently host a number of more shops and restaurants, thereby creating a small shopping district within historic buildings. The buildings are owned by the City of Wheeling.

While in some ways the market serves a notably different purpose as an attraction today than it did 100 years ago as a necessary supply destination, its purpose still lives on as an important asset to Wheeling’s commerce.

Each of the businesses in the actual Centre Market and the surrounding neighborhood has its own hours, though there are businesses open every day of the week. Parking is available along Market Street and nearby streets.

To get to Centre Market from U.S. 40, follow Main Street south to 22nd Street, then turn left. The Market is on the right. From I-470, take Exit 1, turn left at the end of the ramp, left on 26th Street to Main Street and then turn right (north) on Main Street to 22nd Street.

The southern building of Centre Market, built in the late 1800s.