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As the evening sun is diffused throughout the windows, Assistant Manager TJ Layne and the rest of the Melini Cucina Italian Restaurant staff are hard at work in the charming space.

"Obviously it's a small, privately-owned restaurant, so it's a little bit different than a big corporate chain," Layne says. "I enjoy working with the people that I work with and the owner of the restaurant is really great."

Prior to relocating to the Ironton area, Layne spent two years working at the original Grayson, Kentucky, Melini Cucina location.

The restaurant features a endless variety of traditional Italian dishes, which Layne says are influenced by the founder's own Italian heritage. From there, the recipes were adapted into restaurant-portioned meals.

"Our menu is five pages long," Layne says with a laugh.

Despite its extravagant presentation and setup, Layne says, the restaurant is suited for everyone - not just for formal occasions.

"As far as the atmosphere goes, it's a lot more casual than I think people assume that it is," he says. "Though we have a lot of upscale options, it's very casual. [Guests] don't have to call ahead for reservations."

The restaurant also includes a full-service bar, which is a popular stop after many of the community events like concerts, festivals and local graduations. For smaller events, Melini Cucina has a party room for rent, which is available for groups of up to 25 people.

For visitors who have not yet been to Melini Cucina in Ironton, Layne says he recommends the restaurant's pizza and calzones.

"You can get it by the slice and add or take away anything from the pizza," he says.

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