Tag Archives: Italian

Italian on the Square

grotto00011I had already finished the manuscript for the latest edition when Grotto, the Italian inspired wine bar opened on Shaker Square so you won’t see it in the book. But it’s definitely worth a visit, especially you enjoy pours of prosecco, Chianti Classico, or Barolo. This is a third dining venture for the Salerno family who also own Gusto in Little Italy and Lago in Tremont.
 
The Grotto wine list is extensive and reasonably priced, with reds and whites from North America, Europe, and Australia but with special emphasis on what comes from vineyards in Italy. You can pair up with a selection of small plates-veal wraps, ossobucco sliders, risotto balls, and bruschetta- or full size entrees of penne with broccoli rabe, linguine with clams, and Brunello braised short ribs. The polpette (meatballs) are unusually light and airy.  I was told the “secret” ingredient is bread soaked in milk, part of an old family recipe. I tried to duplicate them at home- but clearly still have much to learn.  Three of the four pizzas are named after chef and co-owner Fabio Salerno’s kids (he ran out of children befoe the kitchen ran out of ideas I guess)- the Sofia (olive oil, garlic, sea salt and fresh chiles), Dominic (ground meatballs, banana peppers, pickled jalapenos and fennel), and Gianni (tomato, bufala mozzarella, basil).  
 
This is a good choice if intimate conversation or late night lingering is on your agenda. Sit at the ba if you’re alone and you will likely soon have someone beside you who might enjoy exchanging tasting notes.
 
grotto0001_21A great deal of effort went into creating a space that has a traditional Old World feel. A soaring coffered ceiling, massive iron and glass chandeliers, columns, arches, and  a décor featuring lots of wood, stucco, and brick make it look as though it’s been there for close to a century. One modern touch is the glass walled wine “cellar” behind the bar. There are a few tables clustered near the fireplace in back but the warm weather spot of choice is on the sidewalk patio out front.

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Savoring the Specifics

According to food industry analysts, an enthusiasm for ethnic flavors is influencing American consumer behavior. But according to the experts and their research, we’re getting more sophisticated and choosy. Just eating Asian, or even Chinese is not enough for some of us culinary explorers. We want to delve deeper into the unique and distinctive styles of specific countries and regional cuisines.
 
Cleveland is rich in opportunities to do exactly that. Here are a few from the book off the top of my head. Michaelangelo’s Italian menu features Piedmontese cuisine from the northern part of the country. The all vegetarian food at Udupi Café is what you’d find in a coastal town of the same name in southern India. Henry’s at the Barn specializes in the Low Country cooking of South Carolina and you can taste Taiwanese at Garden Café. At Luchita’s, a different regional Mexican cuisine is spotlighted every three months.
 
Anyone have any others to suggest or any dishes from the places above that you think are truly outstanding?

Read Free Sample Listings . . .

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Listing Update

Bovalino’s, a cozy little family-run Italian restaurant in Westlake is is succumbing to the twin forces of the ecomonic downturn and more competition in the area. It is closing at the end of April. When I called owner Lori Williams, who took over from her uncle Russ Lentini in 1997, to offer my condolences she said many locally owned small businesses like hers have been struggling since Crocker Park opened. “People don’t realize what happens when the big chains come into a community. And now with the recession, we’re hurting even more. ”

It’s been included in every edition of the book and was one of the first places I visited when I started doing my research so I’m especially sad to see it disappear. Try to go before the doors close forever on April 25th.

27828 Center Ridge Road, 440-892-9300.

Don’t forget to make a note in your copy of of Cleveland Ethnic Eats so you don’t show up hungry for a bowl of pasta in a few months only to find the restaurant empty and dark. And if you have a taste for ravioli or chicken Parmesan, get yourself out to one of the other great owner operated Italian restaurants in town.

What are your favorites?  

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