Tag Archives: staycation

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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Forking Up Some Fun

The economy and personal finances being what they are, many people have no big travel plans scheduled for this summer. The newest way to put a positive spin on the situation is to do a staycation instead. The idea is to enjoy yourself without straying too far from homem  exploring area attractions and taking advantage of local natural and cultural resources.
 
I hate to say I told you so—well, actually, honestly, I kind of enjoy saying it—but that’s exactly what I’ve been advocating since Cleveland Ethnic Eats was first published in 1995.  I’ve always wanted readers to see my book as a sort of culinary road map  showing you where to go for quick low cost food adventures that offer a taste of the world right here in our own community. 

Dinner at Empress Taytu Ethiopian Restaurant. Photo by Barney Taxel

Dinner at Empress Taytu Ethiopian Restaurant. Photo by Barney Taxel

More than ten years ago, a friend and early fan of the book, reported to me that he’d decided to visit every place listed.  He planned outings each week for himself and his wife. When a market was on the itinerary, he checked cookbooks out of the library, and went armed with recipes so he could purchase ingredients to make an authentic ethnic meal. He said the experience made them feel like international travelers, only it was cheaper and they got to sleep in their own bed every night. He couldn’t have given me a bigger, better compliment.
 
So if you find yourself with leisure time, try to do some ethnic eats exploring like my friend. Dip into the exotic and unfamiliar. Venture into neighborhoods different than your own. Talk to the people you meet there. I have no doubt you’ll come back with some great stories, and isn’t that part of what holidays are all about. Maybe you’ll even share some of them here.

Read Free Sample Listings . . .

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