Tag Archive | Little Italy

Soul Food

Hungry Hearts will Find Satisfaction in Northeast Ohio’s Unique Comfort Cuisine 


Pierogi at Prosperity Social Club

In Cleveland, comfort food isn’t something you indulge in to alleviate stress. It’s celebratory dishes prepared with equal portions of nostalgia and nourishment. Northeast Oho has a rich heritage of comfort food, rooted in eastern European family fare (kielbasa, stuffed cabbage and pierogi) and blue-collar American pub grub (Polish Boys, perch fish fries and gourmet burgers). Tremont is one of the oldest neighborhoods in northeast Ohio, and it’s an epicenter for Cleveland’s uniquely ethnic, blue-collar comfort food. At its heart sits Prosperity Social Club (www.prosperitysocialclub.com).

“We should probably be called Prosperity Comfort Club instead of Social Club,” smiles owner Bonnie Flinner. “We’re a poster child for comfort food, all of which is made from scratch— Hungarian-style stuffed cabbage, beer battered fish, corned beef Reubens on potato pancakes, pierogi, mile-high killer Gouda burgers. You can’t go wrong.” 

Tremont is a buffet of comfort food traditions. At Grumpy’s Café on West 14 Street (grumpys-cafe.com), customers enjoy a cozy, homespun atmosphere (with ever-changing artwork on the walls, and a leg lamp in the window) while feasting on huge portions of fresh meatloaf, catfish, lasagna, burgers, and awesomely enormous breakfast foods. Only a few blocks away, Lolita (www.lolitarestaurant.com) has become synonymous with gourmet Cleveland cooking, owned by Food Network Iron Chef, author, and local restaurateur Michael Symon. But beneath the swanky gastronome, Lolita’s menu is full of comfort food favorites.

Monte Cristo at Melt

Monte Cristo at Melt

Tremont is just the start. The many boroughs, burgs, and hamlets of Cleveland are filled with famous stops for comfort food. In Little Italy, Guarino’s (www.guarinoscleveland.com) cooks homemade Italian dishes just like grandma used to make. Melt Bar and Grilled (meltbarandgrilled.com) serves up the city’s best grilled cheese with three metro locations in Lakewood, Cleveland Heights and Independence and a fourth on the way. Each Cleveland neighborhood has a distinct restaurant that uses feelings and flavors to fill both stomachs and souls. We suggest you explore them all.

By Keith Gribbins

Insider’s Perspective: Ryan Kenneth “Mickey” McLean

EDITOR’S NOTE: We talked to a few notable Clevelanders and asked them what they liked about Northeast Ohio. Here’s Ryan Kenneth “Mickey” McLean, popular chef at Ohio City’s Flying Fig and Cosmo’s Sexiest Bachelor.

I think you were born in Rochester. So when did you move to Cleveland?

I came here in 1999. It’s crazy, because I was actually just traveling through. I was done with a job in Nashville and was moving back to Rochester. Since I went to a Jesuit school in New York and I knew a couple of guys at John Carroll, I called them and asked them if I could crash. I hung out all weekend, met a few people and next thing I knew I was here for four or five weeks. I picked up the applications for John Carroll and within two months came back for school.

And what part of town do you live in now?

Now, I arguably live closer to John Carroll than some of the buildings on campus. I am in University Heights and I can see the bell tower from here.

What’s the best thing about your neighborhood?

It’s unique because you have this dichotomy of young college students and young families and there are a number of elementary schools. You also have Orthodox Jews because of the temples and the ability to work there. It’s a unique situation especially as you get closer to campus. One house is for college kids, the next is for rabbis and the next is for college kids. Saturdays are crazy around here between all the kids walking home and the people going off to temple.

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A vacation, in our own backyard

It happens like clockwork. The end of January rolls around and I am literally itching for something to do. Call it the winter blues, call it cabin fever, call it whatever you want; it’s a problem, a very expensive problem. I ultimately start planning an elaborate long weekend getaway that I can’t afford so soon after the holidays. Well this year I can’t, just can’t get away right now. But does this mean I have to spend another weekend fine tuning the body imprint on the couch, scanning the latest new releases on Netflix? After some thought and research, I discovered no, there is plenty to do in my hometown of Cleveland in the winter; lately I’ve just been too lazy to get out and do it.

So this weekend I’ve planned a vacation for my husband and I to get away. Sure, it’s only 20 miles away from our humble abode but there are plenty of things to do and places to eat that often we complain we “never have time” to experience. Well, this weekend is our chance. The only rule is that we can’t go somewhere where we have been before, just as if we were on vacation in a different location.

Cleveland Museum of Art

The weekend will start after work on Friday (no need to waste precious vacation time on travel, perk numero uno.) While I love the Westside neighborhoods of Tremont and Ohio City for a post-work happy hour or weekend dinner, rules state we can’t go to the norm. So, guess we’ll have to go some other time to Momocho, Bier Market and Prosperity. What better way to warm the winter chills than some hearty Italian drinks and dining? Our first stop will be Gusto! (www.gustolittleitaly.com; 216.791.9900) in Little Italy, only 5 miles outside of downtown Cleveland. With a happy hour until 8pm which includes $5 house wines, half priced cocktails and $5 appetizers such as calamari della liguria, prosciutto w/cantaloupe and gusto pizza, this charming restaurant is just the place to get the weekend started.

After some wine, we will hop on a bus to the Cleveland Museum of Art (www.clevelandart.org; 216.421.7350), less than a mile away in University Circle. In the process of a massive renovation, the museum reopened some galleries this past summer,  bringing back more than 900 pieces, many of which have been out of the public’s eye for the past five years. With more than 40 galleries still open during the renovation there is plenty to see and the best part is admission to the permanent collections is free and open until 9pm on Fridays.

Presti's Bakery

For a late dinner, the plan is to head to Guarino’s Restaurant (www.guarinoscleveland.com; 216.231.3100). Italian traditions like the lasagna and manicotti get rave reviews at the oldest Italian restaurant in the neighborhood, opened in 1918. Hopefully, we’ll have time to swing by Presti’s Bakery (www.prestisbakery.com; 216.421.3060) before dinner and pick up some dessert. With freshly made baked goods, the doughnuts, cookies and cannoli’s would make for the perfect treat to end the evening.

To save money, Friday evening we’ll stay at home. To keep with the vacationing spirit though, no early morning Saturday workout for me. Instead we’ll rise and shine bright and early for skiing and snow tubing at Boston Mills/Brandywine (www.bmbw.com; 800.875.4241). Then, we’ll get in a workout by cross country skiing at Lake Metroparks (www.lakemetroparks.com; 440.358.7275). Hey, if we’ve got this much snow, we might as well enjoy it.

Debonne Vineyards

While out on the east side of town, we’ll head out to Debonne Vineyards (www.debonne.com; 440.466.3485) for dinner and delicious Ohio wine. In addition to tours and tastings during regular business hours, Ohio’s largest estate winery features European style wines including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet and Riesling. The worst part will be only choosing one.

After a quick change to prepare for a night on the town, we’re heading to the Kennedy’s Theater at PlayhouseSquare (www.playhousesquare.org; 216.771.8403) to check out Flanagan’s Wake. According to reviews the performance is half scripted, half improvisation as the audience is transported to Ireland. The audiences then participate with the villagers in the telling of tales, singing of songs, and mourn the passing of one of their own, Flanagan.  Sounds like something worth the low cost of admission, around $20.

The best part about winter vacations? Hotel rooms at way discounted rates. The Radisson Gateway actually has a “red hot deal” online for only $59! Other hotel properties such as the Wyndham have deals based on the temperature outside. For special hotel packages, click here.

Champagne Bar

Since we’re staying downtown for the night, what better way to finish off the evening than with a nightcap? While both East 4th Street and the Warehouse District are home to a variety of restaurants and bars, to stick to the rules we’ll try the Champagne Bar at Pickwick and Frolic (www.pickwickandfrolic.com;216.241.7425). Known for their comedy club and martinis, Pickwick added the Champagne Bar devoted to bubbles, featuring 50 bottles of champagne and sparkling wines. If we’re ambitious we may also check out the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton to celebrate our Cleveland vacation with a Rocktail.

Sunday morning we’ll finish off the weekend with brunch at Lucky’s Café (www.luckyscafe.com; 216.622.7773) in Tremont. (You can always try one of these brunch options as well) and head home with a new stash of vacation memories and a bank account still on budget.

For more vacation ideas, hotel information and restaurant listings visit www.positivelycleveland.com.

– Submitted by A.I.



Heart & Soul Little Italy Celebrates Both with its Classic Sense of Neighborhood

Photo by Scott Meivogel

Culture can widen the mind and spirit, but it takes a community to bring the two together. Just look at an enclave like Little Italy, where mind and spirit have never been closer. As the Italian cultural center of northeast Ohio — located at the base of Murray Hill, between University Circle and Cleveland Heights on the east side — Little Italy is a place where art, food, faith and frame of mind congregate in the spirit of a classic neighborhood.

“I enjoy the true sense of community and the warmth of the people,” says Father Philip Racco, pastor at the Holy Rosary Church (Little Italy’s epicenter for catholic culture). “For newcomers, it still has that sense of a neighborhood. You walk out the door and you don’t feel estranged. You feel connection.”

Community spirit certainly starts at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church (216.421.2995), the Baroque-styled house of worship, founded in 1892, that still celebrates mass daily. The parish has hosted Little Italy’s biggest celebration for the last 112 years — The Feast of the Assumption — that is a mixture of faith and fun that includes a four-day street fair with rides, food and live music.

“You might say the celebration that happens in the church pours out in the street,” says Father Racco. “The Feast of the Assumption is a celebration of life. Therefore celebrating at the height of summer with the bounty of summer — the food, the festivities and the music — is most appropriate.”

The church’s old-world charm spills out into the community as well, a blend of well-preserved homes, neighborhood bistros and more than 55 artist studios, galleries and boutique shops.

“The neighborhood certainly has its color,” says Jerry Keller of Keller Art Glass (216.721.0314 or http://www.kellerartglass.com) who’s been redefining the warm glass art world for the past 37 years with his glass guitars, mirrors and stained and etched glass windows. “The brick street has turn-of-the-century buildings made of stone with long-standing inhabitants that mix with college students and the newly hip.”

Whether it’s framing, photography, sculpture, painting or glass, Little Italy can probably satisfy your distinctive taste. But, speaking of tastes, what probably draws the most visitors to Little Italy all year around is its amazing variety of bakeries, cafés, bistros and cantinas. Chef Boyardee opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d’Italia, in Little Italy in the 1940s, and today the neighborhood still has some of the best Italian eateries in Ohio, including the oldest restaurant in Cleveland, Guarino’s established in 1918 (216.231.3100).

“Our cooking today is as it was 90 years ago,” says owner Nancy Phillips, long time family friend of the original Guarinos and owner for 25 years. “And the [décor] style is still Victorian — much as it looked in 1918. One of my seven children tells me I should change it. I said I’m not changing anything. This is the way it was when I was a little girl and it’s staying this way. Sometimes people like to step back in history. Sometimes we’re in too much of a hurry to black-and-white tile everything — to glass everything — to polyurethane everything. People forget about the old woods and the antiques. And here it’s all still this way.”

Visiting Little Italy today is not so different than when immigrant stone cutters, masons and bricklayers, carving local streets and cemetery stones, started the community in 1885. The people have changed, the businesses have evolved, the church has receded and grown, but Little Italy still retains its nostalgic neighborhood charm and spirit. – Submitted by guest blogger Keith Gribbins

Cleveland Plus Art Galleries

You may be familiar with the always free Cleveland Museum of Art unveiling renovations one amazing gallery at a time, or the well-known Akron Art Museum, but did you know that Cleveland Plus is also home to the largest art gallery between Chicago and New York? Recently, I had the opportunity to visit four Cleveland art galleries where I met some of the friendliest locals and learned that the region’s art scene is both inviting and affordable.

The Brian Jones Gallery
2021 Murray Hill Road, Cleveland
216.229.5110 / www.brianjonesart.com
In 1999 Brian Jones, a native Clevelander, decided to pick up a paint brush. With no formal training and a little encouragement from his daughter, he quickly took to the hobby. Today, his colorful pieces can be found in 38 states and nine countries and now in his charming Little Italy gallery on Cleveland’s near east side. Packed with Italian eateries, boutique shopping and a handful of galleries, Little Italy is a popular Cleveland spot for tourists and locals alike and the perfect place for him to display his eclectic taste and bright palette. Jones offers original pieces as well as prints at varying price points providing something for everyone. He also showcases work by local sculptors. Note: Cleveland’s historic Little Italy neighborhood dedicates the first weekend of June to their annual art walk. More than 20 galleries and studios feature international, national and regional art in all media. Meet visiting artists and browse special exhibits featured throughout the galleries and shops.

The Bonfoey Gallery
1710 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
216.621.0178 / www.bonfoey.com
Twitter: @bonfoeygallery
Monday-Thursday-8:30am-5:30pm, Friday-8:30am-4pm and Saturday-9am-3pm
Established in 1893, The Bonfoey Gallery is Cleveland’s oldest, most comprehensive gallery and the largest art gallery between Chicago and New York. Making no waste of their 14,000 square feet, Bonfoey offers a wide selection of artwork in various mediums from both regional and national artists, custom framing (thanks to a huge storage of various moldings and frames), art appraisal and art restoration. The gallery also offers professional artwork installation in corporate or residential settings, as well as full-scale pick-up and delivery services. Art consultants can provide on-site consultation in the home or office to help you choose pieces and arrange them appropriately. For more information or to schedule an appointment to meet with a consultant call 216.621.7033.

MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
8501 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland
216.421.8671 / www.mocacleveland.org
Twitter: @MocaCleveland
Tuesday- Saturday-11am-5pm and Wednesday-11am-5pm
As Cleveland’s forum for interpreting culture through contemporary visual art, MOCA Cleveland connects visitors to the dynamic art and ideas of our time. MOCA, now in its 42nd year, started as the New Gallery in a small storefront on Euclid Avenue. Today, you’ll find the museum housed in a series of converted Roebuck’s Department store spaces connected to the Cleveland Play House on Carnegie Avenue (parking is free in the Cleveland Play House lot if no events are being held). MOCA hosts between nine and 12 exhibits per year, changing every three to four months in more than 10,000 square feet of space. In addition to not having a permanent collection, they generally focus on living artists or artists from the past 50 years, many of whom are regional. MOCA is always free on Fridays and it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to make your way through the museum. The guards are very knowledgeable and always willing to answer questions. But, if you’re interested in more information while touring the museum, use their guide-by-cell program. Small icons on labels indicate a number you can call to hear the artist speak more about a particular piece. (They have a version for children too!)

Kokoon Arts
1305 West 80th Street, Cleveland (Located within 78th Street Studios)
216.832.8212 / www.wgsproductions.com
Kokoon Arts is more like a large living room than a gallery. An intimate setting provides a place to sit and chat and eclectic art lines the walls throughout the space. On view is both contemporary and historic work largely from Northeast Ohio, changing every three months or so as well as the occasional exhibit from artists outside of the region to keep Clevelanders educated on what’s happening elsewhere.

Kokoon Arts, part of the 78th Street Studios, is located on Cleveland’s west side in the up-and-coming Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. The building itself is incredibly charming, housing Kokoon Arts as well as several other galleries and workspaces. Monthly openings take place on the third Friday of the month allowing visitors the freedom to roam five world-class art galleries, tour artist studio space and explore architectural design, art auction, art supply, clothing design and music and entertainment businesses. –Submitted by CA

Happy Birthday Tremont Artwalk!

For 14 years, both visitors and locals have gathered in Tremont on the second Friday of each month to explore the ever-changing Cleveland neighborhood. The first Tremont ArtWalk took place on February 12, 1993 with just seven businesses combining energy and resource to showcase the area. Over the last 14 years, more than 100 Tremont businesses have participated  in their successful quest to introduce the popular near-westside neighborhood to curious travelers and enthused locals.

Explore Tremont today and you’ll stumble upon trendy shopping, culinary gems, great pubs and art galleries galore. The eclectic mix of Tremont offerings proves to have a little something for everyone. From handmade chocolates and local artistic creations to exciting restaurants with or by great chefs (Dante Buccozzi, Rocco Whalen, Pete Joyce, Michael Symon,  etc.), there’s plenty to see, taste, do (and in which to indulge).

The Tremont Artwalk, an exciting night out for both newbies and Tremont regulars, happens  the second Friday of each month and participating businesses are listed online prior to then. Hop online ahead of time to map your destinations if you’re unfamiliar with the area and check back often for new additions. Look for special offerings at some artwalk locations.

The next Tremont Artwalk is March 12, 2010 6-10pm. Click here for participating businesses and here for a map of the area.

For other information about the Tremont Artwalk visit www.tremontartwalk.org.

Click here for a few more photos from the most recent Tremont Artwalk.  –Sumbitted by CA

EDITOR’S NOTE: Little Italy’s Artwalk takes place annually in June, October and December. Visit the Little Italy or Murray Hill Art Walk websites for more information. Meanwhile, the multi-location Sparx City Hop takes place September 11, 2010 from noon-midnight. Click here for more information.

Take A Hike . . . Down Memory Lane

First-person interpretation by historical characters is part of the Take A Hike tours.

First-person interpretation by historical characters is part of the Take A Hike tours.

My Sunday started off earlier than usual this past weekend with a short drive to “the Flats” area of Cleveland to take a walking tour. When we arrived at the meeting spot–the Settler’s Landing RTA Station the east bank of the Cuyahoga River–there were already nearly 100 people waiting for the tour to begin. Now through September 6th, the “Take-A-Hike” free guided walking tours run on Thursdays at 6pm and Saturdays or Sundays at 10am.

The two–hour guided walk passed through and around the Flats’ many bridges, factories and warehouses. Highlights of the tour included the old Superior Viaduct and the Veterans Memorial Bridge. It was interesting to see how the old Viaduct was integrated into a neighborhood now filled with many new condos and offices. I also really enjoyed walking underneath the large bridges such as the Veterans Memorial and along the many swinging and moveable bridges on the Cuyahoga River like the Center Street Bridge. While we listened to our tour guide speak about historical Cleveland characters like Lorenzo Carter and John D. Rockefeller, a women portraying Mrs. Alfred Kelley walked up to our group and spoke about her husband. It turns out Kelley was the first president of the then Village of Cleveland, member of the Ohio House of Representatives, state senator and president of several railroad companies.

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Shatterproof Summer Dates: Five Romantic Dinners and Destinations Not Even You Can Screw Up

THE MEAL: You wine and dine at home this date, but feel free to plan your dinner magic with a little brainstorming visit to the Great Lakes Brewing Company(216.771.4404) or the Market Avenue Wine Bar (216.696.9463), both in short walking distances. Relax on a rustic outdoor patio, sip locally-brewed beverages and figure out hors d’oeurvres, the main course and little late night dessert.

THE COST: Research some recipes that sound fancy, but are fairly easy to make (like soy-glazed salmon, pan-seared filet mignon, or lemon-garlic chicken). Visit Pinzone Meats (Stands B-4 and B-5) and grab two fresh sirloin tips for $5 a pound (about $15 per steak), which are great and cheap for grilling. Or visit Kate’s Fish (Stand F-12 and F-13) and pick up two Atlantic salmon filets for $8.99 per pound, for a healthy, late night affair. Throw in some veggies ($10) and a few Great Lakes beers ($15) and you’ve got a pretty cheap date. 

THE KNOWLEDGE: Adventurous food choices will show an open mind willing to try new things. In contrast, hunting for the perfect hamburgers between complaints about the cleanliness of the fruit will unleash the miscreant date monster beneath. Pay close attention to their urban diplomacy skills. The ability to wrangle with artful street vendors (while being funny, smart, and getting a good price) will only add bonus points to the long-term relationship formula.   

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Cleveland, Italian Style (04.15.09)

You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy one of Cleveland’s oldest and best-known ethnic neighborhoods, Little Italy. Located along Mayfield Road just up the hill from University Circle–and branching off to the west along the red-bricked Murray Hill–Little Italy balances the best of the old world and the new with an engaging variety of restaurants, art galleries, specialty shops and more.

You can start your day at Presti’s Bakery & Café for that morning coffee and something sweet to go with it. Have a seat in the dining area with a view of the street life, or take in the outdoor air across the street at Tony Bush Park at the corner of Mayfield and Random Road. 

The lunchtime options are numerous. There’s Maxi’s Bar & Grill or Mama Santa’s for some of the most authentic–and most affordable–Italian food in town. Or if you just need a few bites of pizza, Valentino’s sells it by the slice.

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Dinner at La Dolce Vita (10.18.08)

Ian Brown)

Murray Hill mural, Cleveland

Cleveland’s Little Italy is a perfect neighborhood for enjoying a weekend evening.  Last Saturday, my friends and I got together for dinner at La Dolce Vita (12112 Mayfield Road, Cleveland) for some dinner and drinks.  It’s a good thing we had a reservation because the place was packed full of hungry customers.  We quickly sat down and were greeted by our energetic waiter who rattled off the night’s specials and some of his personal favorites.  After looking through the menu we ordered a couple of appetizers for the table and picked out some reasonable bottles of wine.  The wine selections were great and we had no problem polishing off a few bottles.

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