The past weekend in Cleveland reminded me of why I love living here so much–there is so much to do! Friday night my best friend and I attended the “Best of Cleveland” party thrown by Cleveland Magazine at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What an event. The best Cleveland bands (like The Twilight), the best Cleveland food (like Sweet Melissa’s chocolate cake)… the best that Cleveland has to offer all under one roof. And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s museum exhibits were open, too. What an impressive collection of rock memorabilia. And what an incredible evening.
I have always been fascinated by everything Italian – the country, the history, the food and the wine. So this fall I decided I would finally try to learn the language. When I went online and searched in Cleveland for a place to take lessons, Alta House, in Little Italy came up. What better place to learn than right in the heart of Cleveland’s Italian community? Classes were really reasonably priced and ran for six weeks . . . perfect. I rallied my girlfriends in my book club and we are now in our third week. Our instructor, Chantal, has been teaching class there since 1999 and runs us through conversational Italian for an hour straight – then gives us homework. There are about 20 people in the class and we love it! The really cool thing about taking the class at the Alta House is afterwards we walk down Murray Hill to Mama Santa’s Restaurant
12305 Mayfield Rd), a great place for pizza, where one of the servers helps us practice the nights lesson over wine and appetizers.
If you find yourself wanting to learn something new, I definitely recommend studying a new language. And, if you enjoy all things Italian – lessons at the Alta House are a cool way to get a taste of Italy. Ciao! –KB
One of the many perks of my job is that I get the opportunity to host writers from around the country and share with them all the great things to do in Cleveland. This past week, our marketing department invited ten food and wine writers from around the nation in town to experience Cleveland as a culinary destination. Although excited and eager for their visit to the Cleve, each writer was initially a little skeptical when pairing the Midwest city with food.
You’d be surprised to know a large number of eateries in Cleveland are independently owned. There are a lot of chefs with buzz surrounding them, farm-to-plate and seasonal initiatives, cooperative promotion and adaptations of traditional local foods (smoked walleye, beef cheek pierogi).
One of the highlights from the week was enjoying a tasting tour of Cleveland’s ethnic neighborhoods. We sampled our way through West 25th Street and Ohio City, trying specialty items from Lelolai Bakery and Sokolowski’s University Inn. At Lelolai, we munched on authentic Cuban sandwiches, coffee flavored flan and other Cuban specialties. Sokolowski’s fed us until we couldn’t pick up our forks to reach our plates. Their home-style cooking mirrors “grandma’s” secret recipes. Everything from stuffed cabbage to potato pancakes were served to the group. The restaurant is timeless and conducts business a bit “old school” with cafeteria- style service.
Then we cruised into Asiatown and sampled some delicious baked goods and dumplings from Koko Bakery. We also tasted a variety of bubble teas to wash them all done. Something about those mini tapioca balls make me feel like I’m eating small alien creatures but still, it was tasty.
After Asiatown was Little Italy with stops at Corbo’s Bakery and the Baricelli Inn. Corbo’s world famous cassata cake is packed full of strawberries and whipped cream. Mario Batalli from the Food Network credits Corbo’s with making the best in the US. I could only manage a bite or two because of my excessive fullness but oh, was it good.
The Baricelli Inn is a classic restaurant and tribute to the fine history of Little Italy. Paul Minnillo has been the owner and chef since he bought the inn back in the ‘80s and has received great success and much acclaim for his many talents. We sampled unusual cheese from his extensive cheese cellar and wine pairings to go along with them.
The following morning we toured the West Side Market with Chef Timothy Maxin from Muse at the Ritz-Carlton. We explored the market and tried some food while the Chef explained how he uses many of these great products in his restaurant. After the tour, we headed back to the restaurant and had a specially prepared lunch by Chef Maxin with ingredients he purchased from the market. The main course was a pan seared walleye caught fresh from Lake Erie and a corn puree from sweet corn we purchased just an hour before at the market. It was probably the best meal I’ve ever had, hands down.
While many of you are probably reading this and wondering, how can I become a food writer and experience all these great things? The truth is that everything I mentioned is open to you. Even the chef tour to the market is something anyone can do. The Ritz-Carlton offers this as a package to its guests. Plan for a weekend getaway (even if you live here) and sign up for this package!
Now that the food tour has wrapped up, I can put away the elastic waistband pants and start thinking about more important things — like what I’ll be having for dinner… AS
I did something cool this weekend. I went to Little Italy‘s first Christmas in July weekend. My husband and I got there about 9:30pm on Friday night. We were just in time to see the final few songs from Mark Milovats, a Las Vegas nightclub singer. (Think Barry Manilow with a Frank Sinatra voice all dressed for the holiday in a bright sequined vest.) He did his holiday spectacular performance on stage in a restaurant parking lot. They had a bar, chairs and tables set up and there was something surreal about hearing Christmas carols while sitting outside in 80 degree weather.
They did a nice job with the event. The streets were crowded and busy. Merchants had Christmas decorations out and trees up. We had great pizza at Mama Santa’s (pronounced “mah-muh sahn-tuhz” at 12305 Mayfield Road, Cleveland) and then walked down to Presti’s for dessert. If you haven’t been to Little Italy, it is a great neighborhood in which to eat, drink, shop or just stroll the street. On our way home we commented on how vibrant the place looked and how happy we were that it wasn’t December. –KB