Cleveland Little Italy
My wife and I are going to Cleveland for one night tomorrow. We are from Cincinnati, home of not-so-great Italian-American Food, and I wanted to go to some place in Little Italy, preferably.
We've been to Mama Santo's, which I liked, but I wanted something a little nicer this time, although not too pricey. I read a lot of about Battuto's, but we were thinking more Italian-American classics, prepared well. Any ideas? If there is a place like this outside of Little Italy (and I think you know the kind of place I am talking about) feel free to suggest.
I went to Venezia. I'm definitely planning to go back but I can't in good conscience recommend it yet. Sorry.
You might consider Marotta's or Giovanni's. Neither of them is in Little Italy. I used to go to Marotta's frequently. I can't even remember why I stopped. It's good. It's also cramped. I've only been to Giovanni's once or twice. I didn't go more because I thought it was a little too fancy for frequent visits. (I think they may have remodeled and change the mood.) I think it's about time that I got over my issues and went back and paid more attention to the food. I barely remember it. I have heard very good things.
I posted at great length about my experience at Venezia on a local forum. I figured it might be of interest to fellow hounds, so I'll paste it in here:
I tried Venezia a couple days ago. The dining room has long communal tables which will appeal to some. Not really long as the restaurant isn't very big. I sat at a small table near the door. Don't do that. They made an unsolicited offer to move me but I'm warm blooded so I stayed and was comfortable.
My waiter was helpful and friendly. The bread was good and the accompanying butter was very good. I got a tomato dish before my main course. I was expecting a salad - the description on the menu wasn't very clear. It had too little flavor and wasn't evenly warmed. Toast points were a natural to serve alongside but the toast points that I was served were no help. My main course was spaghetti bolognese. It was watery and also lacked flavor despite a pleasant, sharp basil accent. My dessert was good. The ricotta cheesecake was less sweet and less rich than regular cheesecake which suits me just fine. The caramel and raspberry sauces drizzled on top were perfect - rich and tart respectively just as they should be. The dish was marred by a bland crust. It would have been a delicious dessert either without the crust or with a ore assertive crust but as it was presented, the crust was a nuisance.
As far as I'm concerned, this is strike two for Chef Orchid. I had a previous disappointing experience at his fast food stall. However, I fully intend to go back. This is very much the type of restaurant that I would like to see succeed. The chef clearly has talent. Linda's high praise and similar praise in the press are a testament to that. And he also clearly has a passion for sharing food. The menu states that he intends to offer cooking classes. He also claims that he will prepare any dish, any dish at all, with a little advance notice.
My intuition is that my complaints reflect an ironing out phase and I expect good things from this restaurant in the future. In the mean time, I won't be recommending it to anyone.
I have never heard much poositive about the restaurants in Cleveland's Little Italy. I would say that there are a couple of Italian bakeries in that area are pretty good.
If you are interested in a good Italian market - something that you do not see in Cincinnati - Gust Gallucci's on Euclid Ave is one of the best in the Midwest.
I'm not sure why you expect to find much better in Cleveland's Little Italy. I had a decent meal at Michaelangelo's but I wouldn't go so far as to recommend it. I've had mediocre or worse at a half dozen other restaurants in Little Italy. That includes Battuto. I, too, had heard good things and had high expectations. Very disappointing. I've only been once though, so who knows?
I do have high hopes for several restaurants but I can't offer a first hand recommendations for even one. Unless you're interested in some of my untried recommendations, I think you might leave with a better impression of Cleveland's food scene if you tried another cuisine.
Since I'm a natural born giver, I'm going to try one of them out for you tonight. I'll report back this evening. (After dinner and a movie so it will be late.)