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Jul 14, 2009 05:29 AM

Cleveland's Little Italy/Italian In CLE

Recently relocated to Cleveland and I was excited about the prospect of having a Little Italy available. From what I've heard and read, though, it seems that most of the restaurants receive terrible reviews, rumoured to just microwave frozen meals. Is there any legitimately good Italian food either in the Little Italy area or otherwise? I'm looking for something more homestyle and rustic, not fancy. Thanks!

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  1. The only Italian restaurant that I like is Bar Cento. Bar Cento is nominally Italian but besides the pizza that seems to be manifest more in style than in actual recognizable flavors or recipes. Their menu usually has a couple Italian words on it but they only occasionally have even a small portion of what is commonly considered to be the cannon on Italian-American cuisine. It may be that Bar Cento is actually a Northeast Ohio version of a particular sort of authentic Italian restaurant. I wouldn't know enough about Italian cuisine to say. But if you're craving the sorts of things that virtually all Italian-American restaurants serve, then Bar Cento may not be your restaurant.

    For whatever it's worth, it's still one of my favorite restaurants.

    I've always been intrigued by a part of Cleveland that all maps seem to label as Big Italy. I don't know that there's a high concentration of Italian restaurants there. It's just weird because I've never heard anyone say anything like "yeah, it's near Big Italy."

    Sapore is not an Italian restaurant but they occasionally have special wine dinners and they are frequently Italian themed. The owner is Italian. You (and I) just missed two such dinners and the menus looked wonderful. I'd keep an eye on their web site. I eat there regularly and the restaurant is as good as any in the city.

    I have been to all of the restaurants in Little Italy and a dozen others but there are plenty more that I haven't gotten around to. I've heard good things about some of them so there's hope. Of course, I'd heard good things about many of the restaurants that I tried, too.

    13 Replies
    1. re: stuart

      Thanks Stuart!

      I've read (and heard) alot about Bar Cento and look forward to checking it out! It's not necessarily what I'm posting about, but it's great to hear more positive feedback.
      And I was actually just looking at Sapore the other day ... I wasn't aware they did special dinners - I'll have to keep an eye out.

      What I am really posting about (and craving) are homemade pastas, delicate sauces, freshly baked bread, salads with good salumi and cheeses, and the like. I have a great place in DC that I go to when I'm at school, and would like to find something here. I thought maybe since Cleveland had a "Little Italy" I would be lucky there, but I haven't heard positive things about any of the restaurants. I'm not looking for "Italian-American" per se, more just a place, hole in the wall or whatever, where I know that the pasta was made fresh that day and I can get my carb fix for the month.

      And I don't even know what "Big Italy" is! hah

      1. re: emmaleeb

        You are looking for a place like Carrie Cerinos - Before Chef Dominic Cerino left the business almost 2 years ago, it was my "go to" Italian place. However, I just looked at the menu, and Dominic's brother Carmen, who took over the business, is still featuring house-made breads and pastas, and many of the wonderful, rustic dishes we loved. Definitely worth a try to satisfy your cravings!

        Another great Italian place is Corleone's. But they don't make their own pasta. My favorite suburban Italian place is Vito's in Aurora. Others are partial to Jimmy Dadonna's in Solon, but I am not. Neither of these two make their own pasta.

        Haven't been to many places in Little Italy proper. Baricelli Inn isn't straight Italian, but they do offer some Italian flaired dishes and their food is excellent. They have salumi and cheese boards. I hear great things about Michelangelo's, but it is supposed to be expensive - I haven't been.

        Some of the best salumi in town is at Lolita in Tremont (one of Michael Symon's restaurants).Lolita also has a Mediterranean feel to the menu and true Neapolitan pizza; the pasta is sometimes made in house, and sometimes sourced from local pasta purveyors like Ohio City Pasta. Also - look forward to Dante's re-opening in Tremont - I just tasted some of his salumi at a benefit Monday, and it was fantastic!

        Baricelli Inn
        2203 Cornell Road, Cleveland, OH 44106

        900 Literary Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113

        Vito's Italian Grill
        395 N Aurora Rd, Aurora, OH 44202

        Carrie Cerino's Ristorante
        8922 Ridge Road North, Royalton, OH

        Corleone's Ristorante & Bar
        5669 Broadview Rd, Cleveland, OH 44134

        1. re: NancyH

          Thanks so much! I will check these out. I live in Hudson, actually, so I will also look at those Aurora/Solon options.

          I have been meaning to get to Lolita, too. Cleveland has so much more going on than I thought it would! It's been hard to get to everything in such a short amount of time (only here for the summer).

          And I bought some Ohio City Pasta at the West Side Market, I think. Really delicious!!

          1. re: NancyH

            I second the recommendations for Carrie Cerino's and Lolita.

        2. re: stuart

          stuart, fyi cleveland's "big italy" was just south of downtown in the haymarket/central market area that is now gateway & the innerbelt. it took over a formerly jewish neighborhood and lasted from the mid-1800's to the 1930's. after that the remaining big italy italians (mostly sicilians) dispersed around town to little italy, collinwood, kinsman & fulton.


          probably the most famous thing to come out of cleveland's big italy foodwise was chef Ettore Boiardi, who founded his Italian restaurant, Giardino d'Italia, at East 9th Street and Woodland Avenue near the end of the big italy neighborhood run. of course today every little kid stills knows him well, but as "chef boyardee" of canned food fame.

          1. re: mrnyc

            ha! thanks for the info! I had no idea... I was baking the other night and could hear that my mom was watching Unwrapped in the background and they were doing Chef Boyardee and I realized I have never had any. Maybe now I should just to rep Cleveland?

            1. re: emmaleeb

              eh, you might think about that -- unless you are still under age 13 or young at heart -- ha!

              adults tend to forget about chef boyardee....and right so, but every kid loves the stuff!


              i just thought of something else that came out of cleveland's big italy, the locally famous old ny spaghetti house brown sauce:


              "Brown Sauce. The famous brown sauce invented Mario Brigotti when he first opened the New York Spaghetti House in 1927. This sauce is made with a vegetable base, meat ground very finely, and, of course, plum tomatoes and spices simmered to a smooth consistency. Meatballs are a natural addition for a one-dish meal."

              ^ you can make that at home or check that link i believe you can find it in groceries in the area -- i still get cravings for it on occasion!

              1. re: mrnyc

                ha! Yeah, I was kidding ... I'd rather not venture into that territory. Too late in the game, in my opinion.

                That sauce sounds pretty incredible. I am definitely going to try to make that. I have been into making my own tomato and cream sauces recently to serve over Ohio City Pasta.

                1. re: emmaleeb

                  oh boy, ask about the old ny spaghetti house brown sauce at ohio city pasta next time you visit them.

                  i'd be interested in their reaction!!!

                  1. re: mrnyc

                    haha why? I'm totally clueless here, not gonna lie.

                    1. re: emmaleeb

                      no big deal, but that's such a great pasta purveyor, i just wonder what they would think about cleveland's old school style classic brown sauce on their pastas?!! i'd bet they know about it, but they would probably just laugh.

                      1. re: mrnyc

                        True. I wouldn't *really* want to mask their flavors with the brown sauce. Whenever I make it I just use a simple herbed butter or a little bit of a homemade sage cream.

            2. re: mrnyc

              Looking at Google maps, it seems that East 9th and Woodland no longer intersect. There is a freeway interchange between them now, so the site of Boiardi's restaurant is probably part of the interchange.

          2. Why go all the way to Cleveland when you can head just a bit south from Hudson?

            Piatto Novo, in the Sheraton Suites in Cuyahoga Falls, is some excellent food though a bit pricey.

            We recently tried the Bistro at Hammonds Corners in Bath/Ghent area and had a very good meal for a decent price.

            For cooking at home, DeVitis Italian Market on Tallmadge Avenue in Akron, just east of Route 8, makes its own sauces, wedding soup, etc. and its deli stocks high-quality cheeses and meats. My husband goes there when he's doing antipasto for company, and my 100 percent Italian mother-in-law said it's one of the best selections she's seen outside of Brooklyn.

            And if you haven't discovered the West Point Market yet, you should. They have ready-to-cook meals as well as a mind-boggling selection of ingredients for making your own, including lots of imported pastas.

            4 Replies
            1. re: barefootgirl

              You make a good point! I intern in Cleveland so I will sometimes just stick around here for the late afternoon/evening to check out places I haven't been.

              DeVitis sounds amazing! I love making antipasti so I'll definitely be checking that out. Thanks! I'll check out the other two restaurants, too.

              And I love the West Point Market (and their little cafe, too). I haven't purchased any pasta from there ... but I'm obsessed with their red bean dip.

              1. re: emmaleeb

                Whole Foods has La Quercia coppa and two kinds of Fra'Mani salami. They also have a good imported prosciutto. They used to carry La Quercia prosciutto but I think customers looked down on it because it 's domestic. Maybe if enough people request it, they'll bring it back.

                The last time I wanted to serve some nice salumi, I begged to buy some from a local chef who serves Biellese products. Now Biellese salumi is also available at Bar Cento but if you need it retail, you certainly can't complain about Fra'Mani and La Quercia.

                For what it's worth, some of the best salumi around was the house made stuff available at Dante. I assume it will still be on the menu when they reopen in their new location. Soon. Please. Dante?

                1. re: stuart

                  You're the man! I can't wait to make my next antipasta :-)

                  And I've heard alot about this Dante place reopening. Look forward to looking more into that.

                  1. re: emmaleeb

                    Two more, now that I've been thinking...

                    If you want a great restaurant antipasto, Tre Belle in Bath/Ghent area is the place. You walk in and the first thing you see is the antipasto bar, packed with cheeses, grilled vegetables, seafood (including some of the best calamari ever, NOT deep-fried) and other good stuff. My husband and I always split several a la carte antipasto plates and a pizza.. have not even bothered with the pastas yet because that's enough food for us. Website under development; it's part of Ken Stewart's empire. Phone is 330-666-9990.

                    Also in Bath is Vaccaro's Trattoria, which is a bit on the pricey end, as is Tre Belle, but worth it. Fabulous wine list, creative food -- my husband said the cioppino was the best he's had since our trip to Italy.

                    And Raphael Vaccaro has just reopened his family's carry-out in West Akron within the last week or so; it offers his excellent pizza, some sandwiches, chicken and "family packs" of pastas and Italian dishes that look like a pretty good deal ($10-$15, serving 2 to 4). No web yet; phone is 330-867-9000.