This is a tale of two immigrant-owned restaurants that have transformed a small section of Lorain Ave. in Cleveland's westside Jefferson neighborhood with two hidden culinary anchors. One: Der Braumeister. This landmark has been serving countless spaetzles with suds-filled steins to Clevelanders for 30 years. In fact, this building once housed Herzog's, an authentic German restaurant dating back to 1929. It wasn't until 1983 when Lydia and Roy Hoertz brought their version of Germany to this spot that the legend of "Der Brau" began. Their humble success is not just by happenstance: Lydia was born and raised in Waldkraiburg, Germany, approximately 30 miles east of Munich, and she didn't migrate alone; she came to the shores of the US with a stack of family recipes that became the culinary cornerstone of their menu. One can easily sit at the old-school German "biergarten" style bar and drink Bavarian brews all day, but you gotta eat sooner or later, so why not try the wiener schnitzel. A real schnitzel connoisseur orders the veal, prepared in its traditional Austrian style, but guests can choose from chicken or pork and a variety of styles. The large portion of veal is tenderized to perfection then pan-fried, not deep-fried. (Believe me, it makes a huge difference.) Served with house-made red cabbage, it's a dish that'll make you an honorary German. Too heavy? Try the sauerkraut balls, potato pancakes or homemade apple strudel. Or just stick to the beir! You can't go wrong either way. Prost!
At the other end of the street at 120th is Caffe Roma. No, Caffe is spelled right and not a typo. In Italy, this style of restaurant is spelled with the second "F". The story of this authentic must-try is as good as its food. It starts back in 1969 when Joseph and Carolina Coreno married in Naples, Italy. That same year, they moved to Cleveland in search of their American dream. They opened Caffe Roma in 2002 as a modest coffee shop. Today, they have grown into three additional storefronts, including a bar and a party room. The decor is both old world and charming, and would fit right in on Mayfield Road in Little Italy. The couple's heavily guarded recipes are a big reason for the constant growth of Caffe Roma. Just like their neighbor at the end of the street, everything is made from scratch. I could literally take up this entire edition writing about this menu, but here are some highlights: The lasagna is as authentic and delicious as any out there. The linguine with calamari is simply divine. The chicken parmesan intimidates other chicken parmesans. And -- I don't throw this around lightly – they serve one of the top three tiramisus I have ever consumed. Mangia!