"We want to be known as a place with great pizza," says Chris DiLisi. "We don't want to be known as a pizza place."
For the past five years, DiLisi was a chef at the Baricelli Inn, which closed last month after 25 years. When Flour opens later this year, DiLisi will serve as executive chef and partner to his old boss, Paul Minnillo. While pizza — specifically Neapolitan-style pie, baked in a wood-burning oven — will be a house specialty, the menu hardly stops there. House-cured meats, handmade pastas, and seasonal Italian entrées will also be dished up at this contemporary Moreland Hills bistro, a new building at 34205 Chagrin Blvd.
"With Italian food," DiLisi says, "it all comes down to the quality of the ingredients. Strip away all the bullshit, and you've got nowhere to hide."
Practically everything at Flour will be made in-house, from the salumi on the meat board to the ricotta in the ravioli and the ciabatta in the bread basket. In addition to house-cured meats, starters will include sweet-pepper-topped bruschetta, grilled sardines, and focaccia and tomato salad. Pastas — ricotta gnudi, squash ravioli, and cauliflower risotto — will be available in three sizes, ideal for tasting, sharing, or pigging out. Entrées — all priced south of $23 — range from grass-fed beef short ribs to Colorado lamb shoulder with braised kale.
The centerpiece will be a six-foot-wide domed oven — the first thing visitors see on arrival. It will cook a pie in 90 seconds, leaving the thin crust simultaneously crispy and chewy. A six-seat chef's table will overlook the open kitchen, giving those diners a great view of the action. But not just them: The restaurant's design will ensure that most customers have a clear view, including those in the adjacent 50-seat lounge. Flour will seat 140, not counting the front patio.
The oven won't be reserved for pizza alone. During service, vegetables will be caramelized in it, and Ohio chicken will be roasted in it. Immediately following service, the hot ovens will be used to bake bread. Overnight, the lingering residual heat is perfect for braises and oven-roasting tomatoes.
As for all this talk about the demise of fine dining, DiLisi says, "Fine dining isn't dead. There has never been more talent or better food in this city. Our generation just wants to have fun while enjoying great food."