Fans of Lockkeepers, Frank Sinito's fine-dining restaurant at 8001 Rockside Road, have from now till Labor Day to say their goodbyes. New owner and hotshot chef Dante Boccuzzi arrived in the kitchen Monday, and by the end of August, he'll be unveiling an entirely new concept -- including a new name, a new menu, and hip new decor -- for the Valley View property.
The venture is a homecoming for Boccuzzi, a 35-year-old Parma native. A 1991 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, the fun-loving chef has honed his Henckels in top-rated restaurants around the world, from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Most recently, he spent five years as top toque at Aureole, Charlie Palmer's world-renowned Manhattan restaurant.
The specifics of Boccuzzi's new menus are still under wraps. But for clues, we probed the restaurant's marketing consultant, Marianne Frantz. "Dante's food is simple and approachable," with a focus on intense, seasonal flavors and tongue-tickling textures, she says. Take his spin on Lockkeepers' traditional crab cakes, which he plans on pairing with avocado mousse.
But regardless of the details, Sinito promises the spring and summer menus will be the best the AAA Four Diamond Award-winning chophouse has ever offered. "It will still be Lockkeepers -- but done up Dante's way."
Meantime, Lockkeepers' upcoming closure . . . is one more nail in the coffin of Cleveland's formal fine dining, following last year's shutdowns of upscale Century at the Ritz-Carlton and Classics at the InterContinental.
"The Cleveland restaurant scene is fragmented in a big way, thanks largely to the fine-dining chains," claims Sinito, who launched his upscale steakhouse nearly 15 years ago. "Spots like Fleming's and Brio can afford the prime locations that independents can't, and they've just taken over. Combine that with negative population growth and negative job growth, and it's no surprise the dining scene has eroded."
He has advised Boccuzzi accordingly. "You cannot survive as a special-occasion restaurant in this city. Have Four Diamond food, absolutely. But keep the prices moderate, and remember: You can't do that shirt-and-tie thing in Cleveland."