After spending a decade in California, Jodi Rae Santosuosso grew accustomed to easy, effortless access to healthy cuisine. It was a piece of the Golden State she wanted to bring back with her when she decided finally to return to her hometown of Cleveland. The result is Daily Press (6604 Detroit Ave., 440-554-3498, dailypresscleveland.com), her newly opened cold-pressed juice, smoothie and vegetarian café in Gordon Square.
"In California, I was used to a juice bar on almost every corner," she explains. "They all thrived because people knew the benefits of juicing. I think that awareness is starting to spread through Cleveland."
Having toyed for some time with the idea of setting up her own shop while still on the West Coast, Santosuosso was able to quickly pull together the outlines of the business when she returned a little more than a year ago. Seated behind the spacious upcycled wooden bar with plenty of room for casual Wi-Fi surfing, she notes, "You could say I hit the ground running."
She means that figuratively and literally. A health fanatic who studied nutrition at Kent State University before heading to the West Coast to serve as a sergeant in the National Guard, Santosuosso was out for a jog when she discovered the storefront with a 'For Rent' sign.
As plans started to advance, Santosuosso already was beginning to create a buzz by peddling her cold-pressed concoctions at outdoor markets and the Black Pig. Among her most popular varieties are Sweet Heat (cucumber-pineapple-jalapeno-mint), inspired by the spice of salsa, and Citrus 'n' Herb Elixir (grapefruit-orange-pineapple-basil), made to evoke a tropical cocktail.
Santosuosso had no formal culinary training as she continued to lay the groundwork for Daily Press, but it wouldn't be her first time venturing into the dining world. Growing up, she tried her hand at every position in her family's Italian restaurant, Santo's. Her father never hesitated to accommodate her vegan diet, she adds.
"Now I think he gets excited when someone comes in wanting a vegan dish and he knows how to make it," she smiles. "In a way, I think I actually influenced him."
But as the finish line was in sight for the planned summer opening, progress came to a halt thanks to construction snafus. It gave her a second chance to hone what she really wanted the restaurant to become.
"The build-out was the biggest hurdle. I didn't realize how much work the space needed and it took a lot longer than I had planned," Santosuosso says. "Instead of a setback, I took it as more time for me to prepare."
One of those preparations was the hiring of Toddrick Kronika, who Santosuosso tapped to craft the café's menu after being impressed by his popular vegan nights at Deagan's Kitchen in Lakewood. The full-time chef will begin rolling out sandwiches, soups and salads over the next month. They'll source largely from the nearby Ohio City Farm for entrées that will include homemade seitan, dairy-free mac and cheese, and a variation on his "chikn" paprikash served at Deagan's. Desserts by Mason's Creamery and Philomena Bake Shop will be on hand.
"When you go to a lot of restaurants, there are so many things vegans can't order," explains Kronika. "We want to create original dishes, but we also want to give them options that they never had before."
Down the road, Santosuosso also plans to host vegan cooking classes within the open, airy interior.
"I want a place for people to stop in and have healthy options, a welcoming environment to come and learn," she says. "My goal is to make it easy to eat and drink healthy. "