Avid home entertainer and party guy Dimitris Ragousis started his catering career pretty much on a whim. "I agreed to throw a 50th-birthday party for a dear friend of mine," the chef recalls, "and it was a huge success." By the end of the evening, everyone was asking the Birthday Boy for his caterer's business card. "I figured that was my cue to go professional," Ragousis chuckles now. "I guess the joke was on me!"
Since that night in 1999, the chef's Ohio City catering company, OPA!, has gone on to handle events for clients ranging from the Cleveland mayor's office and the Cleveland Clinic to American Greetings Corp. and the Holden Arboretum. But all the time that Ragousis was hosting other people's affairs, what he really wanted was a little restaurant to call his very own. Which brings us to today, May 12, when OPA! on 25th, Ragousis's 30-seat eatery, is scheduled to serve its first lunch.
The menu sounds fab, filled with soups, chili, sandwiches, salads, steakburgers, and homemade sweets, often given a distinctly Ragousisian twist. West 25th Street Chili, for example, gets all gussied up with sun-dried tomatoes, blended Mediterranean herbs, and balsamic vinegar, and toppings of crème fraîche, scallions, and a choice of feta or cheddar cheese ($3/cup). The fish-and-greens salad features salmon "muffins" -- salmon loaf shaped in muffin tins -- served atop a bed of romaine, with green mustard dressing ($7). And among the subs, there's the citrus-glazed meatball sub, topped with Brie and baby spinach ($6), and the Greek poor boy, made with pistachio-studded mortadella, sliced tomato, Asiago, and rosemary-infused caramelized peppers ($6).
There's a tempting-sounding Sunday brunch menu, too, with such reasons to get out of bed as French toast stuffed with peanut butter and bananas, pastitsio, and scrambled-egg wraps with spinach, cheese, and pastourma (Greek dried beef). And in a moving example of cross-cultural cooperation, manager Anne Bloomberg (former partner in the dear, departed Erie Bleu) has contributed her family recipe for smoked salmon strata.
Dinner service is scheduled to begin in June, when an outdoor seating area should also be complete. But for now, lunch is served on Mondays, as well as Wednesday through Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday brunch hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and free delivery is available within a three-mile radius of the restaurant, with a minimum order of $18.
OPA! on 25th is at 1834 West 25th Street, just north of Bridge Avenue; call them at 216-344-0575.