Perhaps more than even his fans, Dante Boccuzzi can't wait to begin the next chapter of his Cleveland restaurant story. "This is why I came back to Cleveland," he says. "This is what I came home to do." The chef is referring to his new restaurant in Tremont, a project that, when completed in May, will bring him closer to achieving his culinary dream. Since returning to town from New York, Boccuzzi had been running the Valley View restaurant Dante. On New Year's Day, the chef severed his ties with the business, which has since reverted back to Lockkeepers (8001 Rockside Rd., 216.524.9404). That location, explained the chef, was never a good fit. The sheer size of the operation compelled him to make financial decisions that didn't gel with his own. "My new restaurant will be a fun and affordable neighborhood place, along the lines of Lolita," he says. Located in the stately Third Federal Savings building (2247 Professor Ave.), which is a stone's throw from Lago, Lolita and Fahrenheit, Dante will serve his signature modern American cuisine. "All of your favorite dishes from Valley View, plus lots of new stuff and some sushi surprises," notes Boccuzzi. There will be no pizza, he promises. Including the bar and lounge, the main dining area will seat 60. A fully enclosed glass atrium will provide year-round seating for another 40. One lucky foursome will be able to dine inside the old bank vault. The restaurant will boast a lovely courtyard and, best of all, its own parking lot.
Valerio Iorio, chef and owner of Valerio's in Little Italy (11919 Mayfield Rd., 216.421.8049), is moving his operations. Iorio has purchased a building up the street, which most recently was home to Battuto (12405 Mayfield Rd.). The move will up Iorio's seat count from 40 to 55, not counting sidewalk space. But the relocation is about more than adding chairs. "The building has a much bigger kitchen," explains Iorio, "so we will be able to have a larger menu with more seasonal items." Once reconfigured, the space will feature a new front bar and lounge. But perhaps the biggest change will take place in the kitchen. "I will be returning to the kitchen to cook for the first time in six years," says the chef. If all goes as planned, the switch will occur seamlessly in the next month or so.