The waning weeks of 2007 brought a smattering of new restaurant openings. Café Toscano, veteran restaurateur Carl Quagliata's newest project, opened December 6 in Aurora. While pacing dragged during our mid-December visit, executive chef Gaetano Ricci's Italian preparations were smartly crafted. That included the well-appointed antipasto platter ($12); the snappy homemade pappardelle with wild-boar Bolognese ($19); and, for a sweet ending, four crisp biscotti with vin santo for dipping ($5). The restaurant (215 West Garfield Road/Route 82, 330-995-2333) is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and dinner on Sunday.
Also noteworthy is Westlake's Agave, at 20 Main Street in Crocker Park (440-892-4283). Chef/operator Jim Vecchio has designed a jazzy little menu that enlivens traditional Mexican fare (including a pair of luscious chiles rellenos, $9 at lunch) with both Nuevo Latino and American accents. More than 60 types of tequilas and rums are featured at the well-stocked bar; live Latin jazz is offered on Friday and Saturday nights. Lunch and dinner are served daily.
Downtowners have a new option in the Market Café and Wine Bar (1801 East Ninth Street, 216-394-0122), operated by environmentally conscious Bon Appétit Management Company. The cafeteria-style eatery opened December 3 in the lobby of the AmTrust Bank building. Manager Giovanna Daverio (of the former Battuto) and executive chef Dean DiLuciano oversee one of the most pleasant, airy, and energetic lunch spots in town. The café is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; from 4 to 8 p.m., the wine bar takes over, offering libations and a small menu of contemporary noshes.
Star chefs, the next generation: We also recently discovered The Executive Grille, the student-operated restaurant in the Jane Addams Business Careers Center at 2373 East 30th Street. Open to the public most Wednesdays through Fridays, the restaurant provides training and experience for young culinary students, some of whom have gone on to study at prestigious national institutions. Service may be tentative and the offerings fairly mundane, but the chance to support the next generation of Cleveland chefs makes it worth considering. Call 216-685-5135 for details.