Restaurant of the Weekend: Osteria Cedro Rustico at Whote Foods

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osteria.jpg My sweetheart and I will be dining at home this weekend, all the better to avoid the usual Valentine’s Day feeding frenzy in local restaurants. For those of you not so crazy about hanging ‘round the shanty, though, here’s an alternative: the cozy little Osteria Cedro Rustico, inside the Whole Foods Market in University Heights. (13998 Cedar Rd., 216-371-5320). ... Is it a substitute for an evening at Lola? Hardly. There’s no getting around the fact that this is a grocery store, complete with clattering shopping carts and the occasional screaming kid. On the other hand, we do appreciate the assortment of gracious amenities: the fresh flowers, substantial flatware, white porcelain plates, and Lucite pepper mills, not to mention the contemporary cast-concrete dining counter, where every seat overlooks the spotless open kitchen. Portions are ample, plating is pretty, and service is speedy and conscientious. The best part, though, may be the prices, which are practically rock bottom. A simple insalta mista, for instance, checks in at $3; and at $11, fork-tender short ribs, complete with plenty of herb-roasted potatoes and spears of tender-crisp rapini, are among the menu’s most expensive items. And get this, bargain hunters: Tipping is forbidden. The sense of value extends to the wine list, where grape fans will find eight by-the-glass choices (including a super-Tuscan, a Barbaresco, and two Pinot Grigios) priced from $4 to $9. But don’t forget, there’s an entire wine shop located immediately behind you: Buy whatever you like at retail price, and staffers will both pop the cork and provide the stemware – free of additional charges. Also noteworthy, the Osteria is marking Happy Hour every Friday in February from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. That means you can begin your dinner with $2 Pomegranate & Prosecco cocktails, and $2 chilled marinated shrimp. And finally, if “dining” in a grocery store seems to lack a certain romance, remember this: All the time, money, and aggravation that you’ll save over dining in a “real” restaurant this weekend can go toward some pretty great gifts. -- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at clevescene.com.

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