Born in 1959, Pete Bosinger grew up on a West 25th Street that was much more rough around the edges than it is today. And like so many Clevelanders in the '70s and '80s, the trades were the obvious career choice. "I was working as a laborer, Local 860, jackhammering nine hours a day until I landed a job at Lincoln Electric," he says. It only took him eight years to realize this was not what he wanted out of life.
"After saving all of my bonuses, I went to mixology school and then dove right into the business," he says.
He cut his bartending teeth at places like Executive Caterers, the Beach Club, Houlihans and the 100th Bomb Group, all while keeping an eye out for his own spot.
Three years later, the old Matador Lounge in Seven Hills presented itself and Bosinger jumped all over it, opening Sneaky Pete's in the summer of 1989. But Bosinger understood the shelf life of nightclubs; he needed somewhere with a kitchen. He found a small pizza place down the road in Parma and in August of 1995, Corleone's opened its doors.
"Growing up in Cleveland, there were a lot of influences in my life that were synonymous with The Godfather," he says. "Many of those influences were Italian, and it fit since I was opening an Italian restaurant."
It was a fortuitous location for more reasons than one. "My wife, Liza, owned the barbershop next door to Corleone's with her father, John. I used to go into the barbershop and chat with John, and then one day I looked up and realized there was a beautiful barber cutting hair. The rest is history," he says.
After seven promising years with Corleone's, Bosinger felt that Parma was ready for an Italian food upgrade. "I realized that I wanted to become more fine dining, so we developed a more upscale menu, and boy, did the guests respond," he says. He went from a small, 14-seat pizza shop to a 100-seat operation (with plenty more room on the patio) in 2002.
Here, the Italian food comes with celebrity names. The Veal Trivisonno ($25), named after the Cleveland radio legend, features breaded veal medallions, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, basil and roasted red peppers in a sherry cream sauce with mushrooms. And sometimes the celebs bring their own recipes. "Mike Fratello is a very close personal friend. His namesake dish is his personal recipe and has been on the menu since day one," Bosinger says. The Fratello ($25) is breaded veal topped with prosciutto and eggplant, baked golden with provolone.
Corleone's also has one of the best wine lists in the region, showcasing more than 150 selections of vino. Check them out online here.