For the past nine months, the 100-plus year old structure that long had been home to the Mayfield Café has been getting a complete makeover inside and out. The aluminum siding has been stripped, revealing the original clapboard siding. New windows have been installed up and down, including a fold-away glass façade that will open the building up to the neighborhood. A pair of garage doors have been installed on the side of the building, turning the slender alleyway into a secluded side patio.
All in preparation for opening day of the Tavern of Little Italy (12117 Mayfield Rd., 216-331-1069), which will take place on January 15th.
The plan all along, says owner Eric Kennedy, was to give residents and visitors to the area some variety in terms of food and beverage offerings. That means not building another Italian restaurant.
“I think it’s always a good time for something new and different as long as you do something good,” says Kennedy, who is partnering on the project with longtime Little Italy resident Dominic Gogol. “This will be a neighborhood gastropub that will invite a wider Cleveland to experience Little Italy.”
That’s evident from the pub-like menu, which veers from Greek salads with grilled zucchini to chorizo and cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers. A flatbread section offers pies topped with Gruyere and apples, chorizo and dates, or a Vietnamese-focused one with beef, chiles and lime-ginger dressing.
One look at the Tavern Shrimp Po’ Boy and you’ll know you’re not in another Italian-American restaurant. Grilled shrimp are tucked into a roll with pickled veggies, cucumber, Thai basil and mint aioli. About as close to Italian as the joint gets is an Italian beef sandwich made from short ribs and topped with house-made giardiniera and something called deep-fried “Spaghetti in Meatballs.”
Another rarity for these parts is the extensive craft beer selection, a roster of 14 taps and more by the bottle and can. Wines by the glass and bottle are as approachable as one can get.
Check out Tavern of Little Italy any day after January 15th.