Molto Bene Brings Fresh Italian Flavors to Lakewood's West End

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Whether you’re aware of the fact or not, the cool, creamy gelato that you’ve been enjoying for dessert at your favorite Italian eateries likely was handcrafted by Gonzalo Egozcue. For more than 20 years – both in Italy and here in the States – Egozcue has been making the product for other people, including Valerio Iorio, who operated La Gelateria in Cleveland Heights for a decade before passing the space along to Vero owner Marc-Aurele Buholzer.

Around the same time, Egozcue launched GelatoStar, taking the operation out of the Heights and into Old Brooklyn. He still makes the “Italian ice cream” the time-tested way, fabricating 60 different flavors of gelato and sorbet using whole milk (or purified water for the sorbet), sugar and fresh, seasonal fruits. No additives or artificial colors are added. Egozcue’s authentic products are on the menus of restaurants all over town, including Osteria, Mia Bella, Presti’s Bakery and Vero.

“But the summer’s too short and the year is too long, so now we are doing a restaurant,” Egozcue says with a laugh.

Last week, he and his wife Lilliana opened Molto Bene (18401 Detroit Ave., 216-273-7333), a casual Italian eatery in Lakewood. The attractive, easygoing 30-seat restaurant offers a nice mix of classic starters, pizzas, pastas and entrees. Ripe melon is wrapped in prosciutto di Parma; crostini is topped with salmon and mascarpone; cauliflower is baked with herbs and olive oil. Rectangular pizzas are topped with plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and Italian salami, or mozzarella, prosciutto and arugula. Pastas, priced between $14 and $17, include meat and meat-free versions of lasagna, penne with shrimp in a garlic-scented wine sauce, gnocchi with Bolognese, and spaghetti with Little Neck clams, garlic and white wine. Mains, which are in the $15 to $18 range (and include salad or a side of pasta), include grilled eggplant parmesan, veal scaloppine and a seafood stew flush with clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops and fish in an herbed tomato and wine broth.

For dessert, naturally, there are 16 flavors of gelato and sorbet to choose from for enjoyment in the dining room or for carry-out.

So far, the team has been doing it all without their chef, but that changes this week when Vincenzo Piadza arrives from Luca, Italy to take over in the kitchen. Also, Molto Bene operates without a beer or wine license, but that should change down the road. Neither the absence of a chef nor liquor license appears to have hindered the bistro’s opening week business. In fact, says the owner, things literally are going molto bene.

“Very well,” he says. “We have been very busy. Maybe because of the area, the food or what, but it’s been very nice. We are very happy, more than what I expected.”

Molto Bene is open for dinner only Tuesday through Sunday.


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