Matthew Harlan began working for Michael and Liz Symon when he was just 21. He ended up staying for 23 years, making him the second longest-running employee at the company. After starting at the original Lola in Tremont, Harlan has been an integral component of Lolita, Bar Symon and B Spot Burgers, of which he was regional manager.
Now, after working more than half his life for others, Harlan is opening up a place of his own. The restaurant will be called Chatty’s Pizzeria, a nickname that Harlan has worn proudly for decades. The space is the former Vento la Trattoria (28611 Lake Rd.) in Bay Village, Di DeRubba’s charming Italian restaurant that closed last week after 11 years. The one-of-a-kind setting on the BAYarts campus at the Cleveland Metroparks Huntington Reservation was what motivated Harlan to make such a bold move, he says.
“It’s a phenomenal space,” he states. “It was the location that really kicked me in the ass. If you talk about what’s so awesome about Cleveland, it’s the museums and the Metroparks. To be in the Metroparks and be across the street from Lake Erie, the scenery is just awesome.”
Harlan, his wife, Melanie, and their two sons are Bay Village residents.
Chatty’s Pizzeria will be a family-friendly restaurant serving approachable Italian foods like salad, pizza, sandwiches and dessert. Items likely will include charcuterie boards, burrata salads, meatball and chicken parmesan sandwiches and two styles of pizza: traditional New York and “Grandma style,” a thick sheet-pan type of pie. Harlan says he will be installing a pizza oven in the open kitchen.
“You’ll walk in the door and see me making pizzas,” he says.
Chatty’s will be open for lunch and dinner six days a week, but the space really blossoms in summer when upwards of 80 guests enjoy the scenic outdoor setting with beer, wine, cocktails and food.
Harlan anticipates six to eight weeks of work before opening day.
After 23 years of working with one of the top restaurant groups in the game, Harlan is walking away with innumerable assets. He says the move is bittersweet, but he is looking forward to getting off the road and getting back in front of customers. Friends don’t call him “Chatty” for nothing.
“It’s mostly the relationships I’ve developed with customers,” he admits. “Leaving Lolita and going to B Spot was definitely the right move for me and I’ll never regret doing it, but when you get out of that restaurant where you see people all the time and have so much fun talking to them and then see nobody, it sucks.”
Harlan’s ex-boss offered a ringing endorsement of his longtime employee.
"Chatty has a passion for providing great food while using quality ingredients," Symon said. "From cooking in the kitchen to building relationships with, and advocating for, our customers, Matt will thrive in his new restaurant – and the community will love him!"