2020 essentially was a “lost year” for Cleveland chefs and operators bent on opening a new place. Projects that were on pace to open last spring are right back where they started. But that’s good news, not bad. Despite getting bumped to the end of the line, these long-planned restaurants on the brink of opening are evidence that diners have a reason to be optimistic.
Any day now, Matthew Harlan will open the doors of his casual Italian eatery in Bay Village. The longtime Michael Symon Restaurants chef and manager – “Chatty” to his mates – has reshaped the former Vento la Trattoria space within the Metroparks Huntington Reservation. The family-friendly bistro will feature two styles of pizza along with charcuterie boards, burrata salads, and meatball sandwiches. The food will be accompanied by a short but sweet beer, wine and cocktails list.
The Last Page
Pinecrest’s latest addition, The Last Page, is a “modern American concept” that will open on February 16. The well-appointed restaurant is owned by Majestic Steel CEO Todd Leebow, who is branching out from his “day job.” No expense was spared to create a theatrical space to showcase an eclectic cuisine that takes cues from around the globe. The pho French dip alone sounds worthy of a visit. A stylish front patio promises to be hot property come the spring thaw.
La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant
After 67 years in business, La Fiesta was forced to shutter its decades-old Mexican restaurant in Richmond Heights. Fourth-generation partner Brian Adkins thought he had secured a new home for the restaurant in Beachwood, but those plans collapsed. Luckily for La Fiesta fans, the well-admired restaurant is just weeks shy of starting its next chapter in Highland Heights. When it does, it will offer a menu flush with the sort of homestyle Mexican foods that founder Antonia Valle enjoyed back home in Michoacán.
This month, Adam DiLauro will open the doors to this namesake pizzeria in Bainbridge. He’s banking on the good will that he’s accumulated over the last three years by selling pies from a food truck of the same name. He’s also banking on the demand for a real-deal, East Coast-style slice shop in the burbs. “We couldn’t find it, so we decided to open it,” he says. In addition to the 18-inch New York-style pies, DiLauro will offer square-cut Sicilian-style pizza, a few salads and starters, and a trio of hoagies.
Like many operators who were in the process of opening a new spot, Karen Small lost an entire year to the pandemic. But Juneberry, her breakfast-focused bistro in Ohio City, is back on track and quickly approaching the finish line, she says. “It’s really close.” Currently taking shape in the former Jack Flaps space, the casual eatery will complement comfort food dishes with boozy beverages. Small has said that she hopes to bolster the all-day breakfast format with occasional wine dinners.
Immigrant Son Brewing
This time last year, Andrew Revy was eyeing a spring opening for Immigrant Son, Lakewood’s first brewery. The large-scale project is now on track to open this spring in the former Constantino’s Market. When the dust settles, the 9,000-square-foot building will house a 10-barrel brewery, 200-seat bar and restaurant, and patio. The head brewer is Cara Baker and the head chef is Vinnie Cimino, a formidable pair that almost guarantees perfect pairings. On tap will be 20 house beers, but also a full cocktail program and wine list.
After considerable delay, Dante Boccuzzi is now full steam ahead on his ambitious new downtown project. Originally bound for Pinecrest, Goma currently is coming together inside the former Chinato space at the corner of Prospect and E. Fourth. When it opens in spring, the destination aims to be a high-energy Japanese-fusion eatery that pulls from the chef’s experiences cooking around the globe. A central and sizeable sushi bar will anchor the room, which now is largely open from front to rear. Downstairs, a Japanese craft cocktail club called Giappone will add sophisticated entertainment to the mix.
Batuqui Chagrin Falls
Another project that was hobbled by the pandemic, Batuqui Chagrin Falls is back on track and headed for a spring opening. Carla Batista and Gustavo Nogueira currently are renovating a stately brick Victorian just steps from the falls as the backdrop for their captivating Brazilian-inspired fare. This latest edition joins the six-year-old original on Larchmere, home to dishes like cod fish croquettes, xim xim, and feijoada, all washed down with summery caipirinhas.
Providence landed in the lap of A. Brendan Walton in the form of a new lease on life for A.J. Rocco's, the café/bar he closed after 18 years. The second chapter presently is taking shape practically next door, in the former Huron Point Tavern (and Alesci's) space. That 150-year-old three-story structure is being completely renovated to accommodate a full-service bar and restaurant. A.J. Rocco’s will still open bright and early for coffee lovers, but will roll right through lunch, dinner and post-game cocktails.
As-Yet-Unnamed Luca Project
Luca and Lola Sema knew that the timing wasn’t ideal to expand their restaurant portfolio beyond Luca Italian Cuisine and Luca West. But they also knew that the XO space downtown was too good to pass up. “I’ve been wanting something downtown for a long time,” says Lola. Work quietly has been taking place behind the brown paper-wrapped windows, while the owners finetune the as-yet-unrevealed concept. Diners can look forward to a spring unveiling.
Kyler Smith is stepping out of his comfort zone (he’s the founder of Sauce Boiling Seafood Express) to open this splashy 120-seat restaurant and bar in the Warehouse District. Formerly home to Take 5 Rhthym and Jazz, the space is getting an ultra-modern makeover that promises to make a lasting impression. “The art, decor and dishes are designed to push the limits of normal dining,” says the owner. The menu will be under the control of chef Jarrett Mine, whose client list as a private chef includes top athletes from the Cleveland Browns. Look for a late-spring opening.
We knew that we’d have to wait awhile to check out Vince Morelli’s new wood-fired pizza concept. When the project was first announced two years ago, Cent’s future home was largely untouched from its days as a window shutter supply company. But the sturdy brick building on the eastern edge of Detroit Shoreway (or is it the western edge of Ohio City) is nearing completion, and when it gets there, Morelli finally will get to show off the skills he acquired while working at famed Roberta's Pizza in Brooklyn. Those naturally fermented pies will be joined by self-serve beers and natural wines.
Cute for Coffee/Sandrine
Artist Chris Schramm snagged some of the most prime real estate in Cleveland for a pair of design-minded concepts. His canvas: 4,000 square feet in the Harbor Verandas, just steps from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the E. Ninth Street Pier. When complete, the space will contain two separate businesses, Cute for Coffee (a coffee/gift shop) and Sandrine, which Schramm likens to an upscale hotel lounge serving small plates.
Flats East Bank
Further out on the horizon is a trio of new projects that will expand the offerings along the river. The former Magnolia nightclub currently is being transformed into a 1970’s-style disco called Goodnight John Boy, new construction will house an Asian-fusion concept from XO Steaks founder Zdenko Zovkic, and a music-themed club will likely join them.