The new, open design at Goma
For years, East 4th was both one of Cleveland's most star-studded culinary streets and one of its most stable.
Cleveland's version of restaurant row boasted the Greenhouse Tavern, Lola and Chinato, three powerhouse restaurants from three Cleveland powerhouse chefs, in addition to mainstays like Flannery's, Hilarities, Wonder Bar and Saigon.
Then May 2019 brought the end of Zack Bruell's Chinato, Jonathon Sawyer's financial implosion marked the end of Greenhouse in winter 2020, and the pandemic forced Michael Symon to close Lola.
For the first time in ages, there were vacancies and questions, even leaving the pandemic aside.
East 4th's second act, though, was quickly taking shape.
And it'll get a big boost in the coming weeks when Chef Dante Boccuzzi opens Goma
(hopefully, chef says, sometime around July 1).
"You can feel it already," Boccuzzi says of the energy around the street, noting not only a downtown that feels more alive since the return of many workers and events but also openings on the street. "You've got Citizen's Pie, you've got Indie
opening (in the former Greenhouse spot), and from what I understand someone has signed a lease on the Lola spot."
Originally slated to land not only in downtown Cleveland but also in Pinecrest, Boccuzzi's new project occupies the former Chinato space, though anyone who enjoyed a meal there in the past will hardly recognize it.
Boccuzzi and his team tore down walls to unify a room that had been divided and installed two garage doors on the Prospect Ave. side, opening up the space, which is now bathed in blues and grays with assorted fish-related artwork on the walls. Centering the room is a large bar that, like the bar at Ginko in Tremont, serves as a focal point for the action. Booths line the back wall, with tabletops both in the middle of the room and on the garage-door side of the bar. Alongside the East 4th wall are six tables equipped for shabu shabu.
That interactive and communal meal is just part of what Boccuzzi and his team describe as a menu that fills out the other half of what Ginko could do, if it had a full kitchen, while offering much of what Ginko does.
One half of the menu — literally one whole side — features sushi of all kinds, from omakase tasting menus to nigiri, sashimi, maki rolls and pressed oshi style sushi. The other half features not only the shabu shabu, with angus or wagyu beef, but tempura, tobanyaki, udon and ramen noodles with choice of broths, salads and a small roster of veg and fish-focused appetizers.
"I brought in a lot of my past experience as a chef," Boccuzzi says, "working for Nobu, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, working in Tokyo and Taiwan. A lot of those ideas come into play here."
A downstairs room will, in the coming months, open as a speakeasy. Featuring a copper bar and a DJ booth, the space will be "hard to get into," says Boccuzzi, who, it shouldn't surprise anyone, spared no expense on the soundsystem. The space will also be available for private events.
The main room upstairs will get some of that vibe, Boccuzzi says, as plans include transitioning to bottle service late in the evening.
The pandemic scuttled the Pinecrest plan and put more than a few hiccups into the schedule to open Goma, but as the finishing touches get put on, Boccuzzi can see the finish line.
"It's been very challenging, but definitely exciting," he says. "This is my ninth restaurant. I've worked so long on this project, and it's been years because of Covid. But it's going to be pretty powerful. Just what's happening on the street, baseball back, Rocket Mortgage open — everything's coming back. These streets are coming alive."