Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The (Hopefully Temporary) End of Our Fun Playing with Food with Dominic Cerino

We met up with some of our dearest friends Saturday night for dinner at Carrie Cerino's. We thought that we were celebrating the safe recovery of little 8 month old Nolan from serious surgery, but it has now turned out that we were celebrating something else entirely.

The following is my own, independent analysis, and has little or nothing to do with what has actually happened - but it is how I see it.

Dominic Cerino was truly touched by his trip to Italy as part of the Cleveland Convivium of Slow Food in October 2006. In addition to the education and experience of the Terra Madre convention, Dominic visited with his Italian relatives and immersed himself in their food culture. Ever since he returned to Cleveland, new items influenced by the trip appeared on his restaurant menu. He seemed a little restless, given the logistical issues presented by the Carrie Cerino's facility's age, size and location. Still - this was a bit of a shocker.

Late yesterday, Linda Griffith announced on the Cleveland Food & Wine Forum that:

On January 29 of 2008 Carmen C. Cerino, Co-Owner of Carrie Cerino's Ristorante & Party Center, became the sole owner and operator of the business. Brothers Dominic A. Cerino III and Michael J. Cerino have decided to retire from the family business, and pursue other interests in their respective fields. Carmen's wife, Jo Marie Cerino, will join in on the day-to-day operations of the business.
While I hope that all of Cleveland joins me in wishing Carmen and Jo the best in the ongoing business of the restaurant - this is a very sad day for those of us who adored Dominic's vision and his signature dishes - the Blue Egg Ravioli, Blue Egg Carbonara, Norcian Lentils w/House Made Sausage and Guanciale, Pulled Pork Cannelloni - the list could really go on. He has not yet made any public statements about his future plans (I personally think he should consider opening a Salumi shop if he doesn't open another restaurant) - but I wish him all the best.

Saturday evening, however, we were all laughs and smiles. Most of us (including me) were unaware of the impending events, and we simply enjoyed the wonderful food. We began by sharing some of the the classic Carrie Cerino's appetizers:

Calamari with Marinara Sauce

Stuffed Mushrooms

Yes - that is a stuffed mushroom on my plate. I must say, the cheese and bread stuffing was fantastic. And yes, I did cut off a little, little bit of the mushroom meat to taste. After tasting - I passed the now empty mushroom cap to Bob.

Stuffed Artichokes

Salumi Board

From-Scratch Foccacia

How we found room for our entrees, especially after the soup/salad course, I still don't know!

The "Regular" Pork Chop

Berkshire Pork Picatta

Side of Pistelli Risotto

Veal Tosca

How ironic that I ordered this - on what was to be my last night enjoying Dominic's touch in the kitchen. This dish - delicate veal slices coated with a cheesey, eggy batter and sauteed with lemon - was the first entree I ever ordered at Carrie Cerino's. I seldom got it thereafter, because there were always so many wonderful specials on the menu. This incarnation was as wonderful as ever.

Pasta with Pesto Sauce

I hope Carmen keeps the house-made pasta, and this fabulous pesto treatment - slightly cheesy, slightly nutty - but never overwhelmed by the stale pignolia nuts one often finds in restaurant pestos.

And finally - though I normally keep my photos to food on this blog - I could not resist taking this picture of Nolan P. - who at the time was literally chowing down on sister Reagan's patent leather shoe while in the arms of friend John

To Dominic Cerino:

Buona fortuna e tutti cosi belli! (Good Luck and all good things to you!)

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