Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fun Playing with Italian Food at Cafe Toscano

We've been wanting to try the new restaurant venture of veteran Cleveland Front-of-House-Man Michael Yih (who also went to high school with one of my law partners), Cafe Toscano in Aurora Ohio (no website yet, but another article about it can be found here), since we ran into Michael New Year's Eve at Blue Canyon and learned of it. We actually tried to find it about a month ago, but I had a brain cramp and thought it was in Twinsburg. Naturally, we couldn't find it. We headed out last night with a Google-map.

We arrived to see a former Arabica Coffee House turned into a lovely, slightly upscale, yet cozy venue. With only 55 seats in the house, they were pretty crowded for a Wednesday. Executive Chef Gaetano Ricci, owner Carl Quagliata, and Michael must be doing something right! Even though we had not made a reservation, we were immediately shown to a table. Our server, Melissa, joined us almost immediately; this initial smart service was followed up all evening by spot-on, professional and pleasant service. We were also amazed at the modest prices on the menu - $12-18 for "pizzettes", teens for pastas and low to mid twenties for meats. And I saw the Osso Bucco that was brought to the next table - it was huge (and looked mouthwateringly good)!

We ordered our beverages. The wine list is lovely, with several bottles (and glasses) that we recognized at very fair prices. Bread service commenced.

The herbed and cheesy dipping oil was plate-licking good; the bread warm and redolent of yeast. A great start.

One half of Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Mozzerella with Pesto

I love when a restaurant splits an item when it knows that the diners plan to share it. Moreover, I saw this "whole" dish served to the next table, and it really was twice the size of this portion. I was glad we had decided to not order salads, because there was plenty of vegetation here!

We both loved this salad - with two small criticisms. First, it was served way too cold (and refrigerating tomatoes is never a good idea). Second - these may have been heirloom tomatoes, but they tasted gas-ripened; it is not anywhere near local tomato season yet, but they might have still been able to do better. Notwithstanding these two demerits - the pesto sauce was fabulous, and even more plate-lick-able than the aforementioned dipping oil. In fact, I used some bread to get every drop! The fresh basil stacked into the Napoleon lent lovely flavor, together with the fresh cracked pepper that arrived at the table immediately after the salads were delivered. A mostly successful, and delicious, starter.

Four Meat Pizzette

My apologies in that I forgot to grab a menu, and it is not yet online, so I am doing this from memory. This pizzette was a more than ample meal for Bob, and I enjoyed my slice. The meats were prosciutto, pancetta, meatball, and a sausage that tasted freshly made. Fantastic!

Slice Shot

In this shot, some grated cheese has been drizzled over the top of my slice. Even though the crust lacked profundity, this did not detract from our enjoyment of the whole package. The toppings, sauce and cheese made it most worthwhile!

House-Made Pappardelle with Wild-Boar Bolognese

After a grating of fresh cheese, which melted into the dish

Highlighting the Boar

This dish was perfection on a plate - an exquisitely generous portion of toothsome, freshly made pasta, topped with a luscious sauce and perfectly cooked morsels of wild boar. The taste and texture of the boar was so tender that I wasn't sure, at first, that I believed that it was really wild boar. But as I ate, I noticed a hint of gaminess - just a touch - that confirmed it. The sublime combination of flavors and textures mesmerized me; alas, I could only eat about half of the mammoth portion (even with sharing some with Bob).

The evening ended with service as smart as the service that had began it, as our server mentioned that she'd put a couple of rolls into my leftover box, so I could enjoy a hearty lunch the next day!

We expect that Cafe Toscano will become a favorite. Michael told us that they anticipate opening an outdoor patio shortly, which should be lovely. I look forward to playing again with the lovely food at Cafe Toscano!


  1. Lovely blog! It's a shame I didn't discover it earlier. I live in Memphis, but work takes me to Cleveland one or two weeks per month. I'm excited about the Cleveland food scene and can't wait to get back (Flying Fig, Lola/Lolita, Restaurant Dante, etc.). Looks like you've provided an excellent list of new places for me to check out.


  2. Welcome, Benito! Your blog also looks very nice (and I am always looking for good advice about wine, as I know very little).

    Hope you enjoy your visits to Cleveland!