Monday, April 21, 2014

Fun Playing Next Door with Dante's Pizza & Pasta

Dante Boccuzzi serves up some of the best food in Cleveland. His latest venture, attached to two of his other four restaurants in Tremont, Ohio (Restaurant Dante and Ginko), is Dante Next Door. Serving only brunch and lunch six days a week, Next Door also offers Restaurant Dante an additional room during dinner service. The brunch menu, served Saturday-Monday, is a bit different from the lunch menu served Wednesday-Friday, which means I need to visit again soon during the latter part of the week!

After an early trip to the North Union Farmers' Market at Shaker Square on Saturday morning, we could not resist the opportunity to check out the offerings at Next Door, which had been open less than a week, but delivered solid goods. Passover would end early in a big, big way, but hey, they say go big or go home!

Next Door puts a lot of effort into its drink menu, with numerous coffee, tea and fresh squeezed juice options. As I recall, the iced tea section offers no fewer than 6 fruited selections, in addition to plain tea. Our server explained that each of the fruited teas is supplemented with a freshly made fruit puree rather than the usual commercial syrup. She recommended the mango, which was a tad too sweet at full strength to accompany the savory food, but was otherwise delicious:

She topped this off with plain tea after I drank about half, and it was then perfect to accompany the food. Bob approved of the house coffee.

Assuming that there was pork in the meatballs on "Frankie’s spaghetti and meatball pizza" (and if there wasn't, we covered that in the other two items ordered), this dish managed to break all of the holiday rules all by itself. The "spaghetti pizza" has been around the East Coast for a while, and has never really impressed me, but this pie did justice to the concept, in addition to being a first-rate pizza. First, the crust had the perfect combination of crunch and chew, and though only a ten inch pie, each of the 8 slices was easily fold-able. Next, the toppings were all made in house, including the spaghetti, and that made all the difference. The meatballs burst with flavor and juiciness, and the sauce and cheese balanced nicely. We added runny local farm eggs to the pie to make it a more brunchy experience, and it was the perfect touch (add $3 to the $12 pizza price for eggs). 

Our second dish, which also satisfied, was the Pasta Carbonara Fritatta with spaghetti, pancetta, eggs, and Parmesan cheese.

It was such a toss up - luxurious cream sauce or fresh tomato sauce? Pancetta or meatball? Runny egg or fluffy omelet? We loved them both and were glad we could share, though both plates wanted a hit of fresh black pepper that they didn't get; this kind of food begs for either a pepper mill on each table or an offer from the server when it comes to the table. But delicious nonetheless.

Finally, we tried the Pork Sausage Patties, which I assume are also made in house, though the menu doesn't say and we didn't ask. Though I liked the more assertive flavors in Jack Flap's sausage patties a little better, these were also a palate pleaser, made from very good quality pork and cooked to just the right texture. The sausage made a perfect plate-cleaner for some of the runny eggs and creamy sauce, though the portions were so ample that we had plenty of both to take home (together with sausage).

The lunch menu offers a few more salads and some different entrees. Both menus also contain house made pastries and desserts, and any pizza can be made gluten free. Plans for Next Door's future include a new music club downstairs, to be called Coda, that will offer pizza from the magnificent pizza ovens into the night. For now, though, if you want to play with the best new pizza in C Town, or perhaps Foie Gras over a Belgian Waffle or Mortadella Meatballs, you'll have to come Next Door to lunch or brunch. 

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