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Issue Date: May 2007 Issue


Silver Spoons: We haven’t forgotten our roots.

There are some restaurants that remind us of Nonna, Baba, Abuela or Oma. (Yeah, that’s Grandma for the rest of us.) What they lack in glam and style — and let’s face it, usually décor too — they more than make up for in what Granny served up in bushels: character and memories. Here are five grande dames.
Laura Taxel
editorial@clevelandmagazine.com
Carrie Cerino’s
Cuisine: Italian
Year opened: 1962
Menu classic: Spaghetti with MaMa’s white sauce and sausage or meatballs ($13.50)
Dominic Cerino and his staff prepare the pasta, sauces, sausages and desserts in-house the Old World Italian way just as his grandmother Carrie did when she opened the place. He keeps a foot in the past while looking to the future by using the finest contemporary artisan products and sustainably raised ingredients — things like organic chicken, wild line-caught salmon, heritage breed pork and free-range eggs from a local farm to recreate the true flavor of the traditional recipes she brought with her from Umbria. I could eat his blue egg ravioli in sage butter, served the first Friday of each month, for the rest of my life and never tire of it. 8922 Ridge Road, North Royalton, (440) 237-3434

Balaton
Cuisine
: Hungarian
Year opened: 1964
Menu classic: Weiner schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet, small $15.95, large $20.95)
It made sense that Louis Olah and his mother, Theresa, would choose a building on Buckeye Road for their restaurant. The neighborhood was once home to more Hungarians than any other place in world except Budapest. And though George and Christina Ponti took over in 1997, when the restaurant relocated to a pretty renovated space on Shaker Square, they offer the same wonderful goulash, dumplings and cucumber salad from the old days, and have added some equally satisfying options to the menu including lecso, a summer stew made with tomatoes, yellow peppers, and sausage, and roast duck with red cabbage (available only certain days of the month). 13133 Shaker Square, Cleveland, (216) 921-9691

Luchita’s
Cuisine:
Mexican
Year opened: 1981
Menu classic: Chiles rellenos (batter-dipped stuffed peppers, $14.50)
hen Maria Galindo found herself on her own with children to feed, she decided to do what she knew best: cook. She cleaned up a former biker bar, stocked the kitchen with traditional Mexican ingredients and stirred up pots of refried beans and pollo en mole poblano (chicken in a sauce made with dried chiles and cocoa). She still pitches in, approaching age 90. Now her family operates a six-location empire, and each restaurant features a constantly changing lineup of Mexican regional specialties. 3456 W. 117th St., Cleveland, (216) 252-1169

Minh Anh
Cuisine
: Vietnamese
Year opened: 1984
Menu classic: Cinnamon beef soup ($5.95)
When Camla Wadsworth decided to open a Vietnamese restaurant, it was the only one in town. Now there are a half-dozen. But back then, few Clevelanders had ever tasted the light, healthy cuisine of her native country, so she gave every dish on her menu either an American sounding name or something that seemed more like the Chinese food they already knew. I discovered her food in the early ’90s and didn’t care what she called it, I just knew it was completely different and that I’d be back for more. Apparently lots of people shared my enthusiasm. 5428 Detroit Road, Cleveland, (216) 961-9671

Middle East Restaurant
Cuisine: Lebanese
Year opened: 1961
Menu classic: Kibbee (baked ground lamb, cracked wheat and pine nuts, $7.95)
This place became the oldest continuously operating restaurant in downtown Cleveland after the New York Spaghetti House closed. The same family that started serving hummus and spinach pies in a small nofrills spot of the same name on Bolivar Road still owns, manages and cooks here. In 1972 when the street was reconfigured, the restaurant moved to the ground floor of the Carter Manor. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how they make their wonderful lemony salad dressing for more than 30 years. 1012 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, (216) 771-2647


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