Cleveland: Even when you’d rather shout, “Make it stop!” than sing “Let it Snow,” Grotto Wine Bar eases your reluctance to leave the comforts of home with its cozy fireplace, arched brick walkways, dark wood and rich menu.
Be sure to arrive early and take advantage of the half-price small plates (Mon-Fri 4:30-6:30 p.m.). One whiff of the sweet blackberry Frangelico glaze on the duck-based anatra (full price $14) and you know the meat is going to be perfectly tender. The main ingredient works nicely with the textures of the creamy goat cheese, large berries and candied walnuts. The polpette ($10), three hearty meatballs with a slight spice and a flavorful marinara, was another good choice, but we could have skipped the arancini ($10); the outside of the shrimp risotto ball had a nice crunch, but the inside was chewy and dry.
After leisurely enjoying wine and appetizers, we were curious to try the gnocchi entree ($14), which also appears on the menus of sister restaurants Lago and Gusto. Here, the gnocchi is house-rolled pasta instead of potato, and you can get the lobster, corn, basil, tomato and truffle oil dish for around $10 less than at the other two spots. The portion looks small, but after a few bites of the dense gnocchi and surprisingly thick chunks of lobster, you’ll find it’s more than adequate. The grilled quail ($16) off the specials list did not disappoint either with a sweet cherry demi glace and side of sweet potatoes.
If Grotto’s food and fireplace don’t warm you up, its wine list will. The 11 pages of bottles from North America, Europe and Oceania include many that go beyond the usual chardonnay and pinot noir offerings.