holiday dinner at lolita

To wrap up Thanksgiving weekend, my family (most anyway – 5 of my 7 siblings and the bulk of the nieces and nephews) went to dinner at Lolita and to see A Christmas Carol at the Ohio Theater. In lieu of presents, my parents treat me and my siblings to something festive each Christmas, like the orchestra or a play. It’s become one of my favorite traditions and something I look forward to every holiday – especially this year.

Aside from my husband, my parents, and myself, this was a first trip for everyone to Lolita. I was a little nervous since I recommended the restaurant and this can be a tough group. Luckily, everyone left with happy bellies and really seemed to enjoy the restaurant’s atmosphere.

First off, I give our waiter a lot of credit. I know when I was a server, we used to draw straws for the large tables since big groups were typically dreaded. And while I love my family, we are a very loud, opinionated group complete with a one parent who takes well over the necessary time to order, then usually changes her mind several times while completely altering the dish. I certainly wouldn’t want to wait on us. But our server was great – and patient.

We started with a bunch of apps, ranging from the big board of cured meats, to several orders of dates, chicken livers, warm olives, mussels and wings. Add about 5 bottles of wine and we were off to a good start (okay, maybe I would want to wait on us).

Each appetizer was a crowd pleaser, especially the roasted dates with almonds and pancetta– hence several orders. But my favorite was the cured meats, featuring a mix of sopressta, Berkshire prosciutto and pork lomo. The mussels were tasty, too. A bit spicy, but overall enjoyable. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the chicken livers. With this family, you have to jump in fast or you’re out of luck.

For dinner, I had the pappardelle with sage and beef cheeks; Jamie had the butternut squash ravioli special with crispy pancetta. Others entrees ranged from the sea bass special, to rosemary mac and cheese (my 9-year-old niece, Julia, said it was better than Kraft!), to lamb sausage pizza and lamb shanks. For dessert, we shared lots of gelato (the beer – maybe Guinness – was fantastic) to the pot du crème – always a winner.

My pasta was really tasty. It was hearty, rustic, and packed with meaty flavor, which was a good pairing with the sage. The pasta itself was cooked perfectly and soaked up the sauce nicely. I also enjoyed Jamie’s ravioli, especially the pancetta, which was crunchy and savory. I would definitely order this pasta – either one really – again.

This night overall, especially the dinner, was a perfect end to a wonderful holiday weekend. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday – no gifts, shopping or overall madness associated with the next four weeks. It’s just about good food, family and friends. But this year the day was extra special and I had a lot to be thankful for. I’m very fortunate, and at the risk of sounding too corny, I really did reflect on Thursday and give thanks. I have a job I actually enjoy going to each day and the work that I do, an absolutely amazing circle of friends, a family that I truly adore and actually enjoy being with, a wonderful husband and happy marriage, and most of all, we learned that my dad’s cancer did not spread (he was recently diagnosed with colon cancer) which is why this holiday weekend was so very special – to all of us.


  1. Anonymous
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    That was a nice read Michelle, it was like reading a Cleveland version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Matt & the staff at Lolita do an awesome job there. I enjoy it more then Lola, very casual with terrific food which makes it perfect for the type of family gathering you had. Glad to hear your Dad is doing well, may you spend many more memorable Thanksgivings with him.


  2. Jim
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I believe it’s gelato made with GLBC’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter; at least, that’s what it was a couple of weeks ago when I went. It is tasty, though.

    The lamb sausage pizza was excellent as well.

  3. Skeezix
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    That is wonderful news about your Dad!

    And just reading your post is compelling me to call for reservations so that I can go when I’m home in Cleveland next month.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Awesome news on your father! Great read, Matt

  5. Allison M.
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I’ve always said Lolita, Lolita Lolita. I like the ambience, crowd and food better there because most of the “new patrons” will be heading to E.4th instead of into Tremont. I really enjoyed the spicy tomato bisque with the blue cheese croutons. Bring it back! Or, maybe even a better version.

  6. cp
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I have yet to try Lolita now that it is the little Lola…I’m headed to Lola for the 3rd time Friday for my birthday dinner. I love going with people who haven’t gone yet to enjoy it with them for the first time.

    Just found your blog, will definitely be checking often being a fellow Clevelander! Have you tried Melt in Lakewood?

  7. michelle v
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for all the kind thoughts, much appreciated.

    CP: I love Lola, too (especially the bar). You really can’t go wrong with either one. But we do go to Lolita more. You should check it out. But in the meantime, have a good birthday dinner.

    I have yet to go to Melt, but it’s on my list. I have heard great things about the menu.

    Skeezik: Definitely try and go when you are home, you won’t be dissapointed!

    Jim: Good call on the beer gelato, thanks.

  8. Fest of the
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Ciao Michelle!

    The cult-status Italian cookbook/graphic novel “Feast of the Seven Fishes” is going on tour, kicking off December 9 in Erie, Pennsylvania, with stops planned in Cleveland, Youngstown, Philadelphia, Boston and New York over that following week. A little salty, a little racy, the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” is always honest. From the moment it debuted in September of 2004, the online comic strip developed a loyal audience who rabidly followed the romantic and culinary adventures of an Italian-American family preparing for and celebrating the traditional Christmas Eve seafood feast.

    I came across Cleveland Foodie while researching stops for the upcoming tour (I loved this entry on Lolita), and would love to have you write something up to help get the word out about this very cool holiday-time event near you. I’d like to send you a book that you can give away as a contest prize to one of your readers—all I ask is that you help get the word out! I’d love to get some readers to come join us in Cleveland for our signing at Corbo’s Bakery from 11-2 on December 10. I think this would be a great entry for you since there are so many Italian-Americans who call Cleveland home.

    “Feast of the Seven Fishes” is currently in pre-production to be made into a feature film set for release around Thanksgiving 2008, and will begin shooting in Pittsburgh this coming January.

    Please let me know if you’d like me to send you a copy of the book, or if I can help you out with any other questions (—we’d love to set something up. Oh, and please don’t forget to check out for more information and some great recipes!