a very good wednesday in cleveland (university circle and baricelli inn)

A few weeks ago I saw tweet offering a link to a recent study. I never bothered to click on the link because I was having a good day and didn’t feel like being aggravated by said reporter’s clear lack of research or obvious preconceived and incorrect perceptions of my city. The study in question was something along the lines of Cleveland being recognized as one of the more boring cities to live in.

Seriously? While I recognize I never actually read the article so I don’t know all its contents or writer’s point of view, but just the thought makes me scratch my head. There is so much to do, discover and experience in this town – well beyond the Rock Hall (amazes me how many people think this is all we have going for us). And what’s even more surprising to me is how many people call Cleveland home and are still unaware of what’s right in their backyard. Take a day and be a tourist in your own city. You’ll be positively overwhelmed and impressed. But bored? No.

Case in point this past Wednesday night. We headed down to the Botanical Gardens for their wildly popular Gourmet in the Garden series (truly – these sell out fast and early). If you’re not familiar, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., for $5 a group of 50 or so watch one of our local chefs demo a dish, then sample. On this night it was chef Paul Minnillo from Baricelli and his executive chef Chris, who was demoing a chilled peach soup with basil and strawberries (peaches from a Chardon farm by way of Fresh Fork Market – apparently all the snow in Chardon is good for snow days and making great peaches).

Minnillo, who reminds me of my Italian uncles with his mannerisms and storytelling, first chatted with the crowd about Cleveland, his future thoughts for the restaurant and Inn (perhaps a spa someday?), a brief education on cheese and his retail offering and his fellow local chefs. Chris then shared how to make this super simple soup at home and finally, we got to sample for ourselves – delicious. Did I mention this was just $5?

From there we walked around Wade Oval to enjoy Wade Oval Wednesdays, the free weekly concert series in the summer (Roberto Ocasio’s Latin Jazz Project was performing). How great that we have something like this. One any given Wednesday in the summer, expect to find families, couples and people of all ages hanging out on the oval, enjoying a picnic, some cocktails and the atmosphere.

After listening to the band for awhile, and knowing a small sample of soup wasn’t enough to call dinner, we decided to head to Baricelli for more.

During Minnillo’s introduction earlier, he shared that he’s been working hard for the past 10 years to get the restaurant out of that dining destination/special occasion category, but doesn’t feel he’s having much success. I admit that for years that was my perception of the restaurant, until I went there. And part of it is the mansion itself which houses the restaurant and Inn (it does scream special occasion) and the long history of high ticket items. But in recent years, he has lowered prices and even offers half orders of pasta (my 1/2 bucatini amatriciana was just $12 and is plenty of pasta for one person) as well as great/affordable dinners during Lent. To be honest, I’ve never sat in the dining room so I’m not sure what vibe that gives off, we much prefer the patio. And that does not feel pretentious or fine dining to me – more like casual, quaint and a must for al fresco dining.

Beyond my pasta and a half order of basil fazzoletti for Jamie, I had the beet salad with walnut-crusted camembert, watercress, a hard boiled egg and vincotta (absolutely wonderful salad) and the chilled peach soup for Jamie. We also each had a glass of wine.

I will say this, while we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and sitting on the patio in the heart of Little Italy and ourselves don’t view Baricelli as destination dining, if Minnillo truly wants to change people’s perceptions, he needs to make a few more revisions to the menu beyond the pastas. One big area that did bother us was the wine list. If one were just to peruse the list, they’d assume this is a high-priced, high-occasion type of place. There is only one bottle under $60, a couple glass options in the $10/$12 range and the rest is priced in the hundreds. Personally, I would love to see a more approachable wine list with several bottle options under $5o – even $40, as well as more glass choices, too.

And that was our Wednesday. A demo, music and fab dinner in one of Cleveland’s great neighborhoods. If that’s boring, I give up.

7 Comments

  1. Chrissy
    Posted August 1, 2009 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Hi Michelle,

    this is off topic but do you know when the B Spot is opening?

    Thanks!

  2. Anonymous
    Posted August 1, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree and that's been one of our reasons for not going to Baricelli.

    If they can't offer some moderately priced decent varietals (plenty are available) it does tend to limit patronage. Most people want a 6/7 dollar pour or 30dollar bottle with a casual meal.

  3. michelle v
    Posted August 2, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Chrissy, I'm not sure of the opening. I heard Sept/Oct but not sure if that's accurate. Will share if I hear more.

    Anonymous, there are so many great places in town that offer a wine list that's reasonably priced, hopefully they will catch on. Two weeks ago I was at Henry's at the Barn. They had 25 wines for $25. It was great – the table enjoyed a few really nice bottles. And many of our fav restaurants have pours for $5/$7.

  4. Jyll
    Posted August 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    If I had known that was you sharing the patio on Wednesday evening, I would have said hi.

    We love summers in Cleveland!

  5. Michelle V
    Posted August 4, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Jyll – Wasn’t it nice to have the patio all to ourselves? Such a great night, don’t you think?

  6. Kevin
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I was in the Baricelli earlier this week and noticed there were at least 20 bottles *under* $60, including some great second label Bordeauxs that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Cleveland! Maybe Paul heeded your advice!

  7. Posted August 31, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kevin – thanks for sharing. I doubt my post had any influence but I’m so happy to hear they now offer a more reasonable wine list.

One Trackback

  1. By Cleveland Foodie on October 8, 2009 at 10:08 am

    [...] favorite ¬†Wade Oval Wednesdays in University Circle. After, we went to dinner at Baricelli where I posted about the restaurant’s efforts towards changing¬†diner’s perceptions. Note: Since that post, [...]

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