one door closes and another opens

I read this morning in The Plain Dealer (er, cleveland.com) that Baricelli is closing next weekend after 25 years of service, countless celebrations, um-teen engagements and numerous summer evenings on that picture-perfect patio.

It’s that patio that I’ll miss the most. I never cared for the decor inside the restaurant so therefore only found myself at Baricelli in the summer. In fact, the only time I ever went inside was to mill around the tiny walk-in cheese cooler that housed many of my weakness.

I’m sure we all have our opinions as to why they are closing and can form our own conclusions. But for whatever the reason may be, I’ll personally miss the restaurant. Even though I only made it to Baricelli once or twice a year (wine, cheese and we’d share the Bucatini all’ Amatriciana – our standard Baricelli fare on the patio), it’s part of Little Italy’s fabric. That beautiful mansion on the hill with its exquisite grounds. Sure, they earned a reputation as a fine dining establishment and as a special occasion place that never seemed to fade, despite numerous attempts to change it. And that’s likely part of the reason behind its closing.  Nonetheless, it’s in the makeup of that neighborhood and it just doesn’t seem right that in a week it will be no more. Not to mention that that’s now two of my go-to restaurants in Little Italy that made my all time favorite pasta dish (Battuto was the other).

According to the article, Washington Place Bistro and Inn will open in its place this fall. The restaurant will not serve Italian dishes, instead it will focus on modern American comfort food. While I hate to judge a place based on one article and not knowing a thing more, I’m a bit skeptical about this new venture. Yes, I want something to go in there and would hate the thought of that beautiful structure sitting empty. But American comfort food? And based on the other establishments that the new owner, Scott Kuhn, owns, I don’t have high hopes for the food. While I am a fan of many places he operates, like 87 West, it’s for the atmosphere and wine, never the food. I consistently just find it to be average and not a main priority. Nevertheless, only time will tell and of course I’ll visit to fond out for sure – and hopefully be proven wrong.

As for Paul Minnillo and head chef Christopher Di Lisi, they have no plans to hang up their chef coats anytime soon. As Joe Crea shares in the article:

Meanwhile, the end of Baricelli doesn’t mean Clevelanders will have enjoyed their last meal from the artful hands of its skilled chefs. Minnillo is joining in the migratory pattern taken by growing numbers of the nation’s tops chefs from formal to casual.

This fall, Minnillo and partner chef Christopher Di Lisi, will open Flour at 34205 Chagrin Blvd. in Moreland Hills. Di Lisi’s wife, Krista, will serve as general manager. The 6,000-square-foot space will have an open kitchen, an expansive bar and a menu that the partner chefs describe as “moderately priced rustic Italian.” Flour will prominently feature an oversized wood-fired oven capable of baking authentic Neopolitan-style pizzas and other dishes, as well as an array of house-cured salume, antipasti, pastas and entrees.

The migration also will bring lower prices. Despite the area’s higher socioeconomic bracket, “these people are no different [in their changing eating habits], even though their homes are more expensive,” Minnillo says. “They’re going to more casual places.” The most expensive item on his new menu will be $21.”

As for the cheeses that I have grown to love, Crea shares that The Baricelli Cheese Co will live on inside the West Side Market offering more than 40 varieties from around the world in conjunction with Urban Herbs and the Cheese Shop.

Good news for cheese lovers, and despite the sad news of Baricelli’s closing, I am certainly looking forward to Flour and can see myself becoming a regular (and it’s fairly close to me!).

3 Comments

  1. Posted July 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I am sad about the closing as well. I guess not enough of us made our 1-2 times per year visits to make the enterprise viable. They had some of the best food in Cleveland, though, and I’ve never met anyone who ate there who didn’t agree. The article quotes Minnillo as saying “fine dining is finished in Cleveland,” but my sense is that places like Fire and Moxie aren’t doing badly. Then again, I heard Lola has to let their pastry chef go earlier this year due to poor business. Either way, Baricelli Inn’s prices were comparable to those, and their half portions made dishes even more affordable. Maybe people had a false impression about the prices.

    At least we can look forward to the opening of Flour.

  2. Posted July 5, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Sounds like we have 2 new places to try! I am excited to check out Flour! Just went to Momocho for the 1st time Friday night after reading about it in your blog! LOVED it! We definitely were in the clean plate club that evening..could not stop eating even when we were full! Love your blog!

  3. Jonathon
    Posted April 29, 2011 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    Checked out FLOUR last night, WOW not a good experience. The staff was terrible, I felt like I was bothering them, probably the most unfriendly restaurant I have been to. I was a fan of the Baricelli but the food at flour was bland. It took me three nights to finally get a table and frankly ….I just dont get it. Cutting the prices shouldnt mean cutting the flavor.